Paper Foundation Piecing - Part One - PFP

Part Two of this article is HERE.


This article will help an absolute beginning quilter get started in doing paper foundation piecing (referred to by its fans as PFP) and includes free quilt block pattern links.

 "Paper piecing" is  way of sewing through the lines on paper to do crisply detailed block designs without any cutting of fussy template pieces. I still remember when I first heard about it thinking "how odd" to sew on paper. Then several years ago, while visiting a friend, Liza Prior Lucy, who was paper-piecing with great fervor I got to see it in person and I learned how. Liza went to bed and I stayed up until 3 AM in her dining room sewing through lines on paper! I was hooked!

Blank Paper Foundation Block 1Block #1 - variation 1Block 1, variation 2 gif

I've gathered up Web sites with basic paper foundation piecing information on them to help you get started. If you investigate these web pages and sew some samples you, too, will "get it".  There are so many wonderful sites out there with a wealth of information that I've decided to divide this topic into at least two parts. This part will link to a group of sites which have basic techniques and have good how-to instructions and simple blocks for getting you started. If you are already a paper piecer you'll find some good blocks for quick projects and maybe learn some new tips. Also, when your friends ask you "what is paper piecing all about?" you can point them to this page and the illustrated pages on the Web to help them to understand this odd, but extremely effective way of piecing either intricate or simple blocks.

If you want to add some book learning, there are some excellent books on foundation piecing. But, if you want to give it a try and you aren't ready to invest in books yet, you'll find enough information on these Web sites to get started with no books needed.

Block 2, version 2Block 2, version 1Blank Paper Fndn Block 2

You'll note that some of the instructions mention using muslin or other fabric for a base for the piecing rather than paper. This is a variation on the technique and is often used for working with "difficult" fabrics such as fancy fabrics for Crazy Quilts or other thin or slippery fabrics. The technique is still the same, so don't let the references to fabric confuse you.

Recently there have been some pre-printed foundation papers available on the quilting shops. These can be purchased if you are making many multiples of one block. But you can make copies on a copy machine, but be sure to copy from the same original for all blocks.

Some excellent basic How-To on foundation piecing can be seen at these sites which have a step-by-step illustrated procedure:

- Paper Piecing Primer - Christine Thresh's introduction is excellent
Zippy Lessons from Zippy Studios
PC Piecers Mary Ann Beattie's site includes a valuable Tips Page.

If you've gone to each of these sites and read over the instructions you should have a pretty good idea of what to do next. Since we all have computers in order to be here - we can all use them to print out wonderfully accurate and repeatable blocks for our foundation piecing projects. You can also use copy machines, but I much prefer to print out my blocks with a computer. I use Electric Quilt  program to design my own blocks, most of the other computer quilting programs allow this as well.  Or, just use your drawing or graphics program.

I've experimented with various papers for my piecing and my favorite is old-fashioned newsprint. It's cheap, it tears away easily after stitching and it doesn't bulk up the seams as you are sewing. I found I could buy 8.5 x 11" newsprint at a local paper supply house (Arvey in my area). If you can't find newsprint, then use the cheapest "recycled" short fiber paper you can find. I also find that a light misting with a plant watering mist-maker (very fine spray) allows the paper to tear away more easily.

Blank Paper Fndn Block 3 - treeBlock 3, version 1Block 3, version 2



Here are a few sites with simple blocks to print out or draw out and practice sewing:

- A sample block from Carol Doak's book, Easy Machine Paper Piecing, note there is a choice of a block for Macintosh or for PC users here.
- Multiple Squares-in-Square Block

Next in Part 2, we'll go on to more complicated block designs with tips on doing interior angles and blocks which are made from combining sub-divided blocks to make more complicated finished designs.

Caution! - paper foundation piecing is an addictive quilting behavior. You have been warned!


Part Two of this article is HERE.


1997-2005 copyright Susan C. Druding

The block illustrations were created in Electric Quilt by Susan

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