Paper Foundation Piecing - PFP - Part Two

Part One is HERE

This article is part two on paper foundation piecing  - how to sew more complex paper pieced foundation quilt blocks.

The Part One article covered some of the basics of Paper Foundation Piecing (PFP) with the basic how-to and blocks which could be done with straight forward techniques. As you do more PFPing and start to want to piece more complicated patterns you'll run into the problem of "interior angles" and blocks which simply don't allow piecing in a continuous manner.

Some PFP quilt designs can be made by "playing with blocks" and here is where a computer program for designing quilts really comes in handy. You can have hours of fun experimenting and save all that time you would have to put in coloring little squares on graph paper! 

Offset Log Cabin BlockParticularly stunning quilts can be made with offset log cabin or pineapple blocks. Offset blocks are those, as shown in the example illustration here, are not centered as traditional blocks are, but are "skewed". 4 combined Log Cabin Offset BlocksThe patterns show a lot of motion in the final quilt tops. These blocks are much easier to piece with PFP techniques since cutting "logs" and teeny strips for pineapple blocks would be a horrendous task. But, piecing these little beauties with simple long strips of fabric onto paper foundations is a breeze. Another example of a 4-block log cabin offset

There are two different ways to build more complicated PFP blocks or areas. Most straightforward is to take a simple block, often containing slanted lines, and combine 4 or more into a larger block. Or, take a small block and repeat it to make a border (such as flying geese). I call this "simple blocks combined". Somewhat more complex (but not in difficulty) is what I call "sub-unit pieces combined" which means that the smaller units are not, in themselves, blocks. These sub-units only exist as a way to make the more complicated block work and allow it to be sewn onto a paper foundation.
Examples follow:

Simple Blocks Combined

As shown in this article on Component Parts, you can take a simple block and combine 4 identical units to form a new, larger block which could not be paper pieced as a single unit. Here's a pinwheel block (at left) made by combining two units to form the block.


Have you thought about using the flying geese block as a border or major part of a scrap quilt, but just can't face up to dealing with so many bias edges on all those triangles? Paper piecing the geese can really make them fly! This page of foundation blocks, each in 3-4 sizes, is a great place to bookmark and includes geese, log cabin, autograph and courthouse step blocks.

And look how this block looks:

Simple Block with slanted lines

when you put 4 of them together:

Same slanted line block in 4-block

Sub-Units Combined

A series here called Grandma Hattie's Knick Knack shelves is a group of fun sub-unit blocks to assemble into a quilt which will look like shelves. Mix and arrange the blocks as you choose. Another series of unit blocks are the Teacups, Coffee Mugs and Teapot blocks.

Mary Ann Beattie's PC Piecers has some great subunit patterns - this patterns page has everything from bottles and jars to flamingos. The flamingo is an example of a 3-subunit pattern while the "wine bottle" is a simple 2 subunits. 

A more complicated sub-unit construction requires special notations on the block pieces. When a block is made up of sub-units, a common method of showing which pieces are the sub-units which are later joined together is the placing of a pair of short parallel lines perpendicular to the drawn seam line. 

Here on this site are some Teapots, Cups and Mugs in sub-units to make a wall quilt. The blocks are made to look like shelves of china.

For some really challenging paper piecing, visit Beth Maddock's Piece by Number site. Here is an example of her Panda Block. She does intricate designs that are lovely.

Ute-Barbara Skjønberg  has a Storm-at-Sea pattern done in sub-units (and look around her site for many other great paper foundation patterns.)

Draft Your Own Foundation Patterns?  
Mary Ann Beattie shares her method to help you get started with her Hot Air Balloon Block.

Hard Copy

If you want to purchase patterns or magazines which have patterns which are ready to use for piecing there are several series available, ask at your local quilt shop or check some of the online sources. Here are a few authors of books and/or patterns to watch for:

Karen Stone does some of the most impressive designs in PFP today. She teaches workshops and lectures around the USA, watch for her classes. She doesn't have a Web page, but many shops are carrying her patterns. Karen's Indian Orange Peel quilt has been seen in several publications. Her Feathered Star quilt is a favorite of mine.

Piece by Number has a wonderful collection of free PFP patterns on her site as well as patterns to purchase.

There is a magazine, The Foundation Piecer, available by subscription (and also sold in quilt shops) from Zippy Publications.Doak's Show Me How

Carol Doak has several excellent books on all levels of PFP - this one is for beginners and called Show Me How to Paper Piece.

Elsie Vredenburg has a series of lighthouse patterns done with paper piecing. The Here are some examples.


 copyright Susan C. Druding ©1997-2005