Paper Piecing 101

by Kelsey Norwood

in Crafts,Quilting,Tutorials

There is no good reason to avoid paper piecing like I did for so long. It’s so easy! And the results look beautifully intricate and uniform.

My first stab at paper piecing is this lattice quilt and I am totally loving it. I cannot wait to see it all put together! It’s going to be fab.

Paper piecing is something even beginning quilters can do. This pattern uses very simple piecing so it’s a good one to start with. I found the basic tutorial here and adjusted the block measurements to suit my fancy.

But why? Why paper piece?

Paper piecing allows you to make every block pretty exactly the same so when you put all the blocks together, the pattern flows continuously from block to block with each edge matched up perfectly.

When should you paper piece?

When you have lots of lines within a block that need to meet exactly with lines from the next block.

And how:

1. First cut paper squares to the size of your unfinished quilt blocks – mine were 9 1/4″.

2. Draw the lines – my center sashing piece is 1.5″ wide so I drew lines 3/4″ to either side of the diagonal center of my paper square.

The plum sashing is 2.5″ wide so I drew my second line 2″ from the first. (Subtract 1/2″ (when using 1/4″ seams) from the width of the second piece and draw a line that far from the first.)

**I drew my lines on BOTH SIDES OF THE PAPER. It takes a little more time but yields far better results.

3. Line the center strip up with the line toward the top of the paper.

4. layer the second strip on top. Pin, being careful not to shift the fabric from the guideline.

5. Flip the whole thing over and sew with the paper up.

WHY: If you sew with the fabric on top, the fabric will stretch slightly and the paper will not. ALWAYS sew with the stretchier layer on the bottom Рthe feed dogs help distribute the extra fullness and prevent stretching. 

My standard presser foot is a titch wider than 1/4″ from the center to the edge, so I sew with the guideline on the paper every so slightly inside the edge of the presser foot.

Use a smaller stitch length, I use about 1mm (this makes separating the paper and the fabric much easier).

6. Press the first two strips open. The edge of the second strip should line up with the second guideline.

7. Grab your next piece and match it up to the guideline. Pin and sew, again with the paper side up and press.

8. Continue sewing the remaining two strips to the other side, pressing as you go.

9. Trim the excess fabric exactly along the edges of the paper square.

9. And you have created a perfectly square and precisely pieced block. EASY!

I’ve got 8 down… only 64 to go. Grab your fabric and paper and get started!



1 Keri January 23, 2013 at 10:03 am

That is brilliant to sew paper side up. That would have saved me a lot of misery. But then you have to mark your lines on both sides of the paper?

2 Kelsey Norwood January 23, 2013 at 10:47 am

Yes, but it’s worth it. I’m going to try using a thicker tipped permanent marker for the rest, maybe it will be visible from the back side and I won’t have to mark each sheet twice.

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