Monday, June 01, 2015

paper piecing tips from a frugal girl

Happy June! It is my month to choose a block for the Sew Sisters Quilting Bee. It's always SO HARD to choose a block for a bee, so I asked my friend Tara what I should do. She suggested a kaleidoscope block, which I thought was a great idea! (Thank you, Tara!) Rather than use an existing template, I made my own---of course! I really like that it is a paper pieced block, so even though 10 different ladies will be sewing up blocks, the accuracy will still be there!
I love paper piecing for accuracy sake (it's the only reason to paper piece in my mind!), but let's face wastes fabric. And lots of it!

Several years ago, I learned this trick, and I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to share it with you. Today is the day! What is this lovely trick? Make templates for each piece before you piece the block. Templates? Yes, it's an extra step, but for paper piecing, it's totally worth it, if you ask me. I am not going to teach you HOW to paper piece, that's not my job. (hahahaha!) This is just a trick to keep you from wasting fabric and to help keep your scraps tidy WHILE you paper piece. Tidy scraps are very important to me. (And that's no joke!)

Ok, let's get started. First, print off your templates. (For each block, you will need two regular and two reverse templates.)
Cut the template apart on the lines. I keep an older rotary cutter in my craft room JUST for cutting paper. It's fun to rotary cut paper AND it's a good way to use old blades that are too dull to cut fabric. It's accurate, too!
Trace your pieces onto another sheet of paper. You can mark the points of each triangle and then use a ruler or straight edge to connect the lines.
Use your rotary cutter and a clear ruler to cut out each piece, leaving a 3/8" seam allowance around each edge.
Here you have each piece with a 3/8" seam allowance added. Label them with the numbers in the same orientation as your template, so you know which side is up! You technically only need 1/4" all around, but the extra 1/8" gives you a bit of wiggle room. You will be glad you have it! Also, note how I trimmed off some of the long points from each triangle.
When it's time to cut out the fabric, place the template (face down, because everything is reversed an backwards when you paper piece) and cut around the paper using your fabric rotary cutter. Notice, I didn't cut super close to the doesn't have to be exact, but close is good. Then, paper piece as usual. There is less fabric flopping around, and since your pieces are pre-cut, it's easier to align them!
 Once I pieced my block, these are all the trimmings I had left! Isn't that amazing??
I still have odd shapes leftover from piecing the block, but that's just the nature of the block that I'm making. At least the scraps are all fairly tidy. Still usable for something!
 Here are just a few more examples to see how tidy it is. This is the paper side, before it's trimmed.
 And the fabric side before it's trimmed.
I like to leave the background or the center piece in a square to start off with. This is to illustrate how the first piece looks like before you add the first line of stitching...before sewing.
And after sewing, once it's pressed into place. It's so tidy as you go!
Here are my 4 block sections. Once sewn together, it will make a 10" finished block. I'm not going to sew blocks together until I get all the pieces, so I can easily distribute the colors throughout the quilt. It think it's going to be a super fun and colorful quilt!

I hope that these tips help (and don't confuse) you! If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them in the comments!
Happy Monday to you!


Susanhusan said...

I love this idea for paper piecing! I am not generally a tidy piecer, but the messiness of paper piecing does seem to bother me. Thank you!

Julierose said...

thank you so much for the Kal templates for PP-ing! Love this idea--hugs, Julierose

Dianne said...

I use this method and the freezer paper piecing method so I also have no paper to tear out and make a big mess. These techniques make the whole process infinitely less painful IMHO.

The Lawlor's said...

I have a quesiton aobut your picture of the first piece being attached to the blue polka dot material. When all of the pieces are attached to it do you cut the excess blue or can you? I didn't realize piecing is done this way and in my opinion seems much easier! Thanks so much. I love looking (drooling) at your blog. You are amazing.
Kari in Canada

Bees Knees Granny said...

To easily line up your cut fabric pieces, try marking the middle of each seamline on your paper pattern. This has to be done only once, on the "master" pattern. Then all the photocopies will have it. As you are lining up the fabric piece on the seamline of the paper pattern, fold the fabric in half on the edge you will be sewing and finger-crease it. Set that crease on the mark you made in the middle of the seamline. Works every time--no guessing!

Abby / Linda said...

Cool procedure! I like "tidy" scraps too, and save little scraps as long as they have at least a 1 by 1 inch piece. I sort them by size and color for use later.

Lorna McMahon said...

I am not a paper piecer.... But really admire the design possibilities. Those are some fun blocks you are making. Thanks so much for sharing these fabulous tips!

Cathy said...

I honestly don't get paper piecing. Why couldn't you just cut out the shapes with ¼" extra around and just sew them together? Would you get the same results as the flippy backward paper sewing way (that my brain cannot wrap itself around)? Thanks, Dense in Salt Lake

Sewing In CT said...

That's a great idea. I've started a Storm at Sea and this will help me a lot! It's not too late.....Thank you.

Beezus said...

I don't use templates, but I have my own method that's pretty similar - it saves me fabric and I can almost always verify that the fabric and the pp pattern will work together right as I'm about to sew it. I trace my pp patterns onto freezer paper and fold along all the lines. When I sew two pieces together, I fold back the paper for the piece that I'm getting ready to add and hold it up to the light to make sure one last time that I have my quarter inch seam. By doing it this way, I also save myself the hassle of having to remove all the papers AND I can use the same pp pattern four or five times. I have one exception to using this method. If I'm doing something super complicated that has itty bitty pieces (something like a bird, for instance), then I just use regular paper and sew on the lines. Just thought I'd share!

verykerryberry said...

This is how I paper piece, I use freezer paper to make the templates, helps with fussy cutting and keeping grainline straight too.

Patchwork and Play said...

Great minds think alike!!! I have been foundation paper piecing some of my shapes for my My Small World quilt and have also cut the fabric from templates too! SNAP! BTW Your blocks look great!

Mother Dragon said...

Thank you so much for sharing that. I've just started paper piecing and my biggest peeve is wasting fabric. I live in Australia, so it isn't cheap or easy to get designer fabric.
One question, can't see if it's been asked. I'm currently working on one and have decided to use a directional fabric for the background. With using the templates is it easy to get the background to all go in the right direction? TIA

Anna Howell said...

Hi, I am a new follower to your blog. I came across your 'Contact Print Pillow' on Pinterest and instantly fell in love with it and decided I wanted to have a go!
I love your blog btw! Very inspirational!
I'm loving English Paper Piecing at the moment. I find it so therapeutic.
Check out my blog..
Let me know what you think!?


Paige said...

Thank you for sharing! I've done something very similar because I wanted my grainline to be the same and not have bias edges. It sure does save on fabric!

Suzanne said...

I'm Always learning from you, AJ! Xoxo!

amandajean said...

The Lawlors,

Yes, the blue piece is trimmed...but as you paper piece, not at the very end. If the piece wasn't trimmed, I would shadow through the other fabrics.

I hope that helps!


amandajean said...


You certainly could just add the 1/4" seam allowances and piece them together, but with all the angles and such, it would be very difficult to line them up precisely and get perfect points each time. That is why the paper piecing method is preferred.

I hope that makes sense!


amandajean said...

Mother Dragon,

I suppose that using the templates would help in using directional fabrics. At least I think so! You should try it and let me know how it goes! :) For my project, I decided to use as few directional fabrics as possible, just to make it easier.

I hope that helps!


Suellen Franze said...

I, too, started making templates for foundation piecing, mainly because estimating the size and shape of the piece of fabric is so counterintuitive. It's well worth the extra time and effort. I use old blades for cutting paper, too. I seem to have a big collection of old blades (sigh) and have not found a way to sharpen them :(

Quilt Fabric Pizazz said...

You know this is one of those "dahh" moments in my life. Of course this would make things easier in the long run and save a bunch of fabric too. A lot less waste. Thanks! Great Tip.

Thimbleanna said...

What a great idea -- that would definitely save some fabric. Now, if you can just send someone to rip all that paper off ... ;-P

the zen quilter said...

Okay, I've never done "real" paper piecing so I'm confused - how can you tell where to sew when you're placing the fabric over the paper? Do you draw a line or what?

SewSealy said...

Thank you very much for sharing this with us. I went to download the files and they both appear to be the REVERSE templates. The file names indicate they are correct, but when they are downloaded, both are labeled with "R". :)

amandajean said...

the zen quilter,

you work from the front side of the fabric when you are sewing, so you can see the line. It's really confusing and hard to explain, especially in a comment! I'm sorry...I wish I could help more!


amandajean said...


Good catch! I just fixed it and added the correct file. Thanks for letting me know!


Little Black Cat Quilting said...

Cool idea! I'll have to remember this when I venture into paper piecing. :)

Crafty Ashley B said...

Awesome tip! Thanks for sharing your design also! Love paper piecing!

Karen said...

I haven't gone so far as to make templates, but I do prefer to cut a stack of approximate-sized pieces prior to jumping in to a repetitive paper-pieced project. I can keep them all organized and minimize waste.

Jennie @ Porch Swing Quilts said...

Oh, bless you for this brilliance! I was about to venture into a paper pieced pillow sham land, and this will save me so much fabric. Thanks! It all makes perfect sense to me.

Diane Beavers said...

Amanda Jean
This is genius! You inspire me so much. I'm totally new to paper piecing and have had some great tips from Amy Friend too:)
Do you use regular copy paper?
I've learned to use a larger needled, like 14 or 16, makes tearing the paper so easy, vs trying to use that little picker, "Purple thang".

Granny Maud's Girl said...

That is exactly what I do - freezer paper templates and 3/8 of an inch allowance around. I waste little and end up with the fabric grain running the right way for a block that is less likely to stretch and distort.

Mother Dragon said...

I seem to have to do everything the hard way. My direction fabric is trees 😂
I tried the templates. It makes it so much easier, less wastage 😃 and a bit easier to get the direction going the way I want it to. I have to be careful to figure out which way is up and down as there are a lot of diagonal seams with this paper piecing pattern. However, so far so good. Definitely worth the extra time and effort, cheers.

Heidi said...

Great tips, thank you! I don't do a lot of pp, but I like the method Beezus describes, and making a template for the fabric would work with this method too. I use old blades for paper too, but before they go to that bin, I extend their life a bit by running them over layers of foil.

Kaleidoscope remains one of my faves!