2 key products to take the frustration out of paper piecing

Yesterday on QUILTsocial we made a star block using half-square triangle units (HST) we cut using the Omnigrid Triangle Ruler for Half-Square Triangles and added a border to make the front section of one of our patio cushions. I love making star blocks using HSTs, but sometimes you want something a little more complex. Today we’ll make a second cushion front with a star block using foundation paper piecing. I’ve always done my paper piecing using actual paper, but today I’m using HeatnBond StitchnSew EZ Print Quilt Block Sheets.

These sheets are a lightweight 100% polyester product and the perfect size for use in your home inkjet or laser printer. They can be used for foundation piecing or machine embroidery and are easy to tear away from the stitches afterwards.

We’ll use a block pattern I found in Electric Quilt 8 and modified slightly so it could be foundation pieced. You can print this PDF right onto your StitchnSew EZ Print Quilt Block Sheets. Just load the sheets into your printer and away you go.

Paper Piecing Foundation Pattern

The StitchnSew sheets are placed in the front loader of my laser printer.

There are two different sections, which are mirror images of each other, on the PDF. The block is comprised of four of each section (8 sections in total), so to make the entire block you need to print 4 copies of the PDF.

Print four copies of the PDF to make the entire block.

  1. Cut section A and section B apart on each page. Don’t worry about trimming the excess foundation away from the pattern at this time. We’ll do that after all the sewing is done.

Cut Section A and Section B apart.

2. Separate your sections into an A pile and a B pile. We’ll sew each of these piles separately to make sure our fabric placement is correct.

Separate sections into two piles – A and B.

3. I now need to figure out what size to cut my fabric pieces, so they are easier to place on the foundation pattern. Make sure you cut these pieces large enough so that when you flip them over after sewing the seam, they cover the entire space for that section. For example, section 4 on the pattern is a half square triangle. If I cut a 5″ square in half diagonally, this will give me a piece big enough to cover that section of the pattern.

Measure the sections to pre-cut the fabrics.

I’ll cut four 5½” squares and cut them in half diagonally to get enough triangle pieces for all of my eight sections. Similarly, Sections 1 and 2 can be cut as eight 2½” x 8″ rectangles and Section 3 can be cut as four 4″ squares cut in half diagonally.

Pre-cut pieces of fabric for the foundation piecing.

When paper piecing, it’s important to set your stitch length shorter than for normal piecing. I usually piece at 2.5mm so I’ll set my Brother NQ900 Sewing and Quilting Machine to 1.6mm. This shorter stitch length makes it easier to pull away the paper foundation after stitching without pulling out your stitches.

Reduce stitch length

4. On the PDF pattern, the two sections – A and B – are labelled with numbers which indicate the order the fabric is placed. Place fabric 1 first, then fabric 2, and so on. I numbered the pattern so A1 and B1 are the same fabric (my large floral), A2 and B2 are the same, etcetera. Sew on the printed side of the paper, place your fabrics on the back side. The first fabric is placed right side up, so it covers all the A1 section. Pin in place.

Place fabric 1 on the back side of the foundation so it covers all of section A1.

5. The fabric for section A2 is placed right side down so it lines up with fabric 1. Pin in place.

Place fabric 2 right side down. Notice my handy Clover Create-a-Pincushion I made in January 2021…

6. Flip the whole thing over and stitch along the line between Section A1 and Section A2. Make sure to sew all the way from the dotted line on one side of the foundation pattern to the dotted line on the other side (which indicate the seam allowances).

Stitch along the line between A1 and A2

7. Flip the A2 fabric over, right side up and press the seam. You can press with your iron, or you can use a Clover Roll & Press. The Roll & Press is great for paper piecing because it won’t pull or distort your fabric. You just roll it over your seam and the wheel is tapered to focus the pressure you exert on to the seam. Since paper piecing often involves a lot of small seams, using this to press saves time walking back and forth to your ironing board.

Press the seam with a Clover Roll & Press.

8. Pin one of the gray A4 (larger triangle) fabrics to the foundation, right side down, making sure the fabric extends past the line between A1 and A4.

Pin an A4 triangle to the foundation right side down.

To make sure the fabric extends past the stitching line, hold your foundation up to the light.

Hold the foundation up to the light to make sure that the next piece to sew extends past the stitching line.

9. Sew along the line between A1 and A4 and use a pair of scissors to trim away the excess fabric from the seam allowance.

Trim away excess fabric

10. Flip the A4 piece over right side up and press with the Clover Roll & Press. Repeat the sew, trim, press process with the A3 section.

You’re probably wondering why I stitched A4 and then A3 instead of the other way around. And the answer is that I made a mistake and didn’t realize until I was writing all of this down for you and really looked at the pictures I’d taken! But, because these two sections aren’t beside each other in the block, it doesn’t matter if you sew one first or the other. If A3 was positioned between A2 and A4 I would have to sew them in order.

Press the seam

Here are all my A sections finished. I’ve trimmed one of them (just to see what it looked like) and tomorrow I’ll show you how to trim yours. Before that though, we have to do this whole process over again with the B sections. For simplicity, I’ve numbered the sections so the B1 has the same fabric as A1, B2 is the same as A2 and B3 and B4 are the same as A3 and A4.

The finished A sections

I haven’t done a lot of paper piecing because I always found it a bit frustrating, but now that I’ve tried out the HeatnBond StitchnSew EZ Print Quilt Block Sheets, I think I may do more. The beauty of paper piecing is that you can get accurately pieced blocks with oddly shaped sections easily, without having to rotary cut anything more exciting than a triangle, square or rectangle. The Clover Roll & Press is also great to use when paper piecing since it saves lots of time and protects your fingers from the hot steam of an iron.

Tomorrow we’ll trim all the sections and sew them together to make our beautiful star block. See you then!

This is part 3 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 2: Making an easy star block with HSTs

Go to part 4: 6 simple steps to sewing paper-pieced blocks

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