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Learn to Paper Piece (Helpful Hints)

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Learn to Paper Piece (Helpful Hints)

  • Read the entire pattern before you begin.
  • Some paper piecing patterns require you to cut and tape pages together because the individual sections are larger than an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper from the printer or a book. In this case, there is often a dashed line down the sides of the page to show where to cut and tape the pages together. Instead of cutting both pages that need to be connected, just cut one page. Use the other uncut page for overlap to secure the page more evenly. (See images below.)
  • When paper piecing, decrease your stitch length down to 12 to 14 stitches per inch. On my machine that is a .9 or 1.0 length. Increase your needle size to help the paper tear away more easily. I use a size 12 needle.
  • If you like to paper piece, you may want to purchase an “add a 1/4 ruler.” I love mine. It has a little lip at the 1/4” that sits just next to your seam and folded back paper.
  • Use an old greeting card or a piece of card stock to fold your paper pattern back and over at each of the sewing lines before you begin piecing.
  • Take the pattern section piece you need to sew first and lay the wrong side (WS) of the pattern on the wrong side of the first fabric you are going to sew. Then fold on the line between the two pieces you need to sew. Overlap the first piece of fabric a quarter inch all the way around the first pattern piece. Then lay the second fabric piece under the first piece of fabric, right sides (RS) together, so it makes a sandwich: pattern over fabric 1, then those over fabric 2. IMPORTANT: The direction that the second piece of pattern folds back is the direction you want fabric 2 to lie. Fabric 2 should show from underneath all the way around your folded back paper pattern piece 2. It should overlap your seam allowance all the way around. (Use a lamp/light source to double check.) Leave your fabric IN PLACE and flip your paper pattern piece back out. Then sew along the line. Your angles should be right if you follow this method.
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  • I include the 1/4” seam allowance on the pattern sections for my patterns. This is personal preference for paper piecers. If you aren’t a fan, you can simply cut it away.  Check other patterns you plan to make as all designers are a bit different.
  • When working with larger pieces of the pattern, you may want to pin the fabric to the paper piece you are working with so it doesn’t slide around, especially if you pre-cut the size close to the actual size of the pattern piece, which I don’t recommend. Cut them larger, especially if you are new to paper piecing. You may also use a glue stick to secure the fabric to the pattern piece (This is my preferred method).
  • When sewing two sections together, pin or clip at matching seams so they don’t slide around while sewing the sections together. Match up corners of each section by matching the paper pattern, not the fabric. Often I will use a pin the go through the end points of each section I am connecting. This will line them up perfectly. Then I clip them.
  • CAUTION: I have seen tutorials that suggest that you wiggle, pull-out with a sorta “bang” and/or crumple up your sewn together pattern to help “free” the paper so you can tear it away more easily. DON’T DO THIS! It WILL stretch your fabric out of shape and could leave bumps of stretched fabric when you try to quilt it. INSTEAD, use your fingernail, tweezers or the point of your seam ripper to gently free a corner AND gently pull the paper away with the tweezers or jewelry pliers. Work from the center out.
  • After sewing two sections together, you may find it less bulky throughout sewing the full pattern to remove just the ¼” seam allowance of paper. To do this, sew the two sections together. Before you iron back your piece, fold JUST the little ¼” seam allowance of paper ONLY on the side you just sewed together. Remove that little strip of ¼” seam allowance paper. I find that a small pair of jewelry pliers or tweezers works great to grab that little piece and tear it away. Remove the paper seam allowance from the other side also. Be very careful NOT to remove the rest of the paper until you are done with the pattern. You can use this same method after sewing blocks together. The benefit is the corners of your seam allowance don’t stack up with paper/fabric/paper/fabric. If you aren’t comfortable doing this, NO worries. Leave the paper in place and get some tweezers to remove all the paper hiding in the corner seams once you have completed the full pattern.
  • The paper block patterns are left white or light grey so you can color in the pieces/sections to match the color fabric you plan to use.  This helps ensure you place the correct fabric in the appropriate place to sew.
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  • When you cut out your patterns paperclip them together so they don’t get mixed up.

These are my hints for paper piecing. I am certain you have some too. I would love for you to add your hints below in the comments. Happy piecing!

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