Foundation piecing can sometimes be a little frustrating – it’s a technique that takes practice. Once you get the hang of the basics though, there’s nothing stopping you from tackling the most complex of patterns. But along the way, there are a few little tips that might help you. Or at least – make paper piecing seem a teeny bit tedious.
So I snapped these pics during my recent paper piecing shenanigans (notice all that pretty rainbow stuff happening in the background? Yeah I’m totally in my happy place).
Let’s start with the very first thing you should do when paper piecing. It’s all about stitch length, because size really does matter.
Here’s a visual shot to show you of where my stitch length sits when I’m paper piecing. That’s right – allll the way down to around 1.5. This makes teeny tiny stitches. Which in turns makes the paper removal an absolute breeze. However if you stuff up your seam, and need to unpick it, well let’s just say there might be a few swear words involved. So if you have a tricky seam where you have to line things up just perfectly, consider using a much larger stitch (4 or so) and stitch the seam. Open it up to see if you’re happy with how it looks. If so, shrink that sucker back down to 1.5 and do it again. If it didn’t work, make friends with your seam ripper and pull it out and do it all over again. Even after many years of paper piecing, I still use a basting stitch if I’m not certain. It’s much better than unpicking teeny stitches!
Next tip in this process… rough cut your fabrics to size and put them in order. Pictures first, explanation second.
This shows two pictures of sections I was piecing. As I work through sections, I rough cut my fabric to size. That is I grab the first colour, lay it over the paper template and make sure I cut a big enough chunk to still have 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around. I tend to err on the generous side. It makes life easier, trust me.
However if you’re a bit OCD about your stash, you may not love having rough chunks cut out of your pretty fabrics. So another option – you can use your ruler and measure how wide the section to piece is (don’t forget the seam allowance) and cut a strip with your ruler. I do this if I’m paper piecing the same pattern mulitple times and know I’ll need the same size pieces of background fabric for multiple sections.
It doesn’t stop there. Cut your fabrics in order and lay them in a pile IN ORDER. Nothing worse than grabbing the wrong scrap and piecing it in the wrong place. Not that I’d ever do that. Ahem. This makes it quicker to piece each section when you can just grab a fabric scrap, sew it up, move along to the next one. Try it. You’ll like it.
Last tip for today – and this one involves a notion that you’re going to want in your paper piecing toolbox – a Clover Finger Presser. Ok it doesn’t have to be Clover branded, but that’s my preferred one. You can also use a seam roller. Just something that will save you trips to the iron for every.single.seam.
See how that seam is sitting up after being sewn? Naughty seam. Normally this would involve a trip to the iron to smooth it flat before moving on, right? Not necessarily. Just watch.
Side note: it’s very hard to take a photo of yourself demonstrating the use of a magic sewing tool, so forgive the weird angle. But here you see the Finger Presser in action. It’s like magic, really.
Now look at how lovely and smooth that seam is! Good seam! And now you can move onto the next piece (from your nicely orderly pile of rough cut fabrics). I like to piece alllll the sections at once, then iron them all at once, then trim them to size all at once. It’s a bit of a factory production line, but that’s how I prefer to do it. Then I iron again when joining the sections. You can use the finger presser on these joining seams too, but I find an iron does a better job.
While we’re talking about irons – again personal preference. I use a dry iron. I found using steam, sometimes the water would leak and could make the ink on the paper run (possibly staining your fabric!). Plus I never have to worry about refilling the water. Dry iron all the way.
So there you have it. A few little tips and hints that may make paper piecing a little more fun. But please, don’t blame me if this further feeds your addiction. I only accept thanks, chocolate and vodka. 😉