FOUNDATION PAPER PIECING TUTORIAL: SEWING YOUR FIRST BLOCK

STEP ONE: CUT OUT THE PATTERN

Once you have printed off your pattern, you will want to cut out the pieces. More often than not, patterns you will make will contain multiple sections that will need to be joined together, but the pattern we will be working with in this lesson will only contain one section.

To cut out the section, locate the exterior line, inside of which contains any other lines you see. Usually these lines will be either made up of a dotted line or a line that is lighter than all the other. Please refer to the pictures below. I have highlighted the lines which you should cut along and what your pattern should look like afterwards. . 

STEP TWO: LOCATING YOUR FIRST SEAM

Next, you will want to locate your first seam.  When looking on this side of your pattern you should get a preview of what your finished block will look like, but mirrored. All the lines inside your block mark where you will sew your seams. Think of Foundation Paper Piecing a little bit like painting by number, but instead of painting you are sewing. Each piece in a section is marked with both a letter and a number. The letter indicates which section you are sewing, and the number indicates the order that you will sew the pieces onto the pattern.

So, let’s go ahead an locate that first seam. Find the triangles labeled A1 and A2. These are the first two fabrics you will be sewing together. The line that runs between them, and only them, is your first seam. Use the pictures below to make sure you find the correct line.

STEP THREE: PLACING YOUR FIRST TWO FABRICS

Flip your pattern over. For convenience, in the images below I have traced over the pattern so that we can see where the lines are located on the other side.

Once you have flipped over the pattern, place the fabric that corresponds to piece A1. Now for the most part, I use scrap fabric from my stash and find ones that will work with my piece, but if you are using fabric that you cut yourself you will want to make sure that your piece of fabric goes beyond at least 1/4″ around the lines surrounding piece 1A. For ease you might want to consider basting this fabric in place so that it doesn’t move around. Refer to the series of pictures below to make sure your fabric is placed in just the right way.

TIP

In the images I’m using for this tutorial, I am using solid fabric. For the most part solid fabric does not necessarily have a right or wrong side. But if you’re using a fabric with a print, you will want to locate the right side and the wrong side of that fabric. The right side of your fabric is the side that you will want to see once your block is finished. The wrong side of the fabric is the side that you do not want to show on your finished product. You can usually tell the difference in that the right side of the fabric has a vibrant version of the print, whereas the wrong side of the fabric will either have a dull version of the print or no print at all.

When placing your first fabric, you will want to make sure that the wrong side of the fabric touches the paper. Every other piece of fabric that you put on your pattern, you will want to make sure that the right side of both your fabrics touch.

Feel free to save the image with a summary of this tip below to help you remember when to place your fabric right side facing the paper or wrong side facing the paper.

STEP THREE CONTINUED

Back to step three. Once your fabric is basted, flip it back over and find that first seam line. Take a postcard, birthday card, or other small card stock and line the edge of it up with the line in between pieces A1 and A2. Fold along that line and remove the cardstock. Next, take your ruler and line it up with the 1/4″ marking with the edge of your fold. Take a rotary cutter and cut your seam allowance. Next, line your fabric which corresponds to piece A2 with its edge matching the edge of piece A1.

When you’re just beginning, you’re going to want to test to see if your piece will cover the section that your sewing for. To do this you will have your fabrics line up on that seam allowance edge and pin right along the line that marks where you will sew your scene. Flip your pattern back over and then flip the fabric over. As with the first piece you will want to make sure that it extends 1/4″ around every line that makes up piece A2.

Flip your fabric back in place turn your pattern back over. Then place pins in the fabric to secure them to the paper and remove the pin in the seam line.

Once again, refer to the pictures below for a visual reference of the above step.

TIP

STEP FOUR: SEWING THE FIRST SEAM

On your sewing machine, you will want to make sure that your stitch is a straight stitch and that your stitch length is set to at maximum 1.4, then place your pattern below your presser foot with the needle lining up with the start of the seam line going in between the markings for piece A1 and A2. This can be at either point, but for the pictures I have started the seam on the exterior of the block going inwards. Sew a few stitches and then back stitch a couple of times.  Then continue to sew down the line, making sure your needle punctures the paper on the line.

Go slow if you need to. Sewing is not a race and we should strive for accuracy above speed. With that being said, remember that accuracy will come with practice. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it just right on the first attempt. This is all a part of learning, and if you put the time and effort into learning a new skill, you will get it down!

  Once you get to the end of this line, backstitch a few times and then cut your thread. Refer to the pictures below for a visual reference of this step.

TIP

In some situations you will have a lot of seams in the same area. For these situations set your stitch length to 1.4 at maximum, if not smaller. Once you have sewn your seam, you can then trim your seam allowance down to 1/8 of an inch instead of the usual 1/4″. This helps in reducing the bulkiness of the seams in your block.

STEP FIVE: PRESS FABRIC OPEN

Once you have removed your pattern from your sewing machine, take it over to your pressing station. Flip your fabric over along that seam line and  press with your iron. You have now completed sewing the first two pieces of your quilt block.

STEP 6: REPEAT FOR PIECE A3

When you’re first starting out, it may be beneficial to baste your pieces of fabric after you press them open to keep them from moving around while sewing. You will want to do this around each line surrounding that piece. The pictures below will give you a visual reference for each step for this piece.

REPEAT FOR PIECE A4

The following images are your visual reference for repeating the steps to attach piece A4.

REPEAT FOR PIECE A5

The following images provide a visual reference for repeating the steps to attach piece A5.

REPEAT FOR PIECE A6

The following pictures provided visual reference to repeating the steps to attach piece A6. As you can see A6 is a little different and that this seam will be sewn over all the pieces you have sown before. But though it looks a little different, the steps are still the same.

TRIM BLOCK

Now we will want to trim the block. Go ahead and baste around the interior square line. This will help make sure that all of your pieces of fabric will stay in place.

Take your ruler and place the 1/4″ markings along the interior square lines. Then take your rotary cutter and cut along the edge of the ruler. Repeat this step for each line that makes up the exterior seam allowance.

PICK OUT BASTING STITCHES

If you don’t plan on attaching this block to another block, go ahead and pick out your basting stitches using a seam ripper. However, we will be using this block next week and attaching it to another block, so go ahead and skip this step.

YOU DID IT

You just finished making your first quilt block using the foundation paper piecing method. Typically, at this point you would rip out the paper, but try to resist for now. We are going to use this block for next week’s lesson. You will also want to go ahead and make three more of these blocks for next week as well.  For right now, though, just be proud that you have taken the time to learn a new skill! If it was a little confusing the first go around, that’s okay! The more you do something the clearer and easier it will get. If there’s anything you don’t understand, or would like a little bit of extra help, feel free to shoot me an email at crafttowardsjoy@gmail.com or join the facebook group (see main menu for the link). I’m here and I want to help you learn how to do this piecing method!

Come back next week as we learn how to piece sections together and how to get the points in those seams to match up.

Wishing you all the best!

JessieSharon Craft

POST SCRIPT

This upcoming Friday the 13th, this Friday to be exact, my first major quilt pattern will be released. It is a collection of 12 12″ foundation paper piecing blocks based on Edgar Allan Poe, his life, and his works. I have worked so hard on this project and I’m so excited to share this pattern with all of you.

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