Paper Piecing for Perfect Patchwork

Patchwork Telly wall quilt by Penny Layman, from the Summer 2011 issue of Stitch.

Patchwork Telly wall quilt by Penny Layman, from the Summer 2011 issue of Stitch.


Perfect Patchwork Made Easy

I love patchwork projects. They offer a great way to use up scraps, plus you can get creative by mixing and matching prints and experimenting with color.

Working with small or intricate patchwork projects can be a bit daunting, though, and piecing such tiny scraps together neatly can be a bit of a challenge. Luckily there's a handy technique that can make the process a bit easier!

Paper piecing (also called foundation piecing) makes it easier to sew small shapes that would be difficult to sew with conventional piecing techniques, by supporting the patches with a foundation of paper, muslin, or stabilizer. We explored this technique in the Patchwork Telly wall quilt from the Summer 2011 issue of Stitch. Here are the steps. Try them out on your next patchwork project!

Paper Piecing

Use the template provided with your pattern and transfer the pieces to lightweight paper-you will sew along lines drawn or printed on the paper, so your piecing will be precise without the need to follow an exact seam allowance. Paper specifically made for paper piecing is available at quilt shops, but tracing paper, newsprint, or another lightweight paper will also work for the foundation patterns.

1. Cut a piece of fabric at least 1⁄2" (1.3 cm) larger (both lengthwise and widthwise) than the first section of your template foundation; the fabric need not be the exact shape of the section as long as it is the correct size. With wrong sides together, pin the fabric onto the template, making sure the fabric covers the entire numbered section (labeled on the right side) with at least 1⁄4" (6 mm) of fabric extending past each edge of the section (figure a).

Patchwork Telly wall quilt, designed by Penny Layman. figure a

figure b

figure c

figure d


2. Cut another piece of fabric at least 1⁄2" (1.3 cm) larger than the next numbered section. Place the second fabric piece right sides together with the first, overlapping the line between sections 1 and 2 so that the second piece will cover section 2 when pressed open (figure b). From the right side of the template, sew along the line between sections 1 and 2 with a short stitch length (to perforate the paper), being sure to sew through both layers of fabric.

3. From the wrong side of the template, flip the second patch so it covers section 2 and finger-press the seam (figure c).

4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 to sew the remaining fabric patches to the template. The completed patchwork and the paper template will be wrong sides together (figure d).

5. As directed by the project instructions, trim the outer edge of the sewn fabric along the template cutting line or 1⁄4" (6 mm) outside the cutting line for seaming to other pieces.

6. Remove the paper foundations when directed to do so by the pattern instructions.

This technique will make your next patchwork project easy and stress-free! There are several patchwork projects in the Summer 2011 issue of Stitch-try them out!

Happy sewing!


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About StefanieB

I'm the Managing Editor of Stitch magazine. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado with one fat cat, one very active dog, and lots of books, crafting supplies, and video games.