Well, not actually a how to, just sharing how I started out with a little paper piecing. I've mentioned a lady called Lucy several times now who lives in the US and comes to Cayman to scuba dive with my hubby. She's helped me out with her long arm quilter, and while she was here last time, I insisted she give me an introductory lesson in paper piecing.
Lucy makes the most amazing quilts and sometimes shares them in our sewing chat group. Here is one of her recent ones.
Blown away! She tells me that it's ‘easy'. You just follow the pattern, sew along the lines on the paper and it all comes out perfectly. Well Lucy wasn't that familiar with my slapdash way of sewing so when I insisted she showed me how this is done, she didn't realize what she was getting herself into!
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She brought along her folder of paper piecing patterns, and showed me how it all worked. Looking at the latest pattern she is working on, well, I don't know how she keeps it all so organised with all the cutting charts, cutting templates and sewing templates, and then having to sew it all together to make a final quilt top. I'm loving the end result of all this work, but wow, it's many many hours to create something like that.
If you are an experienced quilter, and have the patience of a saint, you can find the pattern for this quilt at CV Quiltworks here, or you can also buy it as a kit complete with the fabric too.
Paper piecing a large design can also be very wasteful in terms of fabric. The design she is working on next requires 16 yards of fabric to create a quilt top with is just 6 feet square – 4 square yards. So of the 16 yards you start with, you only end up with 4 of those yards on the top of the quilt, the rest is in the hundreds of tiny seam allowances and in all the fabric wastage. That's a bit rich for me! I get annoyed if I make a dress from 2 yards of fabric and end up with 1/2 a yard left over that is too small to make something else.
But at the end, you do end up with something truly breath-taking.
My first paper piecing
We quickly determined that a beginner block might be more within my level of sewing skills and took a look here at Generations Quilt Patterns. There are lots of free paper piecing blocks there to try out. I picked the Nell's Star.
It was a strange mix of easy and difficult. Yes, you just ‘sew along the lines' but lining up the fabric just right, actually sewing perfectly on the line, getting all the joins exactly right – it's not really easy – for a slapdash sewer anyway.
The block makes a quarter of the finished design, so once I had the 4 made up, I had to join them and of course they didn't join up exactly. It wasn't far out, just one piece was a few mm different, but that was enough to make it lie a little bit funny where I had to ease one piece to match the other. All those seams and points are supposed to line up exactly – assuming you've sewn everything exactly. (Obviously I hadn't…)
I didn't take any pictures along the way. Seemed a bit rude with my own personal expert quilting teacher to ask if we could keep stopping to take photos, so here is the end result instead. It's OK but I think this one really qualifies as a sewing fail.
Did I enjoy it – yes I enjoyed having Lucy as my own personal sewing teacher and paper piecing ‘butler' as she helped me cut and sew all of the fabric pieces, pressed one while I worked on the next etc.
Am I ready to work on a whole quilt? No I don't think so. It was fun, but my small quilting cotton stash isn't up to making anything larger than a mug rug! Anyway, the way I sew, in the end all those hundreds of tiny pieced blocks would never fit together well enough to make something that looked as good as hers.
Although maybe if I made a bad enough job of it, it could be my next long-arm quilting challenge for her!
Where to learn more
Craftsy has an array of classes on Paper Piecing, from absolute beginner through to expert level. Check them out below if you want to make a quilt like Lucy!
- Mastering foundation paper piecing
- Quick strip paper piecing – good for beginners – great student projects!
- Pain-free foundation piecing
- Start foundation paper piecing – good for beginners
- Oh My Stars, 6 pieced blocks
- Precision piecing
- Paper-pieced stars