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Piecing by the Numbers

Count the ways to enjoy paper piecing once you learn how to quilt by number.

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Foundation-Piecing Tips


Great Foundations
Maintain the integrity of your block by beginning with the perfect foundation. These can be permanent or temporary, depending on how the quilt will be used. Some choices include muslin, lightweight interfacing, tear-away stabilizer, and vellum. There also are several products made or marketed specifically for paper piecing, including wash-away paper and preprinted foundation designs--many of these can be run through an ink-jet printer.

To make copies of the foundation pattern, choose from the following options.

Precise Tracing is Key
You can make multiple copies by stapling several layers of paper together with the original on top. Then, with no thread in your machine and a medium to long stitch length, sew precisely on the lines of the traced pattern. The needle will pierce holes in the layers that will exactly match the pattern lines. Don’t forget to number the copies. If you use a photocopier to reproduce your pattern, check the copy against the original. Make all of your copies at the same time as copy quality can vary between machines.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Foundation piecing requires that you sew the fabric pieces on the reverse side of the block image. Each block is a mirrored, or reversed, image of the pattern. If the blocks are symmetrical, such as a square-in-a-square block, this won’t be an issue. However, if you need certain elements to be in a specific position, you might need to reverse your pattern before you make copies. Check the pattern against the project photo to be sure. It helps to write the color selections on the pattern before you begin sewing. If you’re piecing log-cabin blocks that require a light and dark side, draw a line diagonally through the pattern. Write "light" on one side of the line and "dark" on the other to help you keep things straight.

Be Generous
Even though you can use the tiniest of scraps for foundation piecing, you need to have fabrics large enough to cover each section. A minimum of ½" larger than the piece to be covered is recommended. Because the foundation will stabilize your fabric, there’s no need to worry about grain lines when you cut the fabric. The fabric pieces don’t need to be cut perfectly, as any excess will be trimmed away after each piece has been stitched.

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