Watch a step-by-step video covering the basics of foundation piecing.

October 13, 2016


Foundation piecing is a method that quilters have used for some time in order to achieve precision in their piecing. Now foundation piecing in its entirety could mean piecing on interfacing or muslin or paper, so for this example we're going to be using paper piecing for our foundation method. This is a block that you might be best to piece using a paper piecing method. It's a New York Beauty block and as you can see there are lots of points and curves. And really accurate size pieces in order to get them to go together smoothly is essential in creating this block. Let me show you how we put this together. With paper piecing patterns you'll find that there are numbers designated on the patterns as well as solid lines and dashed lines. The solid lines are going to be your stitching lines and then dashed lines around the exterior are accommodating for your seam allowances. The numbers are essential. If you're making copies of your pattern by hand, you want to make sure that you put all the numbers on your pattern because that's the sequence that you're going to add pieces to the foundation pattern in. This is your pattern. The first line you're going to stitch on is the line between sections one and two. I've highlighted it here in orange. In order to do that you can work with any sized piece of fabric but some quilters find it easiest to start out with like sizes, so that they know exactly what area they're trying to cover. So we started with rectangles for both the light and red areas on the pattern. The first thing you need to do in foundation piecing is to understand that you're working on both the front or printed side of the pattern and on the back side. And to start with you're going to lay down the piece of fabric for piece one. It's going to be face up. And on top of it aligning the raw edges will be piece two -- the piece that's going to cover area two on your paper pieced pattern. Now, you're going to want to make sure that you have enough fabric extending over that line between one and two to allow for the seam allowance. And this is where it might be easier for you to hold the pattern up to the light, and to look through, and to make sure that your seam allowance is extending a quarter inch past the line between one and two. So that's what I've done here. If I had done that before and stitched it, I would have to hold it sort of position it. Then when I take it to my machine, I'm simply going to sew from the right side of the paper all away from that dashed line, which is nice seam allowance on the solid line between sections one and two, all the way extending through the dashed line at the bottom. Again that means my stitches go through my seam allowance. Now when you're piecing on paper, the paper ultimately is going to be removed, so you may want to use a bigger needle than usual (maybe a 90/14, because that would help perforate the paper so it's easier to remove), and also a smaller than usual stitch length, something about twelve to sixteen stitches per inch. So I stitch on that line between one and two, extending through the seam allowances. I remove it from my machine. And then I'll open up the fabrics and finger press that seam allowance. Now the piece of fabric that's covering section two obviously extends well past because I cut it into rectangles. And I have sort of a pie-shape piece. So in order to eliminate some of that extra fabric before I continue on, I'm going to turn my pattern over and I'm going to just use a little ruler here to give me an edge to crease it against. I'll fold the pattern back against that line between sections two and three and this will give me the line or the angle that I want to trim my fabric in, so again if I had my mat out here, I just placement ruler on there, give myself a quarter inch seam allowance, and trim that off. I've done that already on this piece. So you can see what that would look like if I turned it over. Here you have the whole piece and here you can see that pie-shape wedge. So now I've got the fabric that's covering section one and two. I'm ready to add another cream rectangle to cover area three. Because I've trimmed this into the right shape this edge already extends a quarter inch past that line on the front. So I just use it as the positioning guide for my next piece. And here I added that rectangle, lined it up on that angle. I take it back to my machine and stitch on the line between two and three, extending through the seam allowance. Remove that from the machine. Open that up and you could see the pie-shape wedge starting to form. And then I would repeat the same trimming exercise on the line between three and four, which is the next line I'll stitch. So I'll lay my ruler down on that line, fold the pattern back, and then this will be where I trim off, allowing myself that quarter inch seam allowance. It's worth the extra time and effort to use the foundation or paper piecing method when you see the great results you can achieve.