Monday, 4 May 2015

Paper Piecing Question and Answer

This post has been written for a few weeks, but its been waiting for me to take some suitable photos.

I fear that I might not get around to posting it if it waits any longer, so I've decided to post it with irrelevant photos to bear up the monotony of the text. I hope you don't mind!

What kind of paper do I use for paper piecing:

I must admit that I use bog standard computer paper. I know that a lot of people prefer freezer paper and special paper piecing paper but to be honest I stick to computer paper for purely financial reasons. Specialist quilting supplies are really expensive in New Zealand and when you consider that many of my patterns require me to print up anywhere between 16 and 20 pages of pattern pieces, the choice to stick with normal paper is a pretty easy one.

Am I tempted to try other papers- yes!
Am I scared to do it in case I fall in love with these other papers- you bet!

How do I store my finished blocks:
As I have said before, I like to keep the paper on my blocks for as long as possible. I prefer not to fold  completed blocks as I want to keep the paper as intact as possible.

When do I remove the paper?
I used to leave the paper on as long as possible and only take it off once I had sewn the whole quilt top together, but I recently stumbled upon this great method of pressing completed paper pieced blocks. As you can see, the method requires the use of starch and I am beginning to trust this to help my blocks keep their shape and resist warping.

Quilt tops can easily become unwieldy when the paper is still attached, so if you can take the papers out before sewing the quilt top together, it is to be recommended.

Finger Press or Iron?
Its personal choice, do what works for you, but for me there is no choice- ironing wins every time. When I finger press, I find that my seams never join up as neatly as I want them to.

I set the seam first and then press it open, making sure that the seam is completely open.

I've had a few people ask me for tips on working with teeny tiny pieces.
To be honest, I never know quite what to reply to this. In my honest opinion, teeny tiny pieces are a lot easier than big huge pieces (but teeny tiny pieces are much more likely to drive me nuts!)

I guess my main piece of advice is don't cut your fabric too small. You can easily use up tiny awkward offcuts when piecing tiny pieces. With regards to teeny tiny pieces, precutting your fabrics exactly is the quickest way to insanity!

Be very careful with your paper and when you press your fabric, ensure that you don't pull to hard on your stitching. There are just a few stitches keeping everything in place and these can easily come loose of the paper if you are clumsy (especially if the tiny piece is the first one that you sew to the paper). Remember that you can sew past the end of your line. Sew into the seam allowance (if your piece is next to the edge of a paper piece) and sew past the ends of your piece if the piece is not. Those extra few stitches can make all the difference!

Be attentive when ironing the fabric, it can be easy to miss the true alignment of the piece.

If there are several teeny tiny pieces in close proximity to each other, you can sometimes end up sewing through may bulky layers of fabric. Use your judgement- it may not be strictly necessary to have a 1/4 inch seam but don't make your seam allowance too small. Be realistic, the last thing that you want is for your completed quilt to come open at the seams.

I don't claim to be an expert, I have learnt paper piecing through trial and error and my methods are still evolving. If you have any further questions, ask away and I'll do my best to help.


  1. Lovely helpful post Juliet. Ha - i'm such a noob, I use only normal paper and had no idea there was special paper! and I agree - little pieces are hard but big pieces are really hard! it's a learning process :) x

  2. Thanks for your comments on paper piecing. I recently found some polyester thread made by Coats that is labeled for paper piecing. What threads do you use and do you think polyester thread on cotton would be okay to use? Love your creative work!

  3. Interesting Juliet. I too use computer paper - all recycled too! At the shop recently we ran a class with pre-printed tissue paper, like dressmaking tissue - oh it seemed so flimsy! Can you tell I didn't make the sample!

  4. I'm an EQ user, so put all my PP patterns into the software. When I print out out templates I set EQ to make the the seam allowance 3/8 wide instead of 1/4. It allows room in case I don't have the fabric lined up correctly. That tiny 1/8th inch is the only waste I have. It's so little I don't bother trimming it off most times. As far as the paper goes, I use Translucent Tracing Paper by Foray. It's heavier than tissue paper and still very easy to tear off.
    I've also printed patterns onto non-woven interfacing and I've not removed that at all, altho at the weight I use, it could be torn off


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