I’ve been planning to do a post sharing some paper piecing hints and tips for awhile. Then suddenly it was Thursday evening and I had nothing to share for the paper piecing party! So I moved the schedule up. But we can totally pretend I planned it this way if it makes me sound more efficient.
So here you have it, my quilty friends. As many hints and tips as I could think of. And a few completely random pics thrown in for fun (and possibly to entice you to further paper piecing – I happen to know of a good sale on!).
1. Short is good.
And I’m not just saying that because I’m barely 5’4”. Short stitches are much needed for paper piecing. I know – you’re saying “why? Do you know how horrid they are to unpick?!” Why yes, yes I do and I’ll share a tip about that in a tick (see #7). But you need a short stitch length when paper piecing so that you can remove the paper from your block easily and without distorting the stitches.
2. Scaling. No scaling. Actual size. 100%. What printer setting?! Help!
Oh one of the biggest questions in paper piecing! What printer setting do I need to make sure my pattern prints to the correct size? Side note: Some patterns have 1” scale boxes to help you measure. I know mine don’t. I wish they did. But currently there’s no way to add that in using EQ7 and I’m not sure how else to do it. Sorry. So back to scaling! The key thing is that you “Print to Actual Size”. Some printers give different wording but it all means the same thing. You don’t want it to automatically resize your PDF to print – you need it to be at the actual size, or no scaling. You’ll need to experiment a bit and see what works best for your set up.
3. With a stripe over here, and a stripe over there…
Stripes are awesome. Directional prints are awesome. Trying to match stripes and directional prints in paper piecing is not so awesome. Ok yes it’s fabulous when you pull it off, but you’re likely to pull your hair out in the process. Directional prints work brilliantly in small areas, but I wouldn’t advise using them for background prints or larger areas unless you’re pretty confident in your paper piecing abilities!
4. Pre-cut, rough cut, don’t cut, cut what?!
Some people like to pre-cut their fabric to the template sizes before they start. I’m not that patient. I rough-cut mine. That is, I hold the fabric over the section I’m about to piece, and I roughly trim the piece of fabric to size. If there are angles involved, I recommend using a larger than necessary piece of fabric so that when that pesky angle occurs, you’ve got a bit of excess to cover the seam allowances.
5. Trim, Tidy and Terrific
Trim your seam allowances back to 1/4” after every seam you sew. This is crucial in paper piecing. Otherwise you end up with a very messy block, with seam allowances being sewn into other seam allowances, and bulk and mess and just blerk. So trim as you go.
6. Angles are a necessary evil (alternatively titled Angles are Poo.)
Angles are not fun in paper piecing. You have to lay your fabric all weird and it’s counter-intuitive to how you think it should go. Especially if you’re spatially challenged like I am! But I have found a little tip that helps greatly when piecing angles. It’s too much to describe in a few words here but pop over and check out my tutorial with pretty pictures.
7. Line up, line up!
Lining up seams. Oh that’s where the unpicker comes out to play. Making paper pieced blocks (or any quilting blocks really!) requires matched seams to make them look good. Or at least seams that are pretty close to lining up! Now I mentioned in #1 that you need a short stitch length when sewing. That’s a bloody nightmare to unpick if you muck up the lining up part. So here’s a tip. When you need to join sections together and you’re not sure if it’s going to line up perfectly… switch that stitch length to the longest one possible. Pin your sections together where you think they should line up, then sew that sucker with the long basting stitch. Check if your seams line up. If they do fab, rejoice and re-sew with the short stitch length again. If they don’t, well it’s still a date with your unpicker, but at least giant basting stitches are MUCH easier to unpick.
8. Backstitching prevents grey hair.
Okay so that’s not true or I wouldn’t be keeping the hair colour companies in business. But trust me, it’s worth backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam to save some sewing stress! Okay it does add a teeny bit of bulk to your block, but my personal opinion is that it is worth it so that your pieced sections don’t start to come unravelled before you’ve had a chance to join them together. Yes you are using a shorter stitch length but you’re also manhandling those pieces quite a bit. Better safe than sorry and all that.
9. Iron into submission
I try to get away with finger pressing as much as I can. I have little kidlets so I can’t have the iron set up all the time and it drives me bonkers plugging it in to iron every itty bit then unplugging and setting it far away from curious little fingers. So I do finger press while I’m actually piecing each section then I head to the iron when I have all the sections done. My friend Alyce suggests using a tool called a finger presser (or there’s a thing called a seam roller), but I don’t have any personal experience with those so can’t really advise. If you do, tell me what you think! Oh.. and talking about ironing… if you have have to tape pattern pieces together because they printed over two pages… do NOT iron on the paper side, melt the tape, and ruin your iron. Not that I would have any experience with such a silly thing. Ironing is crucial however before trimming up your sections to join together.
10. Misfits – the bits that didn’t fit in the other tips
Okay no real tips here on trimming or removing paper. I just didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten to mention some amazing revolutionary tip on these things. If I knew one, I’d tell you. Honest. I don’t. Trimming is boring. So is removing paper. I watch tv/a movie when I get to these steps (ok I listen to tv/a movie when it’s trimming time, because you know, I don’t want to slice my fingers because rotary cutters are sharp). Oh wait there’s a tip – trimming on paper dulls rotary blades quickly. I use an old crappy cutting mat for trimming, but I don’t change my rotary blade as often as I should. Bad quilter.
So that’s the top ten I can think of. I’m sure there are more that I’ll think of as soon as I hit “publish”. So if you think of a fab tip that you feel your fellow paper piecers ought to know, please share! Or just link up your awesome foundation pieced pattern for us to admire!
Quick refresher on what the deal is with the Paper Piecing Party (full details here):
* It’s on every weekend here at Quiet Play, starting Friday.
* Link up something you’re working on that’s foundation paper pieced
* Link a blog post or flickr photo
* Visit at least two other links and leave a comment because that’s half the fun!
* I’ll pick one each week to win their choice of a free pattern from my Craftsy shop. Keep on paper piecing ;) Last week’s winner was Michelle!