Basic Principles and Piecing a Section
This is the second in a 4-part series “How to Foundation Paper Piece”. If you have not already please read my previous blog post Part 1 –“Introduction, Patterns & Tools”
FPP can be daunting and tricky to get your head around at the start, but once it clicks you will wonder why you found it so difficult!
The most important things to remember are:
- You are sewing the fabric onto the back of the paper so you are creating a mirror image of what is on the front of the paper.
- Make sure the fabric you are sewing on is the right way round and big enough.
- Don’t think of it as one big whole just think about one section at a time. You can make notes on the paper if it helps, as it will be removed.
- Take your time and enjoy it!
I am going to explain the process using my “Nice Iced Ring” Front Block Pattern. You can find it here to purchase. I will try to explain in universal terms and then use photos and references of me doing my pattern.
Take any section of the block, I suggest starting with one that has the fewest and/or largest sections if you are new to FPP. For my example I am using section E.
Fold along each of the seam lines between numbered sections – printed side to printed side. The “Add a Quarter” ruler I use has a thin profile one side to make this easier. Folding over your normal quilting rulers can create a double line due to their thickness.
Turn over the paper so the printed side is facing down.
Place a large enough piece of fabric over the whole of the first area (labelled 1 and in my example, it needs to be the fabric I selected for the icing). Remember to put it on the unprinted side of the paper, with the pattern/ printed side of the facing away from the paper. This piece of fabric needs to be bigger than the area (labelled 1) by at least ¼” (seam allowance) on all sides (except any sides adjacent to the outside edge of the section where seam allowance as already marked). To make sure of this I like to initially cut a piece of fabric a bit too big and then trim it down once it is held in place.
I use a small amount of glue stick (only on the area labelled 1) to hold the fabric in place and stop it moving while sewing or trimming. Some people just pin or use a long tacking stitch across the middle of the area to baste the fabric in place.
Once stuck in place you need to trim the first bit of fabric down to the ¼” seam allowance. Turn the section over so the fabric is facing the mat and the printed side of the paper is facing you. Fold the paper back along each of the lines between area 1 and the other numbers in turn and use the ruler and rotary cutter to trim the excess off.
This is how my example looks now with the (icing) fabric covering area 1 plus a ¼” seam allowance on the adjacent sections and seam allowance at the bottom of the section.
My example the “Nice Iced Ring” front block, I am making without the icing detail so have treated areas ‘1’ and ‘2’ as one area (I crossed out the 2 on the paper to remind me).
Next, take some of the fabric for the area you want to cover (in this case 3). In my pattern this is different to the fabric used in areas 1 & 2 as shown by the change of colour. The blue indicates the background. This fabric should be bigger than the area you want to cover by at least ¼” on all sides.
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Getting the fabric the right shape and size and the right way round is the most difficult part of FPP. Often people have tried FPP and then got confused and given up when they have tried several times and can’t get it right. Conveniently this is where most guides use overly large bits of fabric and gloss over the fact that you can get it so wrong.
It is confusing because you are creating a mirror image on the back of the paper and then reversing it when you are lining up the section to sew it on (as you always sew the fabric on while its finished face is against the finished face of the fabric already attached to the pattern).
You can very easily think you have it right but open up the fabric when the seam is sewn and realise you’ve got it completely wrong! The fabric might have the print on the wrong side or the print the right side but shape wrong, or just not enough seam allowance.
There are a couple of easy ways to make sure this doesn’t happen:
- Cut pre-prepared sections of fabric much bigger than you need and trim them down after sewing. Berene from “Happy Sew Lucky” explains how she does this on her YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B0cTgce77A. I started by using this method but it is wasteful of fabric when not doing simple squares or rectangles.
- Print out the pattern a second time and cut each area of the section apart. Place these on the fabric (wrong side of fabric to unprinted side of paper) and cut round them adding at least ¼” seam allowance on ALL sides. Sugeridoo does this in her instructional video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6vH6_zk-OQ. I have never used this method myself.
Personally, I use a method which allows me to use smaller scraps or efficiently cut from my main bit of fabric. It is not an original idea but it is tricky to explain and I only recommend trying it once you have got the hang of the rest of the process! In essence you line up the new section of fabric with the existing one, fold the paper back along the seam you are going to sew so the printed sides of paper touch and flip the whole thing back and forth using your fingers as a visual reference to check the area is covered. This is will be explained fully in my 4th part of this ‘how to’ series “Top tips and Tricks”.
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Place this next bit of fabric face to face with the first fabric stuck to the paper. Line it up along the trimmed edge of the first fabric which is adjacent to the length of the seam you are going to sew (for my example the line between areas ‘1’ & ‘3’) and with about ¼” or more at each end.
Pin the fabric in place. Do this at both ends so nothing gets folded over while going through the machine.
With your machine on straight stitch at 1.5 length, sew along the line ONLY between the two areas (“1” & “3” in this example) with a lock stitch at the beginning and end. Do not go further than this line at either end.
Unfold the fabric and press your fingers over the seam and then use your roller to flatten with firm pressure.
Now turn the section over so the finished fabric is on the mat and fold only the paper back along the seam lines yet to be sewn NOT the one you just sewed (on my block this is the lines between 3 and 5 and 3 and 6). Trim leaving 1/4” of the fabric past the folded paper.
This is what the trimmed fabric looks like on my example, it covers area 3 with a ¼” seam allowance on the unsewn sides.
Repeat the same process for area 4 and so on until the section is completely covered in fabric.
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The next few photos show some of the stages to finish section E. I have included them as the larger areas show the method more clearly.
This is how my example looks once the fabric has been sewn to area 4 and trimmed.
The fabric pinned and ready to sew for area 5.
The fabric sewn and trimmed for area 5.
Lining up the fabric for area 7. Using my method of folding back the paper (printed side to printed side) to check the area of 7 will be covered once the fabric is sewn along the seam and opened up. With this large section and large area of fabric I don’t need to flip it back and forward.
The paper unfolded and fabric pinned ready to sew section 7. Note: I did areas 6 and 7 out of order as they don’t touch each other.
This is the fabric opened up for area 7 once the seam has been sewn but before the excess fabric is trimmed off. When you trim this fabric off you can just trim round the paper pattern piece as the white area round the blue is the seam allowance for the section.
This is the view as per previous photo but from the fabric side.
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Use the same process, from folding the seam lines, to complete all remaining sections for the whole block. Once completing all sections, I tend to use a little bit of glue again to stick down the edges of the last bits of fabric to stop them shifting when sewing the blocks together. Others use a long basting stitch all the way around each section to do the same job.
Next … Part 3 – Joining Sections