Fractured Skull Panel SAL Finishers Gallery


Thank you everyone who took part! First a special shout out to those who took on my bit of fun spooky picture challenge:

@thebeveleh Chris Ostenstad

Patricia Dunham

Now for a gallery the finished skulls. I have tried to get everyone but please message me if your missing. They are in no particular order:

From left to right : @mopheaded1 , @pattiknitsandsews, @maikahaza

From left to right : @nerdynquilty, @ma1anie, Margaret Pannell Vachon

From left to right : @therunninghare, @missmerrycherry, @ringaringarosie

From left to right: @nathaliedelesse, @tish.dunham & @freakymysty

I love the diversity of all of these and have no idea how I could possibly pick just 5 prize winners! Honestly thank you so much all of you for making my first Sew Along ‘sew’ much fun!

Helen xxx

Breast Cancer Awareness FPP Block


It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and this year it is also the first anniversary of the death of the mother of my daughter’s best friend.  I unfortunately didn’t get to know her very well before she died as the girls had only been together at school for a little over a year. My daughter’s friend and her dad have coped incredibly well and I feel honoured to have been there to help.  But I want to do more. I don’t want others to have to lose their mother, wife or daughter. 

For my small contribution to the cause, I have designed a Foundation Paper Piecing block.  It’s the iconic pink ribbon (an international sign), symbolic sometimes of loss and sometimes of success.  This block is free to download here

I would like as many of you lovely people as possible to make this block in October and share it on social media with a link to how to check your breasts such as this to make others aware.  I have tried to make this catchy with the slogan ‘Make + Share = Aware’ in the hope more will social media users will pay attention and join in!

I would like you to tell your sewing friends and get them to do the same.  Just doing this will be enough but if any guilds or groups would pool their blocks and make a quilt that could be auctioned or raffled or donated to someone in need that would be amazing. 

If anyone would like to donate any money for using the block, I have set up a Just Giving page.  This money will go to Macmillan nurses in the UK as that is the charity that our friend wanted any money, raised in her memory, to be donated too.  

Fractured Skull Panel Sew Along


HELLO and thank you for joining me here. I’m doing a sew along for the Fractured Skull Panel …eek! I am so excited to see some more skulls in fabric combinations I’m sure I will have never thought of.  And to be sewing another myself!!!

I only released the pattern last week and decided to do a sew along on Saturday so still doing some planning so bear with me.  I want to do some ‘live’ chats each week to introduce what we’re going to do and answer any questions you guys have.   

I plan to do these on a Saturday night 10PM GMT so 5pm EST or 2pm PST or 8am (Sunday) AEDT.  I will confirm the platform this will be on but most likely Zoom or Instagram/ Facebook Live.   

Most of you guys use Instagram but a few of you are Facebook users so I have set up a Facebook group found here.  Those of you who use both please could you post on both. 

I will endeavour to help any of you struggling with anything and respond to any direct messages as soon as possible but with 2 young kids and ME/CFS my free time can be unpredictable.  I also welcome any suggestions and feedback but it must be delivered with kindness.  This leads me to the boring bit…

The Rules

1-    Be nice or don’t say anything, 

2-    Have fun!

This sew along will be super chilled.  If you start late, no problem. Or if you don’t keep up, don’t worry! … Loads or a little participation is great!!!

I will send out more detailed info on a Thursday night confirming what we will be doing and giving details of live chats or updates. 


Week 1 – 10th October – Introductions, Colouring & Fabric pull

Estimated time required: 10mins to 10hrs depending on how quickly you can make fabric decisions.

Week 2 – 17th October – Most of the Sewing

Estimated time required: 8 to 10hrs depending on how quick you sew.  If you think you will be slow or short of time this week, I would suggest starting to sew in week one. 

Week 3 – 24th October – Joining Sections & Finishing

Estimated time required: 2- 8hrs depending if you will just finish the panel or make it into anything?

FINAL DAY – Halloween 31st October – The Big Reveal 

I will pick a winner (not exactly sure if it will be my favourite or randomly) in the first week of November.  I don’t want anyone to feel left out or excluded if they are struggling because of the technicality or due to life getting in the way, so you will be eligible as long as you have signed up and done something.  Prizes are still being organised so will be announced as we go along!

Lastly, if you have not already got yourself a copy of the pattern link to shop is here.

And if you’re on Instagram please post to your feed the sew along ‘I’m in’ image so your friends know you’re doing it and can join before it’s too late. 

About The Fractured Skull Panel Pattern


Before I get carried away in my next exciting project, I thought I’d better tell you about the Fractured Skull Panel Pattern released on 1st October 2020. No subtlety about it you can buy it here.

Flicking through Instagram one day in September I started seeing lots of Halloween sewing.  Being British, Halloween was not a huge thing as I was growing up.  But now I have little ones who love sweets and dressing up, I can’t resist indulging those angelic little faces, and Halloween has grown in popularity here in the UK anyway.

I started mulling over what I could design if I wanted to do something for Halloween but i was not getting excited about any of what i had come up with. At the time, I was developing a collection of simple fun blocks to release at the end of October (these are still in the pipeline but a bit delayed). Then it hit me pretty much halfway through September (I seem to do everything last minute!): how cool would a skull be in a grey scale?! (I may have been sitting on the toilet at the time.. as I have a postcard of Damian Hirst’s “For the Love of God” in my understairs loo… odd I know, but I had to hide it when my big girl was a toddler as she found it scary!)  But how? There was no way I would be able to achieve what was in my head – right?

Image from Wikipedia of Damian Hirst’s – For the Love of God

I decided I would give myself a morning to have a play with the idea to see if I could make it work. Well I liked what I did so much so I posted it in my stories and yes, I was not biased, it really did look good! 

So for the next two days the kids got to watch TV (educational obviously) while I worked on the pattern and hubby worked to earn the money to buy my fabric. 🤣

I was so rusty on the computer using the free CAD and drawing software (both of which kept throwing tantrums) I had used for the Nice Iced Ring Pattern.  It took me all weekend to get the pattern worked out, labelled and printed.  On Monday morning the toddler and me hovered for an hour outside our local quilting shop waiting for them to open so I could get some suitable fabric to sew it myself.

We grabbed various shades of expensive grey fabric, legged it home so the toddler can be shoved in front of TV again (totally wasn’t educational TV either time) and I sewed until I couldn’t see straight.  I only made half the panel to test how it went together, what tweaks were needed, how long and how much fabric it took. Instructions got written and just a couple of days later I emailed it off to a few lovely people on Instagram who were willing to test it for me. 

So somehow I went from having the idea and giving it a go, to having a pattern, testing it, writing instructions (no mean feat for me), and sending it to a bunch of testers in just seven days!!!  

My First Test Sew

That weekend me and the hubby had our first kid-free days since before the toddler and thanks to lockdown we really needed it! I couldn’t help checking how my design was manifesting in other people’s hands (obviously I got told off by the hubster). BUT …. Look at what a fabulous job they did…

by @bobbypinbandit
by @quilting_mccabe
by @skullsandneedles
by @robotmumsews

Where the time between then and now has gone I don’t know. I sewed a couple of samples myself and tried to get people as excited as me.  Well, it worked! I’m writing this sitting at the kitchen table (because I have discovered I can’t work next to the hubby in the study – he is too distracting) with more patterns sold than I could have imagined and about to start my first sew along with over 40 people signed up!! So exciting!

Halloween Sweet Tub Sample – Skull pattern printed at 50% (8″x 10″) – Tub Pattern by Rosie Taylor Crafts

Fractured Skull Panel Cushion Displayed as a wall hanging

Fractured Skull Panel Cushion – If I were to make again I would add 2″ either side to make the cushion square

How to Foundation Paper Piece – Part 4



These are my top tips for foundation paper piecing some of them will be familiar if you have read the previous 3 parts of my “how to foundation paper piece” guide.   Read them here – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Everyone paper pieces differently; you get some really accurate piecers, and you also get some slightly more “It will be all right on the night style piecing”! I tend to land somewhere in the middle of these two styles. I really like to use every scrap of fabric and of course sometimes I get things wrong and fudge them and that’s ok in my eyes!   

1 – Make notes on the paper. Some patterns are confusing and it can be tricky to remember which fabrics go where.  To make the process quicker either write a word or mark a colour on the pattern to help you sew the right fabric next. 

2 – If you are using more than 3 fabrics or colours are similar make a reference page with swatches stuck or sewn on and labelled to refer back to and check scraps against.

3 – As a beginner and for complex blocks pin the sections to a board or design wall to see how they will eventually be sewn together.  This helps you to keep an overview of how they will go together and I like to see my progress.   

4 – Glue basting first and last fabrics.  When I learnt about this it was a game changer. I was not stabbing myself with pins or warping seams when unbasted fabric shifted while sewing.   I use a super cheap kids Pritt stick and I try to use as little as possible.

5 – Use fabric efficiently by folding over paper pattern backwards along seam to check you have enough fabric and you are not creating much waste.  This is difficult to explain in writing so I have done a video.

Alternatively, I’ve broken it down into little steps to help you understand.     

  • Fold the paper pattern back on itself along the seam line so the printed sides are touching. 
  • Select a scrap or section of fabric you think will be big enough.
  • Hold the fabric finished side to finished side against the block.
  • Line-up the new fabric to the seam allowance.
  • Holding fabric and block with both thumbs and first fingers I flip backwards and forwards to check the fabric covers the whole area. 
  • If the pattern it is large or I’m struggling to see through the copy paper I make sure I have folded the pattern where the next seam will be and hold my fingers where the fabric needs to finish as I flip backwards and forwards

6 – Prep and piece multiple areas at a time either on one section or multiple sections.    This means you save a little time not going back and forth between the cutting mat and sewing machine.  I suggest only doing this once you are confident and when areas on the same section are not next to each other. 

7 – Fray Check – I occasionally screw up a little and don’t allow quite enough fabric.  The area I want is covered but after use the fabric might give on the seam.  Obviously try to avoid this but sometimes you only notice once it’s too late or don’t have enough fabric to redo … shhhh… don’t tell anyone.  A small section of lightweight iron-on interfacing can also help after the paper has been removed. 

8 – When joining sections, line up the important/obvious fabric intersections first and not corners.  If the corners are slightly out it doesn’t matter much as long as you take any difference into account when sewing a perpendicular seam to the one which is out.    

9 – Don’t be afraid of Y-seams! To be honest I have never had a problem with Y-seams but I think it’s because I didn’t know they were scary and didn’t mind un-picking and do a lot of pinning/ clipping and taking it slow! I have done a video showing the making of my nice iced ring back block which you can see here if you want to know more.  Happy Sew Lucky also has a good video here.

10 – A victory lap round the block when you finish helps to ensure seams stay flat around the edge and do not pull apart.   If I’m not going to be quilting much over the panel, I also like to iron a lightweight interfacing on once I have removed the papers.  I do also love to starch from the back (before interfacing) to make my block nice and crisp!

11 – Scrap bin for each project.  If I’m working on multiple projects at once, I like to have a scrap bin for each where I store any offcuts (unless smaller than ½” or 1.5cm) in case I have a purpose for them.  I then also don’t have to hunt through too many scraps.  Then when I have finished the project I can easy sort those scraps into my main scrap storage. 

12 – The seam ripper is your friend – don’t be afraid you use it!  It’s ok to get things wrong. If you’re not happy with a block, take a section apart or just part of a seam. I have done “surgery” on my blocks many times as you will have seen on my Instagram stories if you follow me!

How To Foundation Paper Piece – Part 3



This is the 3rd part in my 4-part series called ‘How to Foundation Paper Piece’.   Please read the previous part one here and part two here if you have not already. 

Joining sections together accurately is really important in FPP.  The visual effectiveness and impact of the image can be lost if key intersections are misaligned. 

I lay out sections with fabric facing up to help you visualise how it goes together. If you’re working on a larger project you might like to pin the layout to a cork board or your design wall if you have one. Remember they won’t line up exactly when flat like this as each section has a seam allowance round it!

Start with the shortest joins between sections.  This will be tight under the sewing machine but it means you can practice where a small amount of slippage doesn’t impact as much as it’s over a shorter length.   In my example this is sections C & D. 

Place the sections fabric sides facing and roughly line up the seam to be joined.  As these section don’t have any important intersections between the fabrics that must line up, I start in the corners.  Take a pin and push through exactly in the corner. Push through to the second section aiming to hit the corner exactly again. 

You may have to re-adjust and try a couple of times but take your time. Practice makes perfect. I almost always now push the pin through perfectly aligned 1st time.

Now push the pin all the way through up to the head.  This helps to keep the fabric from slipping down and the pin ending up at an angle through the 2 sections.  Do the same for the other corner.

Next use wonder clips or similar (I don’t like pinning together as I find it shifts the fabric) to hold the sections in place.  As it is a short seam (1-1.5” long) 2 positioning pins should be sufficient. 

Remove the pins (at 90 degrees) and just have the clips holding the seam in place.  

Sew on machine only on the line and not into the seam allowance.  This can be sewn at your normal straight stitch length but I tend to leave mine at a length of 1.5 to make tearing the paper easier without straining the thread. Remember to do a lock stitch at the beginning and end. Remove the clips as you sew the seam ensuring neither section shifts.

Remove any remaining clips and open up the seam to check you’re happy with the alignment.  If you’re not happy, unpick and try again with the same process as above.  Sometimes I find the alignment looks off but once I have pressed it open a bit it looks good so don’t rush for the seam ripper. 

Turn block over, open seam with fingers and press so it starts to stay open. 

Use the roller, pressing firmly over the open seam.  I do this both on the front and back.  This will now be known as section ‘CD’.  Other designers’ instructions will similarly combine letters when sections are joined. 

Lastly remove the paper only in the area of the seam allowance so it sits as flat as possible. 

For longer seams the process is similar, just with more pins and clips.  In my example I am joining sections CD and E.  Place the sections you are joining, fabric face together, along the seam you will sew. My pattern sections have * where important junctions of fabric need to line up.  These marked line intersections are where I will pin through first. 

Check on the fabric sides of the pattern when pushing the pin through, as sometimes the fabric has has shifted over the intersection line.  

Check the positioning of the fabric and paper as you go through the second section, (with the locating pin) so you go accurately through the line intersection again.   Push the pin all the way through.  

Do this for any important intersections (these may not be marked, unlike my patterns). 

Now clip to the side of the pins to hold the fabric together. 

Next use more pins to accurately locate the corners using the same method as before.  

Place more clips round the pins and remove any pins that are not at important intersections.  I leave these pins in until the last possible moment to try to prevent the fabric sliding.

If there are any seams longer than 2” that have not been lined up using a locator pin then check the alignment with a pin and replace with a clip to hold it in place.  I also clip open any perpendicular seams so they stay open when sewing and don’t cause bulk. 

Sew on machine along the seam line (only on the line and not into the seam allowance at either end).  This can be sewn at your normal straight stitch length but I tend to leave mine at a length of 1.5 to make tearing the paper easier and without straining the thread. Remember to do a lock stitch at the beginning and end. 

As before, open the seam up and check you are happy with the intersections between the fabric. 

The intersections of fabric should match closely – the smaller the block or more different the fabric is, the more important this is.  It really is worth getting right so don’t be afraid to use your unpicker.  You can unpick part of a seam to correct an error but don’t do this too many times or stretch the fabric to much as you may distort the block. 

Finger press seams open.

Roll to get as flat as possible

My example shows blocks C, D and E joined – don’t worry if it doesn’t look square at the moment you can trim it once the whole block is together and ironed. 

Repeat the above steps for the rest of the sections. 

Once I have sewn the whole block together, I iron it (without steam), trim it square, and stitch all the way round 1/8from the edge. 

Lastly, I remove the paper (much easier with the foundation paper from Pattern Trace) and as this crumples the block I iron it again with a little starch (or similar) and pin it to my design wall until I use it!  

Next up….. Part 4 – MY TOP TIPS

Thank you for reading and keep stitching!!

How To Foundation Paper Piece – Part 2


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”

Basic Principles

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.

IMG_20200815_133528_01 (1)

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. 


• • •

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 –  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 – 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”.

• • •

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.

• • •

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.

• • •

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

How To Foundation Paper Piece – Part 1


Introduction, Patterns & Tools

I found out about foundation paper piecing (FPP) a couple of years ago. On Instagram I came across beautiful small-pieced blocks with so much detail and decided to investigate how it was done.  I was determined to sew something so gorgeous and delicate.  I couldn’t fathom for the life of me how all the little pieces we so perfectly sewn.

I am an extremely practical person and my dyslexic brain’s super power is to visualize things in 3D and work out how things go together, so I was not daunted.  I found out it was a process called FPP and I downloaded and printed my first pattern, read a quick tutorial (no idea which one sorry!) and had a go.

I was hooked and didn’t struggle but soon learned others were intimidated or confused by the process.  I love encouraging and teaching my ‘in-person’ friends to sew, so it only feels right to try to help you online too.

I am going to go into a lot of detail, as most tutorials make it look simple and gloss over the tricky bits.  I hope you will find it useful.

There are 4 parts to this series:

  • Introduction, Patterns and Tools
  • Basic Principles and Piecing a Section
  • Joining Sections
  • My Top Tips

How patterns typically look…

An FPP pattern tends to have a page of written instructions describing the order the sections should be sewn together.  The designer may include diagrams to help explain how the block goes together and a colouring page (line drawings for you to test your colour combinations).  At the end of the document will be a number of pages containing the sections of the pattern to be printed at 100% and cut out.

The sections combine to make the whole block.  Some patterns will have more than one block.  For example, my “Nice Iced Ring” pattern you can get here contains a front and a back block.  Each section is labelled with a letter, and within each section are several smaller areas that are numbered. You sew the fabric onto the paper in numerical order.  Patterns assume you know how to do this – it is a generic method.

How to FPP is usually the same in principle but there are many variations.  I recommend reading and watching various tutorials, as each person will explain it slightly differently.  You can try the tips and tricks to see what works for you.  Ingrid of “Joe June and Mae” has a good example using a simple star pattern.  Berene Campbell of Happy Sew Lucky has a good You Tube channel.  Phoebe Moon Quilt Design also highlights the difficulties of FPP nicely in their Seven Deadly Sins article.


The essential items to FPP are;

  • Sewing machine with thread (set to straight stitch & length to 1.5).
  • 5-10 pins and at least 6 wonder clips (in the photo above between the roller and rotary cutter – NOT A SPONSORED LINK)
  • A pattern and instructions for putting sections together – whether a PDF to print or a book with them in to trace or photocopy.
  • Access to a printer or photocopier if you’re not tracing by hand.
  • Fabric – from your stash, bought on a special shopping trip or reused fabric (cotton ideally but silks can be very effective – fabric should be about quilting cotton weight).

*** I suggest if this is your first go at FPP to start only using solid fabrics.  Fabrics with 2 different sides (ie prints) add a level of confusion. With solids it doesn’t matter which side you sew.

The nice to have items are:

  • A Rotary Cutter & Cutting mat.  You can eyeball seams to ¼ inch and cut with a pair of scissors, but I find I cut the fabric too small as paper and fabric move when not pressed against the cutting board.
  • An Add a Quarter ruler (yellow in above image – pink in link as charity version -NOT A SPONSORED LINK). This makes trimming the seam allowances to a good size super easy with a rotary cutter.  The ridge on the reverse helps to hold the ruler in the right place when using the cutter.
  • A seam roller (NOT A SPONSORED LINK) to flatten the seams as much as possible – alternatively you can press open with your fingers and iron.

NOTE: my seam roller was bought as a gift and as such is actually for wallpapering and not aimed at sewing – sewing ones tend to be wooden and have a slightly rounded barrel.  I find mine works well but I do need to be careful if I don’t evenly press the fabric as it can dig in – but these marks do disappear after ironing and subsequent sewing into finished items.

  • Foundation paper to trace or print the pattern onto. This is specialist paper which allows you to see through it and tear it off easily. In the UK I recommend Foundation Paper by Pattern Trace (NOT A SPONSORED LINK).  I will do a review post for this paper in the near future.  Note: I don’t recommend drawing tracing paper as it rips too easily once sewn and may come off before you want it to, especially if you have to unpick and redo a seam.


I have provided links to example products and I encourage you to buy from independent sewing shops where possible.

Printing the pattern from PDF

Increasingly it’s become more popular to download these patterns online as they are relatively inexpensive and easy to deliver.  Plus printing them is a lot quicker than tracing.

Patterns are almost always in a PDF (portable document format), one of the easiest file types to view and transfer without losing data/detail.  I use Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free downloadable software, which allows me to view and easily print these documents.  Printing the pattern at 100% scale should be very similar in whichever software you use.

Once you have the pattern file open, go to file and print or click on the printer logo.  In the command box select “Actual size” or “100%”.  You can also select just the pages containing the pattern sections if you don’t need to print out the instruction pages.

screen print 100%

Do a test print of just one page.  Patterns tend to have a 1” reference box so you can double check with a ruler that it’s the correct size.  Once you are happy print all pages required.

Copying by hand

If you have a book or one copy of a paper pattern you can trace the section pieces onto more paper as many times as you want.  You may need to tape your paper to a window to see the lines. Ideally use pencil so no marks are later transferred to the fabric and make sure you copy the lines as accurately as possible.


If you are working from a book you can photocopy the pattern pages multiple times (on your preferred paper type) but again make sure the copier is not scaling down your pages.  Test print as above.


If this happens don’t panic and waste paper printing it again immediately.  If you are doing a stand-alone block (not matching it to full size blocks) you can still go ahead and use it, it will just be a slightly different size to that advertised.

Double-check your print settings, and try other programs (most internet browsers can handle PDFs as well). If needs be, you can always scale up/down in the print settings, but be warned it is tricky to get the size precisely right this way, so it should be a last resort.

Once you have got the hang of FPP it’s actually really fun to print the patterns at different scales to produce smaller or larger versions.  Just be careful when you go smaller as the pieces can become too small and the seams get too bulky to sew or quilt.  Equally, making a block too large can make it look overly simple.


Finally, you need to cut out all pattern pieces (this doesn’t need to be done exactly) and check you have all sections required in the pattern instructions.  I also like to have a copy of the instructions in paper format to easily check what I’m doing.  I pop anything I’m not working on in a folder or box as they can be little and get easily lost in a pile of fabric or scraps.