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Mastering Foundation Paper Piecing: Tips and Tricks for Perfect Blocks

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Foundation paper piecing (FPP) is a quilting technique that involves stitching pieces of fabric onto a paper foundation to create precise and intricate patchwork designs.

In this technique, a paper template or foundation is used as a guide for piecing the fabric shapes together, allowing for precise and accurate piecing of simple or complex designs.

An FPP template with fabric strips
A Traditional Log Cabin FPP Template

The process involves printing or drawing the design onto a piece of paper, then using the paper as a guide to stitch the fabric pieces together in a specific order, following the numbered or lettered sections on the paper.

The fabric is placed on the back of the paper template, and then each piece is pinned and stitched onto the paper, sometimes starting from the centre and working outwards, pressing and trimming excess fabric after each piece of fabric. There are sometime a few paper sections used that can then be pieced together.

Fabric strips on the back of the FPP paper
Lay the fabric on the back of the template

FPP being stitched on a sewing machine
Stitch on the line

FPP being stitched on a sewing machine
Complex designs are stitched in the same way

Once all the fabric pieces have been stitched to the paper, the excess fabric is trimmed away to create a precise and accurate seam allowance.

Cutting fabric with a rotary cutter
Trim the excess fabric

The paper is trimmed before being removed

The paper foundation is then removed by tearing it away along the seam lines, leaving only the fabric pieces that have been stitched together.

FPP can be used to create a wide range of designs, from simple geometric shapes to complex and intricate designs, and is a popular technique among quilters who want to create precise and detailed patchwork designs.

FPP is being pressed with an iron
Press each piece

Here are some tips to get the best out of FPP:

1. Choose the right paper: Use a lightweight paper that tears easily. You can use plain printer paper (I do), but some quilters prefer to use specialty foundation paper that is traced on to, or even a fabric stabiliser that can be left in the quilt for added stability. Using a smaller stitch length than usual to help you tear paper away when you've finished.

2. Cut your fabric carefully: Use a rotary cutter and ruler to cut your fabric precisely, and make sure to add a 1/2" for the seam allowance to each piece, but as long as the fabric covers the area you need it to with at least 1/2" for seam allowances you will be fine.

3. Keep your workspace organised: FPP can be a bit fiddly, so it's important to keep your workspace organised and free from clutter. Keep your fabric pieces labelled and sorted, and use pins or clips to keep everything in place. You can even write which fabric is going where on your paper pattern to keep you right.

4. Take your time: FPP requires a bit of patience and attention to detail, so take your time and go slowly. Don't rush through the process, as mistakes can be difficult to correct once the fabric is stitched to the paper. If you do need to unpick, unpick carefully from the fabric side so you don't rip your paper.

5. Practise, practise, practise: As with any piecing technique, practise is key. Start with simple patterns and work your way up to more complex designs as you gain confidence and experience.

Have you tried FPP? We'd love to see your projects.

Happy Stitching!

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