Monday, April 13, 2020

Foundation Paper Piecing

As promised, this is part 1 of 3 tutorials showcasing three different ways to paper piece. I chose to test each paper piecing technique on the berries of my Chocolate Dipped Strawberries runner, to see which I liked best. 

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry by QuiltFabrication

These tutorials are quite long and picture heavy, so I decided to divide them up to better explain the three paper piecing techniques:  

foundation paper piecing
freezer paper template piecing 
freezer paper foundation piecing

The first two techniques are nicely explained in the Handy Pocket Guide to Paper Piecing by Tacha Bruecher (affiliate link), which is my April 2020 Book of the Month choice

Handy Pocket Guide to Paper Piecing by Tacha Bruecher

I'll go over my experience with both, and add in freezer paper foundation piecing which is not covered in the booklet. For today, the focus is on foundation paper piecing, the more traditional way to paper piece.

Here's a hint before starting any paper piecing project: add tick marks on the seam lines of the paper piecing pattern, as shown in red below. These marks make joining templates and units much easier to match up.

tick marks for lining up units for paper piecing

Foundation Paper Piecing

For this technique, a thin, lightweight paper is used, such as Carol Doak's Foundation Paper (affiliate link), 

Carol Doak's Foundation Paper

which is easy to sew through and tear out, though a shortened stitch length is required. 

Pieces of fabric can be cut using templates, making sure of enough coverage of the area, including seams, 

using a fabric template for paper piecing

OR the fabric can be large pieces that are trimmed. I use a stiff card to fold back on the seam line, 

card stock for seam trimming

then cut the seam allowance with an Add-a-Quarter ruler (affiliate link).

card stock for seam trimming with add-a-quarter ruler

seam trimmed to a quarter inch

Either way, the first piece is pinned in place, and the next piece placed to line up at the seam edge.

lining up second piece with seam edge

I'm using a template cut piece here, but recommend a larger piece of fabric just to make sure there is enough coverage. Plus a larger piece helps with placing angled pieces.

Before stitching, verify placement and coverage by flipping the second piece over into position and holding it up to the light to check the coverage through the paper.

verifying fabric coverage through paper

With foundation paper piecing, all of the stitching is done through the paper. Use a short stitch length, 1.5-2.0, and start and end the stitching just outside the seam allowance.

stitching started outside the seam allowance

seam stitched through paper

Press the seam, and pin the second piece, if necessary, before adding the next piece. When the unit is finished, trim the unit/block on the 1/4" seam allowance lines.

trim unit with seam allowances

When it comes time to assemble units into a block, match up the tick marks made at the beginning, keeping the pins straight up and down. Pin through all layers perpendicular to the seam allowance to prevent shifting. 

matching and pinning units together

Take 5-7 basting stitches (over 5.0 in length) at crucial matching areas, checking for accuracy. It's a lot easier to rip out basting stitches than one long line of short stitches! 

basting stitches to check join

When all is good, stitch the seam through the papers. 

finished joining seam

Once the block is assembled, trim it to the proper size, and gently remove the paper, trying not to loosen the stitches.

And ta-da, a foundation paper pieced block is finished!

foundation paper pieced chocolate dipped strawberry block by QuiltFabrication

Foundation paper piecing pros and cons:
  • accurate
  • easy to do
  • tedious paper removal
  • no control over seam pressing direction
  • patterns printed in reverse which may cause fabric size/placement confusion
Ultimately, it's a choice as to whether this is the paper piecing technique to use. For some projects, it's the best choice, for others, maybe not. Hopefully, this tutorial will a least give the confidence to try it.

There's still more to come:
Freezer Paper Template Piecing
Freezer Paper Foundation Piecing

Happy Quilting!

Follow on Bloglovin

My Favorite Patterns


  1. Thanks, Susan. This is great information and you really explain each technique well. I am going to link this post with my guild's tips and techniques page.

  2. I have been looking at this post for days, wishing for some chocolate covered strawberries. Great tutorial!

  3. Hi Susan! Great idea about adding the tick marks to help line up the pieces later. I am looking forward to hearing your report and tutorial on the next two subjects. Thanks for linking up today! ~smile~ Roseanne

  4. Nice instructions. I like the tick marks. Love it when I learn something new! Thanks

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Thank you so much for just made my day!