Monday, April 20, 2020

Freezer Paper Template Piecing

Last week, I covered foundation paper piecing, and this week is devoted to Freezer Paper Template Piecing. 

freezer paper template piecing tutorial

Both techniques are well covered in the Handy Pocket Guide to Paper Piecing by Tacha Bruecher (affiliate link), concise little book, full of useful tips and fun blocks to make. Plus it doesn't take up a ton of room on the shelf!

Handy Pocket Guide to Paper Piecing by Tacha Bruecher

There are a few important tips to keep in mind before starting with freezer paper template piecing:
  • print an extra copy of the pattern as a guide
  • mark ALL seam lines with tick marks for matching before cutting the pattern apart for templates
marks for matching on all seams

  • work one area at a time to avoid mixing up pieces

Another tip I've learned over the years is to iron two pieces of freezer paper together before making templates, as the freezer paper can shrink a bit. It's totally up to the quilter to do this or not. I, personally, did not do this for my Chocolate Dipped Strawberries project, and the berries turned out fine. So let's see how to freezer paper template piece!

Freezer Paper Template Piecing

First, print or draw the pattern onto the dull side of freezer paper. Make matching marks on ALL of the seam lines, then, using a rotary blade for paper, cut the pattern apart on the seam lines. Leave the seam allowance lines at the block edges intact.
freezer paper templates for freezer paper template piecing
Iron the freezer paper templates to the wrong side of the fabric. Cut out the fabric pieces, adding 1/4" seam allowances around all edges of the templates, keeping the templates on the fabric.

If the seam allowances at the block edges get cut off, just add a mark as a reminder to add more fabric in that area. In the picture below, I made an X because the paper seam allowance at the block edge is missing. That X is my note to add a bit more seam allowance (maybe even more than shown!) to that edge. 

1/4 inch seam allowance around templates with more for block edges

Using the marks made on the seam lines, line up the pieces with seam allowances even, and push pins through at the marks, keeping the pins straight up and down.

aligning template pieces at marks

Here's what the unit looks like from the back, with pins at both marks.

pins at seam marks for matching and alignment

With another set of pins, pin the pieces together, straight in from the edge of the seam allowance so as not to cause a shift. Then stitch as close as possible next to the template edge.

stitching next to template edges in freezer paper template piecing

When joining large pieces or units, I recommend taking 5-8 basting stitches, 4.0-5.o in length, to check the accuracy of the match/alignment. Because these pieces are not very big, I stitched all the way across with a 1.8-2.0 stitch length, starting and stopping at the outer edge of the seam allowance.

stitched seam in freezer paper template piecing

Looks good on the front, with a slight bit of stitching away from the template at the top. If that happens, either restitch the seam, or move the freezer paper template making sure it's still aligned with the other piece.

Make a thorough check of the back too, as it's easy to sew through the freezer paper, or be far away from the template. The backside below looks good enough for me. And accepting that may be my downfall - keep reading!

backside of seam to check sewing accuracy

Open up and lay the pieces flat for one last check of alignment. Time to press that seam.

freezer paper template piecing seam as seen from the top

With freezer paper templates, there are two options for seam pressing, either as a personal choice, or a project necessity. The seams can be pressed open, eliminating seam bulk and creating a flat block, OR pressed to one side, as in normal piecing. Before choosing, examine the block and decide which pressing option is best for the block to eliminate fabric buildup. 

Since I was testing both foundation paper piecing and freezer paper template piecing on my strawberries, I chose to the press the seams open with the template method. That's shown on the berry on the left, with the foundation pieced berry on the right.

freezer paper template pieced open pressed seams on left, foundation paper pieced on the right

I liked the nice, flat block from open seams, and hubby liked the seams to one side of foundation piecing, thinking it gave the berry more dimension. Ultimately, the decision depends on block complexity and personal preference. Below, the freezer paper template pieced/open seams berry, 

freezer paper template pieced/open seams berry

and the foundation paper pieced/seams to one side berry.

foundation paper pieced/seams to one side

Not a huge difference between the two, but I did notice an increase in block length using freezer paper templates and open seams. My guess is that my stitching wasn't close enough to the template edge, causing the unit to grow - that acceptance bit me! Add to that the few threads of fabric that weren't taken being taken up in pressing to one side. The two together stretched out the freezer paper template berry, causing a wider tip after cutting to fit the block dimensions. 

freezer paper template pieced/open seams strawberry

The second berry is accurate because of stitching though drawn lines of foundation paper piecing. 

foundation paper pieced/one direction seams strawberry

I also noticied that the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting practically disappeared into the open seams of the template pieced berry. Not that big of a deal as it's hard to see, but I noticed it when laying down those stitches and found it odd.

Pros and Cons of freezer paper template piecing

  • no paper to tear out 
  • open seam pressing is an option
  • templates help stabilize slippery fabrics
  • templates are pressed to the wrong side of the fabric for a mirror image block of the printed copy. The basic technique can be used on the right side of fabrics such as for Cynthia England's Picture Piecing technique

  • requires accurate cutting around templates
  • one section worked at a time to avoid mixing up pieces
  • requires accurate stitching along template edges or units may grow in size
  • seams may need resewing due to misalignment
  • templates may fall off 

Freezer paper template piecing may be tricky but isn't hard, and it certainly has it's place in the quilter's toolbox. I personally found it a bit more labor intensive than foundation piecing, with a decrease in accuracy. But it all depends upon the project as to which method is more suitable. Give both a try, and see which is your favorite!

Happy Quilting!

Follow on Bloglovin


  1. Hi Susan! I was able to see all of your pictures without issue! I loved reading this post, but I'm really looking forward to seeing next week's post. I this freezer paper has been offered as a choice for FMQ patterns as well. I never thought about the template falling off! Thanks for all your hard work on this post. ~smile~ Roseanne

  2. P.S. Thanks for linking up this week, Susan!! ~smile~ Roseanne

  3. This is great! I was just thinking about how I taught a woman who wanted to do a pattern from a Norwegian book (neither of us spoke the language) but we made freezer paper templates and sewed on the machine....just like that! Its a great technique.

  4. That piecing is beautiful (but that strawberry is making me hungry!).


Thank you so much for just made my day!