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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sewing Basics: Paper Piecing Series: Supplies

This is a Sewing Basics Series on Paper Piecing. 
You can find all of the posts under the Sewing Basics Tab at the top of my blog.
Please let me know if you have any questions or something doesn't make sense!

**My instructions for this series specifically pertain to my pattern Two Stars Squared. The method will be the same for any pattern, though the details may vary.

I've noticed a few people say they've never paper pieced before, don't know how, or are just starting out. There are a lot of tutorials and how-to's on paper piecing out there. But I decided to share my methods and tricks. Originally I had this series as one post, but it was REALLY long. To make it a little easier to digest, and to be able to go into more detail, I decided to break it up. Hopefully this will be useful to you!

Supplies I Use:

  • Pattern. For this series I am using my Two Stars Squared pattern. Print 4 copies and cut around the outer boarder. This may be different for different patterns. With my Potted Roses, you only print one of each pattern piece. The instructions for whatever pattern you're using should be in the pattern piece. Also pay attention to whether you need to add and extra 1/4" around the entire pattern for the seam allowance, or if it's already included. All of my patterns include the 1/4" border (the shaded area, they're not shaded in my pictures here).

  • Fabrics. The options here are limitless!! Don't limit your self to only picking fabrics for the positive space. Play with the negative spaces as well. Play with other colors other than white for background.  I tend to label my patterns by design element (where applicable - to simplify the piecing process). The background fabrics are always labeled, usually as "B".
Two Stars Squared
  In Two Stars Squared (mini picture above - compare it with the pattern piece) the square is "A", big star "C", and the small star "D". In Potted Roses, I pointed out the different elements outside of the actual pattern piece, but they are included. This is something that will vary widely among designers.
 The amounts of fabric you'll need will also vary widely! Paper piecing is a great way to use up all your scraps! Though some pieces you'll use will need to be bigger. You could even piece scraps together until you get pieces big enough!

  • Scissors. I highly recommend having a special pair only for cutting fabric to keep them sharp. Make sure to have an extra pair to cut your paper with.
  • Glue stick or fabric stick (nothing permanent. It's ok if you don't have this, but it makes the first step easier. I use my glue stick while sewing a lot, so it's good for other projects as well.)
  • Rotary Cutter - a MUST

  • Ruler or straight edge. A 6" ruler works well, especially when using a 6" block. I also use a 12" ruler. Use what is convenient for you. It doesn't even have to be a ruler, just something to help you cut straight.
  • Self healing mat to cut on. I have a smaller 12.5" x 12.5" mat that I keep right under my sewing machine. I love this because I can sew & cut without ever leaving my chair.
  • Iron and ironing board or surface. My ironing board is one that hangs from the back of a door. It hangs off our closet door and when I'm sewing all I have to do is turn and iron - I never have to stand up. There is also this ironing station idea from Oh Fransson! You could even just fold up some towels and put it on a table, the ground, or any hard surface (test it first if it's something you definitely don't want to get ruined - or use LOTS of towels. I can't guarantee this method though). If you are doing a lot of paper piecing I TOTALLY recommend having something close and convenient! It will save you a lot of time from getting up and down after every stitch. 

  • Light Source. I use my light table I had as a kid. :) You can also use a lamp, or a window during the day. Be creative, but find something. It will cut out a lot of frustration.
  • Scrap bowl, or garbage can. You'll have lots of little scraps and threads you'll want to throw away. It's nice to have somewhere to put them. If you like to keep scraps you could also have somewhere to keep your larger scraps. (If you are a scrap keeper, DON'T keep all the really small stuff!!! Just let it go!) Paper piecing can become a HUGE mess maker! :)

and your usual sewing supplies
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • pins
  • sometimes you might need a seam ripper
  • music, or a good movie or tv show (I recommend The Wonder Years if you have Netflix - we just finished watching it. It has good music so there's no need to stop and watch it. Just listen to it.) :)
  • anything else you like to use while sewing

Now don't think you need to go buy all of this stuff! A lot of it you can improvise with! Ok, if you don't have a rotary cutter and mat, Get One! If you are doing any sort of quilting, you will thank me! If you don't have a pattern, buy mine! lol. J/K! There are so many great free patterns out there too (I have free ones as well). Simply google Paper Pieced Patterns. If you don't have an iron, use your finger or a clothes pin (for the most part). There are a lot of options. If you are serious about this, then these things are what I use every time and what I recommend.

Are there some supplies here that make you wonder why you need them? You'll see why I love these in the following posts. In the next post I'll share two methods for cutting your fabric.


**Can I add a disclaimer? It sounds like I am a professional at this. I'm not. I've been paper piecing for only a few months, maybe a little more. But I've done a lot of it! And I do feel confident enough to tell you how to do it. :) If you have tips or corrections, let me know! I love to learn all I can. As well as what methods work for you! So don't be shy!


  1. Thanks for doing this for us! I am looking forward to trying it out. I'm one of those who have never done it before ;-)

  2. The only thing I don't have is a light table. But, my coffee table is 2 tiered with a glass top. I wonder if I could put a light on the bottom tier and it would work? Hmmmm. Thanks for sharing! I'm going to give it a go at some point. Maybe for my quilt story block of the month when paper piecing comes around.

  3. Ya know I've never thought of putting my smaller mat at my machine...you're genius! lol.

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