Home * Patterns * Tutorials * Made It * Our Story

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sewing Basics: Paper Piecing Series: Piecing Your Block

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 am including the abbreviations on this post and the cutting post to eliminate any cross refrenceing that may be needed for those just starting out.

RS = Right Side of fabric, with the print or design
WS = Wrong Side of fabric
SA = Seam Allowance - this is the amount of space you have between the edge of the fabric and your seam line, or where you sew. All SA in this pattern are 1/4", as in most, if not all, Paper Pieced Patterns. 
SL = Stitch Lines - the lines on the paper that you will be sewing along. see picture:

IMG_4681 copy
First you will stitch on the line I've marked with a "1". Then "2", "3", "4", etc.
If you are using a different pattern, you simple stitch the lines in order between the numbered shapes. See how Stitch Line 1 is between 1b and 2a? And SL 2 is between 2a/1a and 3a? ...


Let's start sewing!

A shorter stitch length makes it easier to remove the paper later.


Take your fabric piece that you cut for 1a, and line it up with your stitch lines.
Ignore the arrow tips. I don't know how to not have those be included.
I've marked a few of the photos where the lines are since they are kind of hard to see in the photos.

Use your glue stick and put a little bit of glue on the WS of the paper where 1a is.

Place your piece over 1a. ***Make sure you are putting it on the wrong side of the paper. NOT on the side with the print. AND that the RS of the fabric is UP. (doesn't really matter here with a solid)

Orient your 2a fabric so it covers 2a and extends over each SL at least 1/4".

Now lay it RS down, on top of your 1a piece. Line it up so the edge sticks over your line by 1/4".
IMG_4669  IMG_4670

Now FOLD the fabric so it folds back COVERING 2a. Make sure ALL the edges cover each of the SL by at least 1/4". Readjust until it lines up.

Unfold the piece, being careful that you don't move it, so that the RS is again facing the #1 piece. 

HOLD onto your fabric to carefully keep it in place. FLIP the whole paper over and sew along you SL 1.
This is why you place the fabric on the WS of the paper, so you can see where you need to sew. This also means that your fabric "picture" will always be in reverse of what it looks like on the printed side. If you want it the other way, just flip your picture before printing.

It's always good to check and make sure your fabric didn't get folded when you moved it into sewing postition. Here's what mine looks like:
I have sewn over my fabric before when part of it got folded without me knowing = seam ripping time. :P Let's avoid that as much as possible!

I like to sew a stitch or two past each end of the lines. This comes in handy at the end when you are taking the paper off. Sometimes when I pull my paper off it pulls a couple stitches out. This helps guarantee that they don't come out, or come out too far.

Now flip your paper back over so the fabric is on top.
Flip your 2a fabric over and make sure that all the edges are covered. Sometimes I find that something shifted and it needs to be seam ripped (is that a verb?) and re-sewn.

Flip the fabric back over again and fold the paper back on the seam

Flip your block over so it looks like this

Line up your ruler so it extends 1/4" past the paper. 

Use your rotary cutter and trim
now you have a perfect 1/4" seam!

Unfold your paper, fold back the 2a fabric so all fabrics are RS up. And press
start your iron in the center where the seam is and iron out toward the edges. When I start on the side where my stitches are not, I tend to crinkle my fabric. This will keep it flat and nice. :)
If you don't want to iron you can also finger press it, or I've read that someone uses half of a clothes pin covered in fabric. Just make sure that it is nicely pressed so that you don't get little bubbles in your block.

You will now repeat this same step with all your pieces

Paper Piecing Tutorial: Piecing, process mosaic
  • align
  • fold, align
  • unfold
  • sew
  • fold back paper
  • trim
  • unfold
  • press
  • repeat

Working in the other direction, aka moving on to the stars:
Paper Piecing Tutorial: Piecing, process mosaic 1

What if you don't have a light table? Or you can't see the lines through the fabric you are working with??? 

Here's another way to line up your fabrics:
flip your paper over while you're looking at it in front of your light source. It's a lot easier to see the SHADOW of your fabric through the paper than it is the line through your fabric.
Here my piece, 7c, is folded over and you can see how far it extends past all the SL.

or hold it up to the window.
my 7c fabric piece is unfolded here. I am making sure the edge is overlapping my stitch line by at least 1/4". Can you see that even through the grey fabric I can see the silhouette of the fabric? ok, it's hard to see in this picture, but you can definitely see it though 2a and 6c, as well as on the edges. 

Here it is folded up.
It is definitely easy to see how it lines up like this! I have plenty of extra fabric with this piece! Depending on which method you used to cut your fabric, you will need to readjust your fabric more or less to get it in the right spot. Sometimes I spend 5 min with one piece.
You can also see where my fold line is, along SL 6, and that my fabric is lined up and my SA is wide enough. This method makes it easy to check everything at once!
This is how I always did my paper piecing before I pulled out my light table. This method is easier, but my light table is a little faster. Just be careful of shifting with all the lifting and flipping.

sew along SL 6

and continue like normal until the block is complete
Paper Piecing Tutorial: Piecing, process mosaic 3

Flip your block over so the paper side is up

Line your 1/4" mark on your ruler up with one edge of the inner square of your block

Trim off the extra fabric and paper

Turn your block and repeat with all sides

Flip your block over and you should have a beautiful perfect block!

Give yourself a BIG pat on the back!! :)
Wahoo! You did it!

Now repeat with the other 3 blocks.

A few things to note:

When sewing on a SL that comes to the edge of the square, keep sewing into the SA to the edge of the paper!

Sewing through paper dulls your needle and pins. You can change out our needle as you switch between sewing paper pieced projects and regular sewing projects. Just remember which is which.

When trimming your fabric as in this step

it's good to check and make sure that you did UNFOLD your fabric (so RS are facing)
A few times I have trimmed my fabric while my fabric was still folded, which left me with a piece that was 1/4" wide and never wide enough to keep! = unpick the seam, recut a piece of fabric, and do it all over, which is especially bad when you have limited fabric, or are fussy cutting your pieces.

I hope if you've been waiting for this post you don't feel like you waited in vain. I hope this paper piecing tutorial is clear enough in many ways that you can have total confidence in trying it out! I know everyone can do it! If you have questions or comments I'd love to hear them!!! If you think my tutorial is awful, please tell me so I can know how to improve it and all my tutorials in the future! :)

No, I'm not ending this tutorial here! We still need to put our four blocks together! Because this post is SO full of pictures, I'm going to put Piecing Your Blocks Together in another post, and will post it as soon as I'm finished with it tonight so ya'll can stay up all night long finishing your blocks so I can see how they turned out in the morning. ;) lol. 

If you use this tutorial to paper piece something, 
I would love to see what you make! :) 
You can share it in my flickr group!



  1. Increíble trabajo.Todo,las fotos ,la explicación ,es el tutorial de juntar las piezas mas perfecto que he visto.Y como principiante en esto miro muchos. Gracias Diane,cariños.La cuenta de google es de mi hija.

  2. Cuando usted publica sus mensajes yo ya estoy durmiendo o es al revés,.en este lado del mundo usted ya esta durmiendo.Ji,ji de todas maneras me faltan muchas noches para completar mis bloques.Hermoso día!! comienze usted.


Thanks for stopping in to say hi! I always love your comments, they make me smile!

If you have a no-reply account, be sure to leave your email address so I can respond to you.