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Thursday, July 24, 2014


Celestial Star QAL with from blank pages...

Today's Topic: Paper Piecing  
Assignment: Piece all the pattern sections.    
On the Blog: Write a blog post about it, sharing pictures of your patterns pieced, pre-joining segments, and link it up using the link up at the end of this post. OR you can also link up photos from Flickr* or Instagram.  
On Instagram: Complete the assignment (piece your patterns), take a picture and tag it using hashtag #CelestialStarQAL.
There is no giveaway in conjunction with this topic.  

You can pick up a pattern on Craftsy and Etsy.

*If you are sharing pictures from Flickr, I started a Celestial Star QAL group, where you can also share your photos, or start up a discussion, ask questions, etc. I don't get on Flickr much anymore, but I'll try my best to keep my eye on it for any activity going on there. I still think Flickr has a pretty good platform for groups, even if the rest of the site has changed.
**If you decide to work faster than my schedule, which is fine, be sure to take pictures along the way so you can come back and enter the different giveaways!

 There's the short version. :) Keep reading if you want to see my methods for quick and easy chain piecing paper piecing.


For anyone who hasn't paper pieced before, first I'll do a quick tutorial for how to (how I) paper piece. Then I'll show you how I speed up the process to make sewing multiple sections and blocks much quicker! And can I just say, the first time I made this pattern, about a year and a half ago, it took me probably two weeks of grumbling through it. It was so slow. With the new methods of paper piecing that I've picked up in that time, I can piece a block in one day easy (if I cut all the pieces the day before). If you don't love paper piecing, you can! And hopefully I can help to sway you to the right side. mwahaha. ;)

UPDATED 7/31/14: I have added step-by-step photo instructions, as well as the video that I previously posted. I hope that between the two formats, you will understand the methods I use, and be able to them to your style of piecing. If you have questions, please let me know! There are a LOT of photos! :)

First, you need all your tools.

You don't need anything too specific or expensive. And if you don't have something I show here, you can probably improvise. Here are my go-to tools that I don't paper piece without.

Cutting mat
Rotary cutter
Ruler: I have used all sorts of big and square rulers, until I found "the one"! I use a 6" by 1" clear ruler with 1/4" markings (the markings are a must!). It is so much easier to use due to the thin size of it. 
Glue stick: a lapel stick or a school glue stick work great
Elmers Washable School Glue: YES! get some!
Glue tips: Buy these ones from Cristy. They are amazing! and they have changed with way I sew everything - even clothing.
The basics: thread, sewing machine, ...
Iron and ironing board
Light source: I use a light table that I had growing up in the 80's. :D (I did see some at Michael's but they are pricey. There are a few on Amazon, or you could make your own.) A light source could also be a window on a sunny day, the screen on your sewing machine (yep, I've done it), a lamp with a transparent shade, a clear piece of plastic (or glass coffee table) with a light behind it. Be creative, there are a lot of things you can use out there. But I definitely recommend finding something! You need a light source to help you see the pattern lines through the paper and sometimes multiple layers of fabric. The darker your fabric, the trickeier it can be to see them.
Pattern pieces (which means you need a computer, printer, paper, scissors or a paper cutter for cutting out the pattern pieces).

Second, Cut out all your fabric!

It takes so much more time to stop and cut more fabric every time you sew something. Cutting fabric is even faster when you use the included cutting templates included in my pattern. (see how I use them here.) Or follow the tutorial at the end of this post to make your own cutting templates. 

Organize all your fabric so you don't get confused with what fabric goes where. I usually sew all like blocks together at the same time, so all inner blocks together, then  move on to all outer blocks. (In the photo above: the fabric on the left is for the inner blocks, the fabric on the right is for the outer blocks.)

Here are a few terms that will be useful to know. I don't know if these are offical terms, but they are what I use, so let's learn my paper piecing language really quick. ;)

Pattern: The piece of paper that has the pattern printed on it. Composed of Sections and Sew Lines.
Section: A single area inside of a pattern that is created with one number, or one piece of fabric. (Using the cheater templates you can create a section with more than one number).
Sew Line: The line that separates two sections, which you sew on to piece the next section.
Seam Allowance: The shaded area around the outside of the pattern. This should be 1/4 inch.
Segment: one pattern piece, that is pieced separately but joined with other completed segments to create a complete block.
Wedge: This pattern is created by joining 12 wedges, like a slice of pie. One wedge is created by joining two segments.
RS: Right side, or print side., of fabric Solids don't usually have a right side.
WS: Wrong side of fabric.

Paper Piecing is 4 simple steps that you repeat over and over again until your block is complete. They are:
1. Place fabric (placement)
2. Sew
3. Trim
4. Iron

and repeat.

I'll show you how.

I learn by watching, if I see it done, I can do it. I made a video showing how to complete an inner pattern piece, including my tips and methods that I have picked up along the way. Below the video are the steps written out.

Video Tutorial:

Photo Tutorial:

Before we begin, I like to layout my fabric in order of where it will be placed. Having it visually laid out helps me to keep everything in order without having to give it too much thought.

Here I have the fabrics covering the corresponding sections on the pattern. 
You can see my small block of what my pattern will look like. What is pictured will make up 6 of my wedges. I'll make these first, and then move onto my next 6 wedges.

1. Place pattern print side down (away from you) on your light source. With glue stick, glue a little line over section 1 of the pattern. This helps hold the first fabric in place so it doesn't shift. I don't use liquid Elmer's glue because I find that it's hard to remove the paper after. The glue stick is strong enough to keep the fabric in place, but doesn't leave a mess.

2. Place your first fabric down so the edges extend past all sew lines by a minimum of 1/4 inch.

3. Orient you second fabric over the section it will cover, with right side (RS) up. This is a helpful step to ensure that your fabric is oriented correctly. Sometimes it needs to be flipped or turned. Using the cutting templates make these next few steps much easier! Determine which edge will be sewn down.

 The edge that will be sewn down is the edge that is overlapping the first fabric.

4. Flip fabric over so it is RS down. Fold over the edge that will be sewn by an even 1/4" to 3/8". Be careful not to stretch the fabric as you fold. (This step really only works this easily if you have used the cutting templates. Otherwise you may need to adjust more until the fabric is just right.)

Make sure that when you fold the fabric, the amount you fold it is even all the way down the fold. Cristy has a great tip in her tutorial for Paperless Paper Piecing that would also work fantastically in this step: See Prepare the Turning Template, and the first few steps of preparing your fabric - before layering.

5. Draw a thin line of glue to the outside of the first sew line (the line between sections 1 and 2. I will highlight the line in step 8).

6. Keeping the folded edge folded under, flip the second fabric over so it is RS up. Line up the fold with the sew line. Check that the fabric extends past the other sew lines and pattern edge by at least a 1/4 inch. As you handle the folded fabric, be careful you don't pull it or distort it as you work with it.  Press down and secure in place in the glue.

7. Unfold the fabric so it is all RS down facing your first fabric. The crease should be aligned with the sew line.

8. Flip the pattern over so the print is now up and the fabric is on the bottom. Careful that the fabric doesn't shift (this is where gluing really helps!) I have marked the first sew line in pink.

9. Shorten your sewing machine stitch length, I set mine to 1.5 (This makes paper removal later much easier), and sew on the sew line. I start a little before and sew until a little bit after the line starts and stops.

Here is what it looks like on the other side.

10. Fold paper back at sew line so just the seam allowance is extending past the paper. Place on your cutting mat with paper side up.

11. Line up your ruler with the fold of the paper, so the 1/4 inch marks are lined up with the paper fold.

12. Use your rotary cutter and trim the excess fabric, giving you a clean 1/4 inch seam allowance.

 Keep your hand on your ruler! This is one handed for picture taking purposes ONLY. ;)

13. Unfold the paper. Press the seam with your iron. This sets the seam.

14. Fold the fabric back so it is covering the correlating section. Press.

15. Repeat with the next section.

(I'll be adding more photos tomorrow to walk you through the entire process of paper piecing these patterns.)

Pretty basic, right?! Now, let's speed it up.

All  my shortcuts are the same steps as above. Simply set on fast forward.

Chain piece: Instead of doing each step for one segment at a time, group the steps and repeat for all the segments before moving onto the next group of steps.  Do a group of steps with one pattern piece, set aside, and repeat with the next pattern piece. Set aside and repeat until completed with each like pattern. (Like I mentioned before, I usually do a group of pattern pieces at a time. For example, I'll complete all the steps with the inner blocks before moving on to the outer blocks.) Here is how I group my steps:

Steps 1-6: glue the first piece with the glue stick. Glue the second piece with elmers glue.

Steps 7-8: sew the second fabric on the sew line.

Steps 9-11: Trim the 1/4" seam allowance.

Steps 12-13: Press the seam to set, iron back the second fabric.

Then repeat with the next section.

Piece Double-Time: Sometimes the pattern you are making has sections that are opposite each other, not connected, and can be pieced at the same time. For example, in the outer pattern piece, sections 3 and 5, and 4 and 6 are opposites. There is no definite order in which they NEED to be pieced. Piecing these at the same time is like cutting your time in half, almost. ;)

Here's what it looks like:

See how in the diagram sections 3 & 6 on the left, and 4 & 5 on the right, are not connected to each other. These can be pieced at the same time. 

Glue both pieces down at the same time (either 3 & 6 or 4 & 5 - they must be done in these pairs). Then sew both seam lines at a time* while chain piecing. Sew down one seam line, pull out the pattern piece enough to get to the end of the other sew line and sew down that second line. Super quick!
*Sometimes one fabric piece extends past the sew line of the opposite side. Be sure to move the fabric out of the way so the end doesn't get sewn into the wrong seam.

And that's about it. Seems basic enough, but it works for me! The little things have really shown to make a great difference in the time it takes me to piece anything. :) If you try it, I'd love to hear what you think, if anything helps you. I love your feedback about trying the cutting templates! I'm so glad you like them! :)

Be sure to share your progress in the link up below! If you are on Instagram, use hashtag #CelestialStarQAL. :)

Here's where I got today with my second block while I waited for the video to load... movies take a long time. But hopefully it's worth it. ;)

Share your progress:





  1. Love your pattern and toot! I'm having trouble with points matching. My stitch lines are dead on, so why wouldn't the fabric be right? I'm using batiks. Can that be an issue?
    contentncm at yahoo dot com

    1. If your stitch lines are dead on, it must have something to do with they way you're lining up the segments or trimming the seam allowance. If the allowance is off by even a tiny bit, matching up the segments can be harder.

  2. I can't stop gushing over this pattern. Your tute is awesome. Though I do NOT glue, I follow all your tips. AND I even started chain piecing with second block. I think I'm going to to the largest block with big prints. Thanks again for this QAL!
    PS my light source is a lamp and holding it up to the light! Lol.

  3. The video was extremely helpful, thanks for taking the time to upload! Xoxo


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