Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Who's down with FPP?

Paper piecing - yuck. It's hard, right? I used to feel that way but not anymore! It can be so much easier than you're making it. Really, who wants to spend any amount of time ripping paper out of seams while hoping you don't rip the seam along with it? How about all those times when you put the fabric wrong side up, or it doesn't quite cover the piece it needs to and then has to be ripped out - but it has all those teeny tiny stitches! Terrible, I know. But the precision is awesome and so I had to find a way to make it work. I ended up finding several different tutorials that used freezer paper piecing (FPP) to do this and it rocked my paper-pieced world. Seriously. Read on to see how I do it while keeping my sanity.

For this, I'm using the 12" Tallahassee block from Quilters Cache. It's a cute but simple block. Feel free to print out the templates on some freezer paper to follow along. For my paper, I use a roll of Reynolds that I got at the grocery store. I've had it forever and there is a ton left. You can also get it at Amazon. I've heard it can shrink a little the first time you use each piece so I iron it to my ironing board before printing to pre-shrink it. 

You can print right onto the paper with your ink jet printer. Make sure you print on the paper side and not the waxy side of the freezer paper. Cut out each template, adding 1/4" seam allowance to all 4 sides if it is not already included in your template.

Once you've got your templates, you'll want a hot dry iron, rotary cutter, any small ruler with a 1/4" line, and a small cutting mat. I keep this tiny cutting mat right at my machine so I'm not running back and forth every time a sew a couple of inches. I'd never get anything done! I also keep my ironing board right next to the machine when I'm doing this.

On each printed template, you'll want to crease the paper on each of the seam lines. I find it easiest to use my ruler edge to help me with this.

When all 4 pieces are creased, they should look like this. For those of you totally new to paper piecing, we will be sewing the pieces in order of the numbers on the template.

Next we're going to get the fabric for section 1 (the center) ready. For these templates, a 3" x 4" piece is more than large enough. Put your #1 fabric right side down on your ironing board and center a template on top of it. there needs to be at least 1/4" extending past each line you'll be sewing on for the seam allowance. Once you have it where you want it, iron it down. Do NOT touch your iron to the waxy side of the paper or you'll have some iron cleaning to do.

With fabric 1 secured to the paper, fold back on the line you creased between sections 1 and 2. Using your ruler, trim that fabric down to 1/4" past the fold. Here's where it's handy to use an Add-A-Quarter ruler so you can butt the fold right up against the ruler. Any ruler with the 1/4" mark will work though and I tend to use whatever is closest.

Trim off that extra past the 1/4".

Now grab the fabric for section 2. A 3" square cut on the diagonal (either before or after attaching to the template) is plenty big. With the template still folded back between 1 and 2, put the #2 fabric right sides together with the #1 fabric.

Holding your template and fabric up to a light or window, make sure the #2 fabric extends past your folded paper. You can see the shadow in my picture just outside of the folded triangle - that is the edge of my #2 fabric. It's extended past the paper - and therefore more than 1/4" past the block - so I know it's safe to sew it down.

Take the piece to your machine and sew right next to the fold. You want to sew as close as you can to the line without sewing through the paper. You'll want to sew past the paper template on both ends of the seam and your machine should be set for a regular stitch length. That's right - no teeny tiny stitches for us since we're not trying to perforate the paper while we sew!

Here's what your seam should look like after this step. If at this point you realize your fabric #2 was sewn upside down, unpick and try again. It's just a regular stitch length, no big deal. Hold it up to the light again if you like, to verify that the fabric is still covering the full section.

Again with the 1/4" ruler, trim the extra fabric away.

Flip it over, open the seam, and press to the paper. Again, make sure you don't get any wax on your iron. You can iron it with the waxy side down if that's easier for you to remember.

Here's what the other side looks like so far.

Fold back the line between sections 1 and 3 and repeat what we just did. The same 3" square cut on the diagonal is big enough for this piece. Fold section 3 back, line it up in the light or window, sew it down, then press it to the paper.

Voila! We've got 3 sections on, 2 to go.

Sections 4 and 5 are pieced the same way as the others. Fold the paper back, trim the excess from section 1, hold to the light to make sure your fabric for section 4 is the right size. A 2.5" x 3" rectangle will be enough for 2 pieces but because 4 and 5 are opposite directions, you'll need two rectangles for this block.

After attaching sections 4 and 5 your template is now done! It should look like this from the back and front. Trim all around the outer edge to 1/4".

Finish sewing the other 4 quadrants in the same manner we've done this one. It's coming together now!

Gently peel the paper away from each of the 4 pieces you've sewn. Your template can be used several more times before it loses it's waxiness and no longer sticks to the fabric. I've used them up to 10 times, which explains how my roll of paper lasts so long!

Sew your 4 pieces together to finish this little block and congratulate yourself on turning paper piecing into an easy and much more fun technique. Now make 3 more sets and you've got yourself a 12" block. 

Any questions? I'd love to see any blocks you make using this technique! Just leave a comment below with a link. Thanks!


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  1. Thanks for sharing your method. I'm pinning it for future reference!

  2. Wow! I think I've heard of this before but never seen it explained so well. Is there any loss of accuracy by stitching next to the lines instead of on them? (Actually, I suppose you could fold carefully just next to the line instead.) I have been procrastinating on a paper piecing project because I didn't want to print up 100 sheets of paper just to rip them all apart. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Karen! I sew so closely to the fold that I haven't seen any loss but you could always crease your papers just a thread-width away to make sure. Go for it!

  3. Ya, you know me! (Sorry, I just had to.)

  4. Thanks for this! You hit the nail on the head of all the things that make paper piecing tricky for me! I need to experiment with feeding freezer paper into my printer!

  5. I tried this method, and it worked well until I pulled the freezer paper off my fabric. it was stuck a little too well and started pulling threads out of the seam allowances (fraying them). Any suggestions to try to keep the seam allowances safer? I really like this method and want to do it but I'm worried about the seam allowances. Maybe I'm not "gentle" enough?

    1. I have that issue sometimes too, when there is a loose thread or two if I have not trimmed the seam allowance or if it's a particularly thready fabric. For those, pull the paper off slowly from the seam toward the allowance. As you reuse the same papers, you'll have this happen less and less.

    2. Actually, if you have it happen less & less, perhaps you could even have a piece to iron it to beforehand to remove a bit of the stickiness.

  6. Thanks for sharing this great technique!


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