Paper Piecing - A Quilting Technique

Foundation paper pieced butterflies | FPP Tutorial | Shannon Fraser Designs

I have been on a total paper piecing kick as of late! In all honesty, I was kind of avoiding this quilting technique as it seemed a little strange (and possibly like I was cheating) to use paper templates to stitch blocks together.

But it is really fun! (If not a little time consuming.) The end results are stunning and the technique ensures nice crisp edges.  Plus you can create really intricate designs that would otherwise be a real challenge to quilt.

Foundation paper pieced butterflies | FPP Tutorial | Shannon Fraser Designs

I had visions of a quilt with butterflies and was thrilled when I stumbled upon Lillyella's paper pieced butterfly patterns.  Having never attempted paper piecing, I thought this would be a fun project to tackle.   

Since I'm a newbie paper piecer, I followed some recommendations from 3 and 3 Quarters on using larger scraps of fabrics to make my life easier.  This was a great tip and one I would encourage anyone to follow if trying paper piecing for the first time. 

Foundation paper pieced butterfly mid-construction

Essentially, you attach your fabric to the back of the paper pattern and then stitch on the printed side of the paper following the stitch lines. Each piece is marked with a letter and numbers.  The first piece you start with is always #1, which I glued down to ensure it didn't shift on me.

Once my first piece of fabric was in place, I then folded back the paper along the line separating section #1 and #2, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance.

I was then ready to line up fabric #2 along that 1/4" line, ensuring I had a large enough piece to cover the entire area of #2 plus the required 1/4" seam allowance.  I secured this in place with a pin so nothing shifted on my way to the sewing machine!

The technique is pretty straight forward, but I picked up a tip of using thicker card stock (or a magazine subscription form in this case!) to help with sharper paper creases.  I also dropped my stitches down to 1.8, which is supposed to make removing the paper easier. 

Once you've stitched along line #2, you iron back the seam and then proceed to folding along the line between section #2 and #3, measure and cut a 1/4" seam allowance and then line up fabric #3, pin in place and sew in place. Keep going until you have covered all numbers listed on the template. Then trim according to the pattern. Which looks like this:

Foundation paper pieced butterfly pattern pieces stitched and ready to assemble

Purples, cream and yellow foundation paper pieced butterfly pieces ready to assemble and showing the fully stitched FPP butterfly

Then it's simply a matter of attaching the individual paper pieces according to the letters. In this instance, A attached to B, then C attached to BA. D attached to E, then F to ED. then join CBA to FED and voilà! My first paper pieced butterfly!

Chain piecing is highly recommended if tackling more than one project at a time!

Being the fabric lover that I am, I was sad to see the “large” scraps that were left over from my first paper pieced butterfly.  So on my next round, I got a little cocky and used some smaller scraps, only to have to scrap the project and start over after only 3 pieces...arg. Avoid the frustration and keep your pieces larger.

Now…what to do with all those oddly shaped scraps!!




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1 comment

  • Shannon what is the best thread for English Paper Piecing? Does Aurifull carry invisible thread?

    Suzanne Williams

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