Friday, 22 August 2014

How to sew a foundation paper pieced block

I think a lot of people find paper piecing challenging to understand at first but most people love it once they get the hang of it. It makes very precise blocks and a multitude of shapes can be made from simple to complex!

This beginners tutorial is the one I used when I was starting out and it really helped me:

So I suggest beginners start with that tutorial.

I am writing this tutorial as a bridge between that simple block and the slightly more complex ones I will offer in my 2015 BOM.

To download the free PDF pattern for this tutorial please go to my download site:

Step 1 What will you need??   Scrappy strips 2" wide and for this block scrappy 5" squares worked well. scissors, ruler, rotary cutter, sewing machine, sashing fabric (I chose grey) and the printed pattern page.

Cut out the pattern, I use the rotary cutter because it is faster than scissors:

To understand the markings you need to know that all pieces are marked on this block as beginning with A because this block only has one pattern section. Some pp blocks are made up of several sections that are put together once the pp is done. So the A1 piece is the first piece you will put on. The pink square in A1 tells you the color of that piece in the pattern. Pieces are then applied in numerical order, A1 joins to A2 then A3 is added and so on.

Step 2 Place your paper printed side down:

Put your two 5" squares right sides together on the half square triangle (HST) corner of the pattern These will become pieces A1 and A2

Set your stitch length to 1.5 (or fairly fine stitches) this helps when removing the paper later!

Turn the whole lot over so you are looking at the printed side and stitch on the line between A1 and A2  starting right at the corner:

And stopping at the opposite corner:

Step 3 Trimming

 Fold on the stitching line between A1 and A2

Place your ruler on that line with an overhang of a quarter inch (that will be your seam allowance)

Trim away your excess. (to minimize wastage you could use triangles instead of 5" squares, but get the hang of pp before you worry about wastage!)

Step 4 Add piece A3

Looking at your printed side you'll see that A3 is a triangle adjacent to the HST you just made:

Again I used a 5" square, lay it over the HST right sides together:

Stitch on the line and then fold back to trim:

Then press it open and repeat that process for A4 to reveal this half of your block is almost done!

Fold on the stitch line that is the diagonal line across the middle of the block:

Trim this off leaving a 3/8 seam allowance this time, because it will be trimmed again later:

Step 5 Adding the remaining strips one at a time:

Lay your grey strip over the pattern right sides together with the raw edge meeting the edge you just trimmed:

Flip it over and stitch on the line:

Now you can fold back and trim that 3/8 to 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Then press open and add the next strip, continue to follow this process for adding strips until the strips have covered the 2nd half of the pattern.

Step 6 Trim the block

You have a completed block! The sky is the limit in terms of what you can do with color choices and orientation of the block within a quilt. Sets of four of these would look great as a cushion cover.

Before sewing into a quilt top the paper needs to be carefully ripped from the back along the stitching lines. But if I am storing the blocks for a long time like the 12 months of a BOM I leave them attached until I am ready to sew them, this prevents stretching.

Removing the paper 

Making a large block from several put together
An alternate layout makes a square on point

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me, I have a contact me form in my left sidebar.


  1. Great tutorial Marianne! I never understood that you had to turn the paper over and just couldn't figure out how paper piecing worked.

    1. I'm glad it helped! Paper piecing was gobbledygook to me until I found a simple tutorial to learn the basics

  2. I went through your post with interest. Paper piercing was a mystery to me. It't less so now. Thank you for adding so many pictures. I'll refer to it if I one day decide to take try this technique. I think that this day is nearer now...

  3. Marianne, I am so glad I found you! I wanted to thank you for commenting on my little sewing machine blocks. I have been looking for great paper piecing tutorials to guide my swappers to. Yours is exceptional! Do you mind if I link them to it?
    Thanks, Deana at

  4. I'm sooo pleased this is making sense to people, feel free to share the link as much as you like. I've added it to my tutorials tab too so people can find it easily