Beginning Paper Piecing Lessons Learned
I was a reluctant paper piecer, but since joining in IG HoneyBees (Instagram beehive group) it was forced upon me. Here it is only June and so far two queen bees have chosen a paper pieced block. This was not our first foray into this method of stitching as we’ve been around a long time. We watched Eleanor Burns before YouTube was even a glint in anyone’s eye, thank you very much. You might say it’s not our first rodeo.
Paper Piecing – the Early Years
We did paper piecing so long ago it was before they made cameras. Just kidding but it was before blogs and possibly even before Al Gore invented the internet. <wink> I cannot share a picture of our first PP project, nor can I even recall what it might have been. Actually, I think it was a Hunter Star block using hunter green fabric coupled with a lovely beige. The project never was finished although the fabric and papers may still be in a closet somewhere?? If we ever get to the bottom and back of that closet, you’ll be the
second third person to know about it!
Paper Piecing – the Blocks
Are you wondering which blocks have been paper pieced so far? The first block would be for Mary, called Treasure Hunt. Another Bee member already warned us that she is selecting this block for her month as well (September, I believe). The left photo shows how easy this paper piecing first assignment was. Mary requested that we leave the paper on when we sent the pieces to her which made this project even easier! No annoying paper removal; I didn’t know or recall how sweet that request was at the time.
In the right photo is a portion of the Wanta Fanta block. Each little quarter section has only two seams which should make it a snap. Matching it to the other portions of the overall block was stressful. Both of these blocks led me to this compilation post. These two WF blocks have been sent on their merry way to Sherry, although I have renamed them WF blocks from H. WFH for short – HAHA (not WTH).
Paper Piecing Tips From Friends
I gathered these tips from friends as I shared my frustration(s) with paper piecing. Some may also be from personal experience . . . perhaps.
- Tweezers! Find yours BEFORE you attempt to remove any papers or you will be mentally cursing yourself for not being able to find them (personal experience)
- Set your stitch length to something very short (1.0 for example)
- Mary says not quite that short of a stitch length just in case you have to rip something out – 1.0 is too tiny!
- Press without steam to avoid any stretching
- Press the seams open, if possible
- A dab of Elmer’s (SCHOOL) glue holds and stabilizes, plus it washes out easily
- Or a glue stick which might be a bit less messy!
- Use oversized pieces of fabric and trim all four sides once everything is pieced
- Spring for the lighter, less dense newsprint paper or that designed for paper piecing as general printer paper is TOO darn thick and heavy (personal experience)
- Shirley says she uses old magazine pages to stitch on – she says they tear easily
- You’ll need a designated “paper piecing” needle and rotary cutter blade now because the paper will dull them very quickly. Label them somehow or you’ll forget why they are segregated – and who likes segregation anyway?! (
possibleprobable personal experience!)
- Karla suggests writing the fabric size on the template BEFORE making the copies needed
- Sew on the solid/darker lines, trim on the dashed/lighter ones! Also, sew a stitch beyond the solid line at the beginning and end – I also backstitched to keep the stitches from pulling out.
- A quarter-inch ruler may be helpful, but ALL rulers clearly mark that increment
- Pre-fold on (or very near) the stitching lines! It takes a little effort to do this – a wonderful activity for a Saturday evening – but it sure assists with the trimming to 1/4″ seam allowance AND paper removal. Naysayers skip this step so decide for yourself though I would definitely continue to until I achieve “pro” status (HAHA!)
- Karen says she uses a heavy piece of cardstock paper for a nice strong edge for the add-a-quarter ruler to line against when folding the paper back for trimming
- Karla uses a dart tracing wheel alongside a ruler to pre-fold the stitching lines
- Mary uses an inexpensive metal ruler to get a crisp, sharp folded edge
- Use a basting stitch if you are unsure of points matching up
- Allow plenty of time for the completion of one block when you’re new. This is not a quick 10-minute sew and go. (Don’t drag your feet either when a deadline is approaching – personal experience!)
- Check into the freezer paper technique for PP – it offers no papers to remove – sweet!
Add Your Tips?
The jury is out as to whether we will continue to grow an affection for paper piecing. Depending on the day and how good and strong my memory is will decide my answer to the question: will you paper piece again anytime soon? Beyond September that is. I’d love to add any tips I’ve missed to the list above if you would leave them in the comments. I’ll update this post so that I read ALL of the tips BEFORE my next paper piecing experience. Perhaps it will be pleasant then since I’ll avoid the pitfalls.
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