Paper Piecing for Dummies – Me!
Joining a Bee Hive group this year has opened our quilting world to new experiences. New blocks and new methods for sewing blocks like paper piecing. Technically, paper piecing isn’t new to us. It may be several decades since we gave it a try though. Our good friend, Mary, is the bee hive queen this month. Her block choice for March is Treasure Hunt. Her color choices for us to use are dark pink, medium or dark grey, mustard, teal, and aqua.
Pre Paper Piecing
Long before sitting at the sewing machine, I did some research. I also printed off the templates as four for each 12″ block were needed. Finding some videos on You Tube by Angela Walters and Mr. Domestic also helped calm my nerves. Most importantly, we pulled some fabric choices from our stash for Mary’s approval. Once we made a few color adjustments, I was ready to begin. You will want to take time to trim your templates close to size, and to fold the paper on the stitching lines. I folded them in both directions on each stitching line.
Each template has solid stitching lines and a lighter line around the whole square. That lighter line is the trim-to-size-line. Each area is numbered and that is the order in which you should paper piece. The template also provides a guide for fabric sizes needed. By the last piece, I had the fabric selection down to a science. Stitching goes MUCH faster when you take the time to select and size your fabric pieces first.
A Few Key Paper Piecing Points
The first point to recognize and remember is that you are stitching on the solid lines. I aligned the first and second strips with right sides together on the side I would be stitching together. In the photo on the left, you can see a) the wrong side of mustard strip, and b) more importantly that the shorter gray strip is on the bottom. I learned this lesson the hard way on the very last section when I had the mustard strip on the bottom. Wrong! I used my ruler to make sure I allowed for a 1/4″ seam allowance and then flipped the template back down. Stitching on the solid line came next, starting a few stitches before the line began. I set my stitch length to 1.0 – much shorter than my usual.
You can see in this next picture there are a few stitches before and after the dark solid line. Notice also the mustard fabric peeking out of the edges.
Paper Piecing Right Along
Once I got into a rhythm, the whole process got much easier. The hardest and longest part was selecting the fabrics for each area! I always used strips that were bigger than suggested so that I didn’t have to worry about an area not being covered. The template suggested 2.25″ strips but I used 2.5″ instead. This did require trimming of the seams to 1/4″ before ironing. Both video authors suggested ironing without steam, and I did take advantage that suggestion.
Covered Paper Piecing
Once all six strips were stitched and pressed, it was time to trim. I lined up the long 24″ ruler on solid line all around the block allowing 1/4″ around all four sides. This trimmed the paper to the template’s suggested final 6.5″ size.
Here is the very first quarter of the first block. You can see there isn’t too much waste, and the points are perfect.
Finished Paper Piecing
Ta-da! Here are Mary’s two blocks. I am glad she is going to mix all of our blocks amongst other eight quarter sections from our bee mates. That will surely allow for separation of similar fabrics being near each other.
That is the coolest thing about a bee hive experience, I think. Each member pulls fabrics from their stash, so it is a really nice mixture. Here’s one last look at both blocks.
Now you can see how X marks the spot for the hidden treasure. I know for sure we will be making this block again in September for another queen bee. My hand may be raised for other piecing projects beyond this block.
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