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.

PP beyond line

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.

PP trimmed

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.

PP 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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15 Responses

  1. dezertsuz says:

    That looks very nice, congratulations! I have so many friends who love this, but I just don’t. I don’t even use a backing on my string blocks. I love the things Janeen does on Quilt Art Designs, I’m just going to admire both of you from afar – very afar!

  2. I do love the colors in this block! I don’t know how I missed commenting but I am catching up on the crazy mail situation…replying in 2 places, yada yada yada. HEY just thinking you should write a widget that does both for wordpress. Really, why on earth has no one done this????

  3. Angie says:

    Roseanne – I am unlikely to ever make or contribute to a quilt, but I read often about paper piecing, so I am glad someone wrote a post about it – now I have a visual of what it means! Your colors are so bright and cheerful – they will make a great addition to this quilt you all are doing!

  4. Rochelle Summers says:

    Beautiful blocks. I love the fabric selection and you did a wonderful job on the piecing and explanation. This is a great pattern and I can see how it would useful for using up scraps, too.

  5. chrisknits says:

    Such a wonderful mix of fabrics. It is sure to be a stunning top.

  6. Brenda Ackerman says:

    Hello Roseanne, You did a fantastic job on Paper Piecing your blocks and I enjoyed reading how you did it! The fabrics you chose are all so pretty, they make excellent blocks that I am sure your Queen Bee will be very happy to use! When I first learned to use PP, it was sewing across the paper and was not much fun at all removing the paper. Now that this fold back method has come out, I have done a few blocks and am tempted once again. I also enjoy tracing my pattern onto a piece of fabric and sewing my fabric onto it. Thank you for sharing your great experience with paper piecing! Have a spectacular day!!

  7. Kathi Riemer says:

    Paper piecing is great because you do get accurate points. It is hard if you are directionally challenged -like me- but good to work those little gray cells andI always love the results. It’s kind of messy with all of that paper though.

  8. cheriec12 says:

    Paper Piecing is definitely a technique to know. The accuracy you get is superb. I takes a bit more time but in some cases it’s worth it. I use the strip method like you did on all my blocks. It ensures the whole area is covered and lessens my mistakes. You did a great job. Those blocks look fantastic. I’m interested in joining a bee. I like to try new things and make little, quick projects to get the juices flowing.

  9. I’ve never been a member of a bee, and I think I’ve missed out because of it. You get to try so many different blocks and techniques you might not have tried on your own. I think your blocks here are A+!

  10. I taught myself how to paper piece years ago, so I am a fold-as-you-go girl. My method is completely my own; pretty sure I shouldn’t teach it, although it’s one of my favorite methods of quilting. You did a great job — love the bright colors in those blocks!

  11. Your blocks look fantastic! PPing is sew much fun!

  12. Your blocks look lovely and crisp. xx

  13. Vicki in MN says:

    Nice work, looks like PPing is coming back to you quickly. And isn’t it nice that Mary chose a simpler block for you to get reacquainted with.

  14. Shannon Fleming says:

    Well don’t those blocks just look fabulous!

  15. Thanks so much for making these blocks for me. I think they turned out great! I agree that it will be nice to distribute the sections for a scrappier look. Happy Friday! Mary

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