Paper Piece Tutorial

A flying geese block, paper-piece block tutorial.  I found that the easiest way for me learn paper piecing was to look at other blogs where the sewer had walked through the process step by step – so I thought that I would do the same.  I am tremendously happy with how the final product turned out, I will probably do more paper piecing in the future.

The final product will be a 9 block flying geese quilt with gray elephant backing for a gray nursery.  For the block, I used the free online paper-piece guide for a circle of geese from http://www.PiecebyNumber.com.  They also have many other free patterns and resources for paper piecing.

I needed 9 blocks, each block is made up of 4 flying geese quarters, so to start I printed 36 of the paper piece patterns.   You are going to be sewing on the back of this paper, so the finished produce will be a mirror image of what is printed.  I did cut the paper down a little bit from its 8.5″ x 11″ size, but the paper should not be trimmed perfectly.   IMG_2403

Each quarter-block has 9 fabric pieces, I will walk through each one below.   The pattern is numbered and labeled by piece.  The numbers correspond to the order in which they will be attached to the paper.   My finished block will be blue geese (pieces #1, 4, 7) on a gray background (pieces #2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9).

To start, fabric pieces should be cut larger than the approximate size of the final fabric piece plus seam allowance, but not cut to size exactly.  You don’t have to worry about accounting for a 1/4″ seam allowance as that will naturally happen during the paper piecing process.  This is different from very precise piece cutting for traditional blocks and takes a little bit of getting used to.  I found that it is most efficient to cut piles of my pieces by number, so have a pile of #5’s, #2’s, etc.  Some of the pieces you can cut one single piece to use for all similar sizes (here, #3 and #6 are similar sizes, as are #8 and 9, and all three blue geese are the same size).  My cut rectangles (below) ended up being ~1/2″ to 1″ larger than the final piece plus seam allowance.  IMG_2426

The first step is to attach piece #1 and #2 to the fabric.  Start by selecting a blue geese (piece #1), and placing it right side facing towards you on the BACK of the paper pattern.  The edges of the fabric should be larger in every direction than the printed piece #1. IMG_2404

Piece #2 should be pinned, right sides together, on top of piece #1 such that when it is stitched and pressed in the finished direction along the seam line, it covers all of the borders for piece #2, with a little extra.  Piece #2 will NOT be pinned directly over the printed piece #2, it is pinned on top of piece #1.  This takes some practicing the first time, but you will be a pro by the time you sew 36 blocks. IMG_2405

Flip the paper over so that you are looking at the printed side.  Put the whole thing on the sewing machine and stitch along the line between piece #1 and #2, going just a few stitches beyond each end.  I don’t do any backwards passes at either end of the seam because the seam lines are going to get sewn over on both ends later in the process, ensuring that the seam ends won’t come undone.

After you have stitched the line, fold the paper along the line you just stitched.  The extra fabric should stick out from the paper.  Get a straight edge and trim all of the extra fabric sticking out 1/4″ from the edge of the paper with a rotary cutter.

Fold back the paper, and look at the fabric side.  Press the fabric as-is first to release any tension on the thread, then fold over piece #2 and press the fabric flat towards the piece. First seam is finished!

Take piece #3 and pin it, right sides together, on top of pieces #1 and #2, along the seam line but leaving some extra over the seam line (~1/2″).  Flip the paper to the printed side, sew along the seam line between #1, 2 and 3.

Fold the paper back along seam line #3 and using a straight edge allowing the paper to fold but not the fabric. Using a straight edge, cut all of the fabric that sticks out 1/4″ from the paper.

Fold the paper flat, press piece #3 in the same way as pieces #1 and #2.

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Attaching pieces #4 – 9 is the same as piece #3, but we will walk through them just the same.  For piece #4, pin right sides together along the seam line, plus a little extra (~1/2″) for piece #4.   Sew along the seam line for piece #4 on the printed side of the paper.  Fold the paper along seam #4 without folding the fabric, and cut all fabric that sticks out 1/4″ from the paper.  Here, you can start to see that extra fabric from pieces #1 – 3 is also sticking out, that is ok – just cut through all the pieces with the rotary cutter.

Fold the paper back flat, press piece #4.

Pin right side of piece #5 to the block along the seam line, plus a little extra, for piece #5.  I was using one pin for all other pieces, but this block is larger so I went up to two.  Sew along the seam line for piece #5 on the printed side of the paper.  Fold the paper along seam #5 without folding the fabric, and cut all fabric that sticks out 1/4″ from the paper. Press.

Pin right side of piece #6 to the block along the seam line, plus a little extra, for piece #6.  Sew along the seam line for piece #6 on the printed side of the paper.  Fold the paper along seam #6 without folding the fabric, and cut all fabric that sticks out 1/4″ from the paper. Press.  My block is starting to look like something!

IMG_2438

Pin right side of piece #7 to the block along the seam line, plus a little extra, for piece #7.  Here you can see the rectangles that I cut for pieces #5 and #6 in the beginning were too large, but that is perfectly ok and the excess will be cut off in the process when I fold the paper and trim the seams, I do not need to add any steps to trim the excess fabric.  Sew along the seam line for piece #7 on the printed side of the paper.  Fold the paper along seam #7 without folding the fabric, and cut all fabric that sticks out 1/4″ from the paper.  Again, there is a lot of fabric sticking out of the folded paper, but cut through all the pieces.  Press.

Most of the extra fabric has disappeared.

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Pin right side of piece #8 to the block along the seam line, plus a little extra, for piece #8.  Sew along the seam line for piece #8 on the printed side of the paper.  Fold the paper along seam #8 without folding the fabric, and cut all fabric that sticks out 1/4″ from the paper.  Press.

Pin right side of piece #9 to the block along the seam line, plus a little extra, for piece #9.  Sew along the seam line for piece #9 on the printed side of the paper.  Fold the paper along seam #9 without folding the fabric, and cut all fabric that sticks out 1/4″ from the paper.  Press.

The sewing for the quarter block is finished!  Turn the block over, and use the rotary cutter to cut along each outer seam allowance line on the paper.  The block will now be the correct size, with all of the edges trimmed.

Now, in reverse order, fold each piece of paper (starting with piece #9) along the perforated edge, and tear off.  You will be left with a perfect fabric quarter-block with perfectly pressed seam allowances.

Make 4 quarter blocks, pin and sew into a larger circle of geese block.  Now only 8 more larger blocks to go!  I got to the point where I could make the quarter, paper-pieced block in about 15 minutes.  I sewed them into larger blocks as I went, instead of waiting to the end.

The finished 9 block circle of geese.  I underestimated the amount of blue and gray fabric I would need, so I broke into my stash for some additional colors which matched the backing fabric that I was going to use.  In the end, I like the color variation verses just the blue and gray.

IMG_2516

I added two borders to the 9 block panel.  The first was light green, to highlight the bit of green in the geese, the second was the same gray elephant fabric as the backing.  With the front panel together, I could make the “quilt sandwich”.  Sorry, but I do not have any pictures for this part, but here is my method (it takes 2 people).  I apply Spray Basting on the entire wrong side of the backing fabric and set it on a flat surface.  I then set the batting onto the backing from the center outward, removing all wrinkles in the backing and the batting as I go.  The spray basting is much easier than pinning and it holds well without shifting.  I then spray the basting on the entire wrong side of the front panel, and lay it on the batting, from the center outward, removing wrinkles as I go.  After the sandwich is put together, I press the entire front and back to set the basting.  Ready for quilting, which I do on my regular sewing machine.

After the quilting was complete, I used blue fabric to make my own binding.  To make binding, I cut strips at 2.5″ down the entire length of the fabric and sew them together to give me enough length to go around the quilt.  I press the entire length first in half, then in half again.  I sew the back edge to the quilt first, without worrying about the corners too much, then flip the quilt over and sew the front edge along the fold to the quilt.  Here I will sew the corners in a neat fold.

My quilt is finished, and I am very happy with the way that it turned out.

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