Foundations of Foundation Paper Piecing
Understanding and Preparing Paper Templates
Before we jump into sewing, we need to understand what the different lines and numbers on a paper template mean.
Using the paper templates for the Blooming Scraps quilt pattern as an example, the solid border illustrates the finished sized block or unit. The dotted lines outside of the border is the ¼" seam allowance (the unfinished sized block or unit). In between all that, there are numbers and other solid lines. The numbers indicate the order in which the fabrics should be placed and sewn. Imagine paint-by-numbers. But with FPP, it’s sew-by-numbers. The remaining solid lines indicate where you should sew and you’ll be sewing directly onto the paper template.
What You'll Need
- Printed FPP template(s) - Just about any type of paper will work with FPP, as long as you’re able to remove it when the block is complete. The thinner the paper is, for example FPP paper, the easier it will be to complete the step. I used (and most commonly), printer paper.
- Thread - Lightweight thread, 80wt for more precise stitching, but 50wt thread works just as well as long as it is strong enough to hold itself when the paper template is removed.
- Pins - Used to keep fabrics in place when sewing.
- Cutting mat
- Rotary cutter
- Rotary cutter or scissors for paper
- Quilting ruler
- Fabrics of choice
- Iron and ironing board / wool pressing mat
Light box (optional) - This produces an additional light source at the desk to help with aligning fabric with paper templates when pinning and sewing. If a lightbox is not readily available, you can hold the paper template and fabric up to the light from the window, a lamp, light on the sewing machine or any light source in your sewing space.
Find all the tools and materials mentioned above in the one place here.*
Step 1: Adjust stitch length on sewing machine anywhere between 1.0 to 1.5. This is going to help keep the stitches intact when the paper template is removed from the quilt block.
The smaller the stitch length, the longer it takes to make the stitches but it makes the paper easier to tear off, and vice versa with a larger stitch length. I used 1.2 stitch length in this example.
Step 2: Get the lay of the land, and scan the numbers on the paper template to get an idea of how the block or unit is constructed.
Then, turn the paper template around so the non-printed side is facing up. Place the fabric that covers section 1, right side facing up, on top of the non-printed side of the paper template. Essentially, the non-printed side of the paper template is touching the wrong side of the fabric.
Fabric used to cover section 1 on the paper template should be at least ¼" larger than the first section, all the way around. To ensure the fabric covers the section, hold the paper template and the fabric to a light source.
Pin the fabric to the paper template or hold it firmly to prevent it from shifting.
Step 3: Turn the paper template around, printed side facing up. Fold the paper along the line between sections 1 and 2. This fold will help determine the placement and where to align fabric for section 2.
Place fabric for section 2 on top of fabric in section 1, right sides together. Holding the paper template and section 2 fabric to a light source, ensure fabric for section 2 extends at least ¼" beyond the fold (refer to the blue line in the example below) and covers section 2 when the paper template is unfolded. In doing so, it ensures fabric used in section 2 covers the designated area when sewn and pressed, and it takes into account the ¼" seam allowance.
Pin the fabric used in section 2 to the paper template or hold it firmly to secure its placement.
Step 4: Turn the paper template around so the printed side is facing up, and unfold it (if you haven’t done so already). Sew on the solid line between section 1 and 2. Back stitch the start and end of the seam. This is going to provide additional enforcement when the paper template is removed.
Note: For the purpose of this tutorial I have used a coloured thread to make stitching more visible. But for your actual project you may want to use a neutral coloured thread to make the stitching less visible.
Step 5: Remove the paper template from the sewing machine and place it on the cutting mat with the paper template facing printed side up. Remove pin(s). Fold back the paper template at the seam. Using the fold as a guide, trim ¼" seam allowance. Make sure you do not cut through the paper template when performing this step.
Step 6: Unfold the paper template, turn it around so the non-printed side and fabrics are facing up. Fold and press section 2 fabric. Thereby section 2 fabric covers section 2.
Step 7: Repeat steps 2 to 6 until the paper template is covered with fabric.
Step 8: With the printed side of the paper template facing up, trim the block or unit down to the dotted line border.
Step 9: If the quilt pattern has more than one template to complete a block, sew the paper templates together, right sides of the fabrics together with a ¼" seam allowance. Press the seams open or to the dark side as you go.
Step 10: Now onto the fun part. Without popping any of the seams, carefully remove the paper template from the back of the block or unit. With the help of the shorter stitch length, the paper templates should tear off easily.
Step 11: Give the block a final press and voila! You’ve just FPP’d!
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