Foundation piecing

I am working on the Batik project and I thought it might be a good time to talk about foundation piecing.

Paper foundation piecing is very popular these days but it is nothing new.    This vintage top used Montgomery Ward catalog pages as the paper foundation


2012_0406wards-paper0001 2012_0406wards-paper0010

Older quilts often used Muslin as the foundation…this partially finished quilt used muslin foundation.


Here is the back of one of the pieces.


When using fabric as the foundation it is left on….paper is removed

These vintage string star blocks were paper foundation pieced but the paper was removed after they were made.


I am using paper and I remove the paper when the block is finished.   Some people will leave the paper on until the entire top is done.

Today I am working on the borders

here is the plan that I designed on the computer

Batik plan

you can see that the border has a lot of long narrow points.   the advantage of foundation piecing is that the foundation prevents the fabric from stretching and becoming distorted as it is sewn.   This makes for much greater accuracy.  In my vintage and antique quilts I really don’t worry too much about accuracy, but for this quilt I thought I would try to be as accurate as I can.

I start by printing the pattern.   Computers make quilting so much easier!   In the past the patterns would need to be traced onto the paper.

I hate to waste fabric and one of the drawbacks of foundation paper piecing is that there is a lot of waste from all the bits that are trimmed of.    Since all the pieces in the border blocks are the same size I was able to pr-cut the pieces.  I had to do some figuring to get the size right and it worked out that if I cut 2.5 inch strips and then cut them in half on the diagonal I have the pieces the right size with very little waste.




next I arrange the pieces in the order I plan to sew them


I pin the pieces to the paper before I sew.   I line up the piece 1/4 inch beyond the line (1/4 inch seam allowance) and pin in place


The fabric goes on the back of the paper so that it fits into A1  The next piece is pinned on so that after it is sewn on and pressed it will cover the next area (A2)


sew on the line then press open….this is how it looks on the finished side


Now I trim the piece in A2 so that there is 1/4 inch seam allowance on the long side by folding the paper up to the line and trimming the overhang…and then pin the next piece in place



sew that one down and press it open


and then fold the paper back to the line


and trim to 1/4 inch


fold the paper back to flat and add the next piece


sew and press


fold back and trim


keep adding new pieces


until they are all added


Looks like a bit of a mess until it is trimmed.    It is important in the block that I did not sew beyond the line at the top (where the large purple piece will be added)


I fold back the paper at that line


and trim that overhanging fabric to 1/4 inch and then fold back the paper


Now I can add that big piece…make sure it fits


pin in place


sew and press open


now flip it over


trim all the edges


and it is done.  here are a few of them finished in place


I partially made one block before I realized I was doing it wrong.  I had reversed the order of the pieces….see how it doesn’t fit with the others


the points go the wrong direction.   It can be easy to get it wrong because the sewing is all done from the back of the paper.

I should also mention that I turn the stitch length to almost as short as I can for this.   The smaller stitch length gives the paper more holes  so it is easier to rip the paper off…it breaks easily along the stitch lines with all those little holes.



14 thoughts on “Foundation piecing

  1. katechiconi says:

    Everyone has a different way of doing it. I simply can’t get my brain around sewing from the back, so I use a lightbox to see the lines through the fabric, pin the fabric down and mark a fine pencil line to sew along and stitch on the front. It’s more laborious, which is probably why I don’t do foundation piecing much, but at least it gets done that way!

  2. Deb says:

    I enjoy paper piecing, have made several quilts that way.
    Also enjoyed your post , you did good in explaining.
    the quilt is so pretty, love the fabrics!!

  3. Shirley says:

    I agree with the other comments, you did a good job of explaining your process of paper piecing. I have written instructions before, it’s hard!!!
    What seems so obvious to the writer, is mud to the reader sometimes. LOL Just one negative on your post……where is

  4. Helen says:

    Good morning, Tim! You are the best teacher ever and also very generous with tips, advices and other informations! Thank you very much for this!
    Hello to Teddy, too, he definitely broke my heart! (pictures from your next post)
    Best wishes!

  5. Ginney says:

    I think I just have a mental block about foundation piecing. Even watching your great instructions it just gives me a headache to think about. But I am going to HAVE to try it!

  6. Vicki says:

    thank you for the tutorial, they are always useful. What type of paper are you using here?

    • timquilts says:

      this is a June Taylor paper that someone gave me….it is actually not paper it is more like the material that interfacing is made from….I like it because it is so easy to see through and doesn’t curl up at all when it is pressed

  7. Helen F says:

    Great instructions but I am a “Meredithe” template girl thru and thru!!! It would be a shame to put a backing on the quilt top that used the magazine as the papers – what a great read!!!

    • timquilts says:

      I have looked at all the pages…and I really should take pictures of them all….the pages are so brittle that they are falling apart. one time unfolding it and I have dozens and dozens of pieces of paper all over the place


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s