Five Tips to Decrease Paper-Piecing Stress

There is no way when I was first introduced to paper-piecing in 2016 that I ever could have imagined writing this post. The mirror image nature of paper-piecing just didn’t compute, and I often cut pieces that weren’t big enough to cover a particular section. I gained a lot of confidence last year participating in the Summer Sampler 2017, and Lee’s mind-blowing paper-piecing tip was a total game changer for me. I have continued to improve my paper-piecing skills in 2018 and have come up with a few of my own tweaks that work really well for me, and hopefully they might help some other folks feel more comfortable with paper piecing. Below are some pics I took while working on a current WIP (see my June ‘18 OMG post if you are curious!)


One:  I use Lee’s tip all the time, only I trim the fabric above the fold 3/8” rather than 1/4” which helps keep my seam allowance from shrinking to less than a quarter inch.


Two: With the paper still folded, I peek under the fold to see how long my pieces need to be including an ample seam allowance and then mark with pencil the minimum length of fabric that needs to be used. I rarely need to hold my pieces up to a light source using this method.


Three: Except for the smallest of pieces, I generally pin when I paper piece. After I have my next fabric piece aligned, I place a pin in the last section I sewed (reverse side of pin shown next to butterfly pin above). I then flip the paper over, and secure the fabric by pinning in two places an inch or two from where I’m going to sew. I then flip the paper back over and remove the initial pin if it is in the way of the next seam that I need to sew.


Four: I will chain piece any time I can, and I’ve found that even when I’m working on a project with completely different units, I can sew the fabric strip down on one unit and pull it to the back, then place the next unit under my presser foot and not have to worry about holding onto my threads to keep them from forming a thread nest (or as another friend says, “thread throw-up.”) After I’ve finished sewing the strip down on the second unit, I reach around and clip the threads connected to the first unit and start preparing the first unit for its next fabric strip.


Five: When paper piecing with longer strips, after the presser foot is down, I lift up the paper to make sure that the fabric hasn’t gotten folded over and everything is lined up correctly.


Extra Tip Not Specifically Related to Paper Piecing: When working with solids, I like to make a fabric swatch for each solid I am using in a project. I cut a 3 1/2” square of the solid fabric and a slightly smaller square of white copy paper. I write the name of the color on the white paper square and sew it on the fabric square. It is so handy to have a quick reference to ensure I’m using the right color, especially when I am using similar colors in a project and am frequently rotating my colors.

I know many quilters have been paper piecing much longer than me. I’d love to hear some of your favorite paper piecing tips.

Linking up to Tips and Tutorials Festival: Sewing Tutorials.

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7 Responses to Five Tips to Decrease Paper-Piecing Stress

  1. Trimming at 3/8″ instead of a 1/4″ was really a game changer in accuracy for me with paper piecing. I really like to pre-fold my templates before I start sewing; it really helps me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great tips!! Found you on the Festival.


  3. Lisa says:

    Great tips. I like the 3/8ths and like Yvonne I prefold the paper.


  4. Sarah Goer says:

    Great tips! I love the bonus tip about solids. I’ve taken to using sharpie on the selvage to label my stash, but this would be great for projects as well as for labeling the darker colors that I can’t label easily with black sharpie.


  5. Pingback: Four Years of Quilting | Quilting is in my Blood

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