How to Foundation Paper Piece the Easy Way

How to Foundation Paper Piece the Easy Way

When you think of Foundation Paper Piecing, do any of these thoughts come to mind? 
  • "It's too hard."
  • "I tried it once but it just didn't click for me."
  • "I prefer fast and easy."

If so, you're missing out on one of my favorite techniques for making quilts! Once you have a few basic tools and know the steps, we can make some really fun designs together.


What is Foundation Paper Piecing?

When we Foundation Paper Piece (also called "FPP"), we sew onto a paper pattern. When the block is finished, we tear the paper off. 

Why I love Foundation Paper Piecing:

  • Very accurate
  • Create unusual shapes and angles
  • No need for templates or specialty rulers

Because of these, Foundation Paper Pieced blocks can be playful and expressive. Which is why I love it so much!

To help you get excited about learning (or maybe re-learning) Foundation Paper Piecing, I've created a step-by-step video tutorial.

Then, keep reading for simple instructions, a walk-through of all my favorite tools, and a free Foundation Paper Piecing pattern!



How to Foundation Paper Piece


First you need print or copy your Foundation Paper Piece block patterns.

If you're printing from a digital file, make sure your printer is set not to scale (or scale 100%). 

Machine Set-up

Shorten your stitch length to 1.7-1.85 mm.

Piece 1

  1. Lay your fabric for Piece 1 on the back of the paper pattern, with the wrong side of the fabric facing the back side of the paper.
  2. Make sure it entirely covers the area for Piece 1 plus seam allowance.
  3. Pin the fabric to the paper.

Piece 2

  1. Find the line between Piece 1 and Piece 2. This is the seam you’ll be sewing.
  2. Lay the fabric for Piece 2 on the back of the paper to fully cover the Piece 2 area.
  3. Flip the Piece 2 fabric over this line so fabrics 1 and 2 are right-sides together. Make sure there’s enough fabric across the line for seam allowance.
  4. Pin the fabrics to the paper.
  5. Turn the paper over and sew on the pattern line between Piece 1 and Piece 2. Don’t backstitch.
  6. Fold the Piece 2 fabric back over the seam you just sewed. Make sure the fabric covers the entire space for Piece 2, plus seam allowance.
  7. Trim away any excess fabric along the seam, leaving a 1/4” seam allowance.
  8. Press the seam with an iron or pressing tool.

Piece 3

  1. Lay the fabric for Piece 3 on the back of the paper to fully cover the Piece 3 area.
  2. Flip the fabric over the line that connects Piece 3 to your other fabrics. Make sure your fabrics are right-sides together. Pin in place.
  3. Turn your paper over and sew along the pattern line.
  4. Trim away any excess fabric along the seam, leaving a 1/4” seam allowance.
  5. Press the seam.

Foundation Paper Piecing Rhythm

Once you get into the flow, you can settle into a really nice rhythm. You can say these steps, like a mantra:

Place the fabric

Flip the pattern

Sew on the line

Trim the seam allowance

Press the seam

Finishing the Block

  1. Repeat the Piece 3 steps to sew each Piece onto the block, one at a time, in numerical order.
  2. With a rotary cutter, trim the block along the outside dashed lines.
  3. Carefully remove the paper from the block and press.


Free foundation paper piecing pattern


Special Tools for Foundation Paper Piecing

Foundation Paper Piecing doesn't require anything special. All you really need is fabric scraps, a printer, and a sewing machine.

(My inner high school crafter on a swim instructor budget totally loves a no-special-tools project!)

But, there are a few helpful little gadgets that I like to have on hand. These tools make my blocks even more fun to sew together, and the blocks turn out so so nice.

Think of this next list as "How to Foundation Paper Piece Better."

Foundation Paper

 Because we sew onto paper patterns, you need ... paper!

In a pinch, you can use whatever basic paper you have in your printer. But whenever I can, I use Foundation Paper.

Foundation Paper feeds easily through your printer so you can print the block patterns. And after you're done sewing, the paper tears off cleanly and is gentle on your seams.

Flat Head Pins

To hold your fabrics in place on the paper, any straight pin will do. I've even some people use staples or clear tape when they Foundation Paper Piece.

Gotta love that personal flair!

My favorite, though, is a Flat Head Pin.

These pins are long and sharp, and the flat head doesn't make any bulk when you flip the pattern over and sew.

Add-A-Quarter Ruler

This cute little ruler has a 1/4" lip underneath. This makes it quick and easy to trim off the extra fabric after each seam.

The Add-A-Quarter Ruler comes in different lengths. My favorite is 6" long.

And of course, mine is pink!

To use the Add-A-Quarter Ruler when you Foundation Paper Piece, fold back everything but the excess fabric from the seam you just sewed. The lip on the ruler catches onto that bulk, leaving a perfect 1/4" edge. Then trim off the excess with a rotary cutter. So slick!

Seam Roller

For a crisp, precise seam when you Foundation Paper Piece, you'll want to press after every seam. 

Feel free to use the iron across the room when you're counting your steps. But for cord-free pressing right at my sewing table, I love using a Seam Roller.

Lay your block on a flat surface and simply roll the Seam Roller across the seam a few times. You'll be amazed how flat your seams get with this little tool!


Free Foundation Paper Piecing Pattern

So now you know that Foundation Paper Piecing is easy, quick, and fun! Ready to try it out yourself?

Download my free WORK OF HEART mini quilt pattern and give it a try today!

Free Foundation Paper Piece Pattern

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