Sunday, June 7, 2015

Freezer Paper - a Modern Miracle

Freezer paper is an old, kitchen product used for wrapping butchered meat for safekeeping and freezing.  When did you last butcher your meat and wrap it?  Never?  Me too!  However, I use it all the time for quilting.  Freezer paper is versatile with a dull side for drawing and a shiny side that will lightly stick to fabric when ironed, it can be reused numerous times, it is easily stored, you can see through it enough to trace, you can run it through your printer, and it is cheap.  Its only drawback is that it doesn't do dishes or clean house.

It is available at the nearest grocery store.  It comes 18 inches wide on a roll 33 1/2 YARDS long for about $6.00.  Template plastic at Joann's is $1.49 for one sheet 18" x 12", so 33 1/2 yards of that would cost over $150.  Did that wake you up?

Freezer Paper
You can use the freezer paper as a pattern.  Just iron the cut piece to the fabric and cut around it.  Remove the paper and iron it onto the next piece of fabric.

Pattern pieces ironed onto fabric.

You can use it as a stencil.  Cut out the design, place on fabric, and paint in the cutout spots.
Homemade stencil (freezer paper was colored in my printer and
ironed onto a second piece of freezer paper to strengthen the stencil).
It was used to paint the dots on the orange fabric.
TIP:  If you want a sturdier pattern or stencil iron two pieces of freezer paper together.  You can iron them shiny sides together.  You can also iron them dull side to shiny side if you want to be able to adhere it to fabric with your iron.

You can use freezer paper to do paper piecing especially if you have wonky shapes with bias to deal with.  You place your fabrics together in the usual way and iron the pattern to the first piece, but instead of sewing through the paper, you fold it back at the seam line, trim the fabric to 1/4 inch for seam allowance,  and sew right beside the fold of the paper.  Press the seam, and then open the paper  and iron it down to the newly stitched piece before folding on the next seam line and adding the next piece of fabric.  (There is no space for a full explanation of this method.  Let me know if you would like me to do a post explaining it in more detail.)
Sewing beside the folded freezer paper.

Finished piece - freezer paper has been lifted off of the top.

Freezer paper is an integral part of paperless paper piecing.  It is used as the critical guide for placing pieces, and as patterns for individual pieces.  See Christy Fincher's website for detailed directions on how to accomplish this fabulous, precise method of piecing.

TIP:  Using freezer paper for paper piecing doesn't work as well for teeny, tiny pieces.  If your design has very small pieces you are better off using a lighter weight paper such as Solvy Water Soluble Stabilizer and the traditional method.

 You can use the paper for designing.  I have done some Rhapsody quilts as taught by Ricky Tims.  As he suggests, I used freezer paper for designing these quilts.  You can draw with pencil and eraser on the dull side, then turn and fold the paper so the dull sides are together.  Using a spoon, or some sort of hard utensil you can scrape over your pencil lines and they will reproduce in reverse on the other side of the folded paper.  Remember doing that as kids?  Magic!  This will produce symmetrical, kaleidoscope-like designs.

You can trace.  If you draw with dark pencil lines or go over your lines with black pen you can trace the design onto another piece of freezer paper.  It is opaque-ish, but darkened lines can still be seen.  I like to use my plexiglass sewing machine table with a light under it as a light box to make it easier to see.  You can also tape the original to a big window and copy it that way.

You can use freezer paper as fabric backing for printing in your household printer.  Cut a letter sized piece of freezer paper, and iron it to the back of fabric.  You can then run it through your printer.  I use this to print the labels that I design for my quilts.  You can also create fabric from photos or your own graphic designs and print them in this manner.

TIP:  Cut your fabric slightly smaller than the freezer paper, iron it down well, and get rid of any loose threads.  You don't want any fabric or threads hanging off the edges of the paper.

Is your freezer paper too small for your project?  Lay one piece of freezer paper shiny side down on the ironing board.  Cut a 1 inch strip of freezer paper and lay it shiny side up under the edge of the large paper leaving 1/2 inch sticking out.  Iron the big piece of paper to the hidden part of the strip.  The shiny sides will be together.  Take a second large piece of freezer paper and butt the edge to the edge of the first piece on top of the remainder of the narrow strip. Iron.  That narrow strip will hold the pieces together as well as any tape on the market and it won't make a mess if you iron over it.  Have you ever ironed over a piece of Scotch tape?  Gulp!

TIP:  Freezer paper shrinks!!  It shrinks slightly in one direction, but it is enough to affect your pattern pieces and mess up the size of your finished product.  Before cutting patterns iron the freezer paper to your ironing board with a dry iron.  Take it up and then iron it once more.  Then mark and cut your pattern.  That is all it takes to preserve pattern precision.

Now go have fun playing with freezer paper, and let me know if you use it in other creative ways.

Stitch some happy seams this week.


  1. Freezer paper is so useful. Thank you for listing all the tips.

  2. I have also used a long pieces of freezer paper cut a little larger than needed then pencil marked for the exact size of borders needed for my Baltimore Album quilt. I then planned, designed and drew what I would applique on the border to match & complete quilt.. After completing I then traced out the applique esign to make freezer paper pattern pieces to use with the fabric I selected for border!
    Although I use freezer paper for my quilting projects I didn't know all the uses for it in quilting. Thank you for listing and explaining the many uses.

  3. Thanks for putting all these uses for freezer paper in one place. Great tip about using your machine table and a light source as a light box, too.

  4. Your tips for paper piecing with freezer paper are invaluable! Thanks so much for sharing this post, Mardi. Your work looks fabulous!

  5. I love freezer paper, too! I've used it in all the ways you describe. If you do want to tape pieces of FP together, paper tape works well (in the bandage section of the pharmacy).