Monday, April 25, 2016

Paperless or Paper Piecing

As threatened, I compared the timing and result of paper piecing vs paperless paper piecing. See Cristy Fincher's website for clear, complete directions with lots of photos.

Standard Paper Piecing
I design and print my foundation pattern on Sulky Paper Solvy washable stabilizer.  It took 30 minutes to cut fabric, sew and press 1/8 of a 12" star block (a 45º triangle).  I put the 8 triangles together by glue basting before sewing.  It came out 99% perfect - points meet and the center is good where 8 points come together.  It could be slightly better in the center if I had stopped stitching at the 1/4 inch mark.  Next time.  However, it is so near perfect that I will leave it as is ... or not.  I am reluctant to massacre those bias tips.  As far as I can see, the only downside to this method is pulling out the paper.  That's why I use Sulky Paper Solvy.  You can leave it in.  I usually tear it out anyway because I like the hand of plain fabric.  Any little pieces left dissolve in water so I don't have to be too picky.

Paper pattern on Sulky Paper Solvy

Paperless Paper Piecing
Next, I did the same 45º triangle of the next block using the paperless paper piecing method.  First I cut templates for each little piece from doubled freezer paper (iron two pieces shiny sides together).  It took me one hour to assemble and glue the fabric pieces.  I started to sew them and then realized that for a complex pattern like this (13 pieces) I would end up with a product that I couldn't measure and trim precisely so that points and seams matched exactly to its adjacent triangle. I could have made a plastic template and carefully marked it.  It would be do-able, but I am afraid that it has a high potential of ending up wonky, and I don't want wonky stars.  The paperless paper piecing is fascinating, but I will continue with paper and absolutely with glue basting.  Maybe you are braver than I.  However, it would probably work better with a simpler pattern, and there would not be any paper to pull out.

Gluing & sewing went well.  How do I trim it?????
TIP:  By all means check out Cristy Fincher's website and see how paperless piecing is done.  I confess I am a novice, but have decided not to use it.  I am very proficient with paper piecing, but you don't know until you try.

What is glue basting?  Put your pieces right sides together and run a thin line of Elmer's School Glue (no other kind) in the seam allowance of the lower piece.  Carefully matching seams, edges and/or points finger-press the top piece to the lower one.  Then iron to facilitate drying and to set it.  It will all wash out later with no residue or damage to the fabric.  If you are not satisfied with the result you can easily pull the glued pieces apart and redo. Finally, sew the seam.  You will be amazed at the perfection you have created so simply.

First two blocks are a success.
While I am having fun sewing these, I am also preparing the pattern and purchase plan for my spiral that will be my next major project whether I finish the stars or not.  I can always come back to them.

BTW:  My Bigtop spiral and Phoenix will both be showing at HMQS in Salt Lake City May 5-7 and in the Minnesota Quilter's, Inc. Show in St Cloud, MN, June 9-11.

Sew a happy seam this week.


  1. Genius idea to paper piece on dissolvable Sulky stabilizer! I'm going to try this next time I have one with lots of tiny pieces. Both stars look great to me!

  2. So pretty and colorful. Paper piecing still scares me, though,lol. I have been quilting only about 2 years :)

    1. Don't be afraid of it. If you like perfection it is well worth the learning curve. There are loads of books and online tutorials to help you get started. Once you get the hang of it, it is quick, easy and precise.

  3. Thanks for the information. I'd never heard of paperless paper piecing (seems impossible from the title!) but I find freezer paper works lose before I've finished.

  4. Did you look at Cristy Fincher's website (link is above in my post)? I know the kind of freezer paper piecing you are talking about and I had the same problem. I was always re-ironing it down and even pinning to get it to stay put. Her method is completely different. Yes, freezer paper is used, but in a very different way.

  5. Those are really really cool. Love 'em.

  6. Those blocks are gorgeous! What a great idea the paperless paper piecing is. I'm going to try that on my next paper piecing project. Pulling out all the paper is my least faavorite part to do!