Saturday, October 28, 2017

Revisiting Paper Piecing...Again

I am back on familiar ground as I begin making the blocks for a new start on the quilt I designed months ago.  The paperless paper piecing did not give me the precision that I was expecting and I was not happy with the result (scroll down to read my last two posts).  I have now stitched up several half-blocks with Sulky Paper Solvy and I love how they look.  I have not sewn any of the half-squares together yet to yield full squares, but I don't anticipate any problems since I made triangular blocks for each corner with the paper method and they look great.

When I have paper pieced before I have cut the fabric in long strips and just worked along them, slicing, dicing and stitching as I went.  Sometimes this involved a little guesswork as to where to cut.  Other times I would fail to cover the outline of the paper, which meant I had to rip and replace.  There was a fair amount of waste.  This time I spent two hours cutting out the fabric pieces and arranging them in labelled piles.  Just cutting economically limited waste significantly.  There was also very little fabric lost in trimming during the stitching process.

What about time?  With the pieces already cut for both the paperless and the paper methods the time spent came out in favor of the paper method.  With paperless, I still had to stitch the seams.  With paper I still have to remove the paper.  All in all about even, I think.  I use Sulky Paper Solvy, which is water soluble so tearing out the paper is optional.  I like to get it out, but I don't worry about getting each and every tiny piece.

BTW the "bad" quilt top, which was stiff and icky after a 2-hour soak came out soft and nice after 30 minutes in the washing machine with the normal amount of soap.  I will use it later, cut it up (no seam ripping) and stitch it into a new quilt.

TIP:  When cutting pattern pieces you can cut rough.  The cut pieces should mimic the pattern piece with a tiny bit extra, but do not have to be precisely in line with the edges.  Any extra will be trimmed as you go.

TIP:  It is nice to work with batik because you can use either side of the fabric.  If the pattern calls for an odd shape you can use it on one block or turn it over for the mirror image block.  That's called 'mistake reduction.'

TIP:  The secret to precise paper piecing is the pressing of each and every seam.  Don't use an iron because the paper gets scorched and brittle; same with the fingers.  Instead use a small roller or a point-to-point turner, both made by Clover (or how about a spoon?), to press each seam completely back over the stitching each and every time before you add the next piece.

There is nothing photogenic going on this week in my workroom so I will share some of the photos that I have put on Facebook for a black and white challenge.  A black and white photo must have significant value variation to be interesting.  Black, grey and white express the values that are so important in making quilts, even your most colorful ones.   In this day of digital expression you can take a photo of your chosen fabrics, then turn it into a black and white photo in an editing program to make sure your quilt has some dark/black, medium and very light/white fabrics.

In the Olympic Mountains, WA state.
Bighorn Ram.

Somewhere in the Southwest USA.
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a week of great value.


  1. Love your photos. I've used that photo trick to test value; it is really helpful. Glad you enjoyed your paper piecing. I try to avoid it unless I'm making something really fussy. Claire aka knitnkwilt

  2. I appreciate your insight into different methods of PP. The waste drives me crazy, which is why, like you, I tend to precut for PP.

  3. I"ll be taking my first class in paper piecing tomorrow. I'm a bit nervous, but glad I read your article - even though it was a bit beyond my experience. Thank you for the tips you shared. I have a small iron as well as a 4 in 1 tool that includes a presser. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Good luck. I love the precision of paper piecing, and practice is the key to doing it well. You will learn where you need to be extra careful, but that is no different than learning any new technique.