How to Paper Piece Tutorial

How to Foundation Paper Piece

Print your pattern on whatever paper you prefer. I print my patterns on the the back of used paper to recycle it. There are papers you can buy for foundation piecing also.

Roughly cut around your pattern pieces to separate them. Do not cut on the pattern lines. The block will be trimmed later.

Fold your paper on all the lines you will be stitching on. Do not fold the seam allowance lines.

Mark your paper pieces so you know which fabric goes where. Colored pencils can be used to indicate which fabric you are using or write a note.

For example, here is one pattern piece that I have prepared. I am using pink fabric that I have indicated on my pattern piece by scribbling with pink pencil and a yellow print fabric that I marked by writing the letter "y".

Note-most paper piece patterns are printed mirror image so take that into consideration when trying to figure out what fabric goes where.

After your pattern is prepared, find a piece of fabric that is bigger than your first piece on the pattern.

Place the fabric wrong side up and place the pattern on top. Use a tiny amount of washable glue or a pin to hold your pattern in place.  I like to use the Sewline fabric glue pen. It's blue until it dries so you can see where you put it.

Fold on the line between piece #1 and piece #2 which was already folded earlier.  

Trim the fabric to create a 1/4" seam by placing the lip of an Add a Quarter ruler against the folded paper or use any ruler and trim 1/4" from the paper. This is your seam. The Add a Quarter ruler is designed for paper piecing and I love it. It has a quarter inch lip on the bottom that fits right next to your folded paper pattern. 

Turn the pattern over so the fabric is right side up and place your second piece of fabric aligning it with the edge you just cut. (Notice my recycled paper? Ha)

Turn it all over so the pattern is back on top. You may want to pin it to secure the layers.
Sew on the line. Press fabric open. (Didn't get a picture)

With pattern on top, fold pattern on next line and trim your fabric to 1/4" again before adding the next piece of fabric.

With the pattern on the bottom, align the next piece of fabric, right side down, with the edge you just cut. Pin if needed.

Turn over so pattern is on top and sew on the line. Turn over, press.

Pattern side up
Fabric side up
Continue in the same manner until all pieces are added as shown above.

after trimming

Trim block by placing the 1/4" mark on a ruler on the seam lines of the pattern. This is easier and more accurate to me than just trying to cut on the outside edge of the pattern as those lines are often very light and hard to see.

Trim all edges in the same manner and your pattern will look similar to those shown below.

pattern side
fabric side
Notice how the paper side is mirror image as I mentioned earlier?

Remove the paper at this stage for more accurate sewing. It is also helpful to use some type of spray sizing to press your completed pattern section at this point but not absolutely necessary. It just helps stabilize everything.

I find leaving the paper in while sewing the sections of the pattern together can cause problems. Both the presser foot and the feed dogs are against paper and I feel most machines have a hard time feeding the paper through correctly in that situation.

Using a size 14 needle and a shorter stitch length helps perforate the paper more making it easier to remove.  I don't always do this especially if I am just making one block.  I feel that creasing the paper on the lines before sewing really helps make the paper easy to remove especially if you make a nice sharp crease in it.

There are many FREE paper pieced patterns available throughout the posts on this blog.


  1. Thank you so very much for posting this tutorial. I am so excited about learning to paper piece and your directions make it so clear. I am starting a quilt for my husband and some of the blocks are going to be out of 'Quilt Blocks of American Barns' by Eleanor Burns. The one quilt block that I am just dying to make is what she calls the North Star, a two tone 8 point star. Are you familiar with that block and if so, do you know if it can be done in paper piecing? Thank you so very much. I am excited to hear from you!

    1. It can be paper pieced but some seams need to be added. If you send me your email, I'll send you my ideas on how to do that.