QUILT#90 – Paper Piecing

By Linda Smoker for QUILT, Issue #90

Click “Download PDF” to obtain a printable copy, including diagrams.

Paper Piecing, also known as “foundation piecing”, was a favorite technique used over a 100 years ago. In the Virginia Quilt Museum a quilt top was discovered to contain an old letter dated 1889 as one of the paper foundations. Many of the String Pieced quilts that were popular over the last century contained old newspaper and catalog papers as their foundations. Today, paper piecing is a wonderful technique used for sewing tiny pieces with unusual angles that are not easy constructed with templates. Fabric is stitched from the underside of the marked paper which eliminates the consideration of grain lines or precision in cutting fabrics. Follow the easy steps below to create perfectly pieced blocks.

Paper Piecing

Paper Piecing Preparation

In paper piecing, a foundation pattern is needed for each block that is to be sewn. Multiple copies of a foundation pattern can be made in several ways.

1. Trace the indicated number of copies individually to the foundation paper.

2. Photocopy at exact size of pattern.

3. Place a traced foundation pattern onto multiple layers of foundation paper (number needed indicated on pattern). Without thread in your sewing machine needle, using a long stitch length, sew precisely on each line of the pattern. The needle will pierce holes in all the layers of paper that will match the pattern lines.

Cut out the foundation pattern beyond the outer line. Set your machine’s stitch length (18 stitches per inch). This makes the foundation easier to remove once you have completed sewing the fabric block.

Sewing a Paper Pieced Pineapple Block

To piece a Pineapple block, layer a 5″ black square and a 2″ x 5″ light yellow strip for areas 1 and 2, right sides together.  With the right side of the paper pattern up, place the layered fabric pieces under area 1 with the area 1 fabric against the paper.  (Note: It helps to check to make sure both areas will be totally covered plus 1/4″.  Pin the seam to be sewn, turn paper over, open the pieces, and check the coverage.)  With the pattern facing up, stitch through the paper and the fabric on the line shared by piece 1 and 2.  Begin and end your stitching 1/4″ before and after the ends of the stitching line.  Carefully trim the seam allowance to 1/4″, if necessary, without trimming the paper pattern. Press open piece 2 from the fabric side.

In the same manner, add the 2″ x 5″ light orange strip for area 3, stitching it on the shared line between areas 1 and 3.  Continue adding the remaining light, medium, and dark fabric pieces in numerical order, trimming and pressing after each addition.  Trim, but don’t sew, the Pineapple block on the outer pattern line, which includes a 1/4″ seam allowance on all sides.  


Download This Pattern