Basics of Paper Piecing

Paper Piecing Basics

Supplies Needed:

· Rotary Cutter & Mat
· Folding Tool - this can be an index card, a thin ruler or a piece of template plastic.
· Scotch Tape

Optional Tools:

· Add-A-Quarter Ruler
· Washable Glue Stick
· Purple Thang

Pre-cutting Fabrics:

Measure the shape you are going to fill from solid line to solid line.  As a general rule add 1” to the measurements.  For instance, if your shape measures 2” X 4”, cut a piece 3’X 5”.

It helps to  pre-cut your fabrics when paper piecing and also will use less fabric.


Set your stitch length on a very short stitch – about 20 stitches per inch. 

Trim the paper pattern, leaving about ¼” to ½” extra paper around the printed pattern – this is outside of the last printed line on the pattern.  You will trim down to the piecing size after the block is complete.

Starting your first 2 pieces is the hardest part of this process! You will sew on TOP of the paper pattern with the printed pattern on the top side and the fabric underneath the paper pattern.  You’ll need to think backwards!

Fabric pieces will be added in the order indicated on the paper pattern.  Begin by placing piece #1 on non printed side of the paper pattern.  This first piece will have the WRONG side against the paper.  Hold the paper pattern up to a light and make sure that the square covers all lines for #1 and also extends out into the seam allowance. 

TIP:  It is sometimes helpful to just clue this piece down!

Now add piece #2 along the seam line between piece #1 and #2, overlapping the edge of the seam line by at least ¼”.  Hold up to a light if necessary to see that the fabric is placed correctly.  These pieces will be RIGHT sides together.

With the printed paper on top and the fabric on the bottom, stitch along the line that joins #1 and #2 – making sure you are using a short stitch length.  Start at the very beginning of the line and end at the very end of the line. 

After completing the sewing of this seam, fold the paper back away from the fabric using your “Folding Tool”  and trim the seam to around ¼”.  You can do this with a little ruler and rotary cutter – or just grab a pair of scissors and trim – it doesn’t need to be exactly ¼”.   Open up the stitched fabric and press so the seam allowance is flat.

Now – grab your folding tool again, and fold the template on the line between piece #2 and piece #3.  Trim to ¼”. Lay piece #3 on top of piece #2, right sides together.

Breath - you did it!  Now just continue on in this fashion until your block is done.


Sometimes you will have to rip out a seam.  Cover the stitching line on the paper side with scotch tape prior to ripping.  It will save your template.

The paper will eventually have to be removed from your pieces.  This can be a tedious task. 

If at all possible, find someone else to do it for you!  If you can’t, a “Purple Thang” or a butter knife will help.  If a few pieces are left, don’t worry about it.