Basic Foundation Piecing | Lessons

Whether you call it foundation piecing or paper piecing, this method of making quilt blocks is re-gaining popularity among today’s quilters. This technique uses a numbered paper or muslin pattern as a foundation for piecing the quilt block, ensuring crisp, precisely-pieced blocks. If you can stitch on a straight line, you can foundation piece!

To start a foundation-pieced project, you first need a pattern. You can purchase pre-printed muslin or paper patterns, or make your own. Tracing the master pattern onto individual sheets of paper is one of the most precise ways to duplicate the foundation, but can be time-consuming.

If you choose to photocopy your foundation pattern, be aware that all photocopiers do distort the image to some degree. To minimize this distortion, be sure to always photocopy from the same original, and make all copies at the same time, if at all possible.

Another option for making multiple foundations quickly and easily is the needle punching technique. In this option, you use an unthreaded sewing machine to “trace” a pattern onto several sheets of paper at once by sewing along the pattern lines. Details of how to make foundation patterns in this way are given here.

Note: Some patterns use bold lines to delineate different sections of the pattern. To piece these blocks, first cut the paper pattern sections apart, then stitch each section in numerical order. Trim each section, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance, then piece the sections together to form a complete block.

Once you have your foundations ready, rough cut fabric into patches large enough to cover individual pattern pieces. Don’t worry about cutting precise patches. Leave a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Place your first fabric piece right side up on the wrong side of your foundation pattern. Hold the fabric and pattern up to a light source to make sure that the fabric will cover the pattern area. If necessary, pin in place.

Next, place your second piece of fabric right side down on top of the first. Hold your fabric and foundation up to the light to make sure your patch is positioned correctly, covering the pattern area and including a 1/4″ seam allowance. Stitch both pieces of fabric to the foundation, extending stitching 1/8″ beyond the printed seam line.

Fold fabric into place, finger-pressing along seam. Crease the foundation along the seam line, and use a ruler to trim seam allowance to 1/4″. Continue adding fabric patches in numerical order until your block is complete. Trim excess fabric and foundation along outermost pattern line, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance for block assembly.

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