Nancy’s Quilting Classroom: Paper Piecing

Have you ever wondered about the difference between English paper piecing and paper foundation piecing? Although both techniques involve paper, and result in accurate piecing, the methods couldn’t be more different.

English Paper Piecing is a hand sewing technique. Paper templates are cut from cardstock in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as hexagons, diamonds, and triangles. Fabric is cut larger than the paper template. I usually cut my fabric a generous 1/4″ larger all around the template. The fabric is wrapped around the template and basted in place. My preferred basting method is to hand stitch around the shape, sewing thru the paper. Other basting methods include tacking the fabric in the corners only and gluing the fabric to the paper using a glue pen.

After basting, the fabric shapes are whip-stitched together to create a quilt design. Common English paper pieced quilt designs include Grandmother’s Flower Garden, Tumbling Blocks, and Six-Pointed Stars.

Gail Kessler’s Jewels of the Garden from Love of Quilting September/October 2011 is a wonderful reproduction of a late nineteenth-century quilt from the collection of the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, Delaware. Gail used English paper piecing to create the hexagons in the center of her quilt.



I created Angle of Repose for Scrap Quilts Fall 2014 using 60-degree diamonds and hexagons. The light, medium, and dark plaids were arranged to create dimension in the Tumbling Blocks quilt design.

Angle of Repose Quilt

Paper foundation piecing requires a sewing machine. For this technique, a block design is printed or drawn on a piece of lightweight paper. Fabric pieces are cut larger than the area they need to cover. The fabric is placed on the unmarked side of the paper. Then you flip over the fabric and paper, so the marked side of the paper is facing up, and sew on the line. The fabric pieces are added in numerical order until the entire foundation is covered. The last step is to remove the paper. If you don’t want to remove the paper, use muslin or lightweight interfacing and leave the foundation in place.

I used paper foundation piecing to create the off-center Pineapple blocks in Pineapple Salsa from Love of Quilting September/October 2010. I love how the blocks create circles and waves in the quilt design. If you’d like extra guidance on creating Pineapple blocks, the How to Make Pineapple Quilt Blocks video is a great place to start.
Summer Heat from Love of Quilting July/August 2010 is another one of my paper-foundation-pieced quilts. One of the benefits of foundation piecing is being able to achieve sharp points, like the ones in these blocks.


Paper foundation piecing is also a great way to create unusual shapes and designs, without having to use templates. The blocks in Spinning Pinwheels from Quilting Quickly November/December 2016 were easy to make using foundation piecing. Take a look at this foundation paper piecing video for more information.

Spinning Pinwheels Quilt

Spinning Pinwheels

I want to thank everyone for joining me during my time as a regular guest blogger. I hope you have enjoyed reading my posts and maybe learned a little something along the way. I’m not gone forever, but goodbye to Nancy’s Quilting Classroom for now. I wish you a very happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year.

Happy Quilting~

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