I have a confession, I’m not a fan of foundation paper piecing. In fact it’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt Sew-along was so that I’d get more practice with foundation paper piecing and maybe develop a taste for it. There’s a couple of reasons I don’t like foundation paper piecing; 1. I hate tearing the paper out, 2. I find the waste of fabric on making the tricky shapes just too much for me to bear, and 3. I find it too slow. But! After reading Rachel (of Wooden Spoon Quilts) tutorial for making Block 41 Granny I may have found a way to get around my number 1 foundation paper piecing pet peeve. So with this tutorial I’ve embraced Rachel’s preferred method and tried something new. I’ll admit now, my blocks are not perfect, but with practice I’m getting there. I can see this method becoming my go to for foundation paper piecing from now on!
There is no way to make this block with Marti Michell templates, however Marti and her team have provided a similar block and it’s instructions on the conversion chart. It’s totally up to you how (or even if) you make this block, it’s your quilt and it needs to reflect what you like and love. I’m a big believer in having a go and so that’s what I’ve done this week. It’s a fabulous looking block (reminds me of an aeroplane propeller) and I’m positive that you’ll feel great when you’ve made it.
I’ll give you a warning now, this is a big tutorial. There’s lots of information contained in it and so I would strongly recommend reading the tutorial through first before commencing. If you have the ability you may find merit in having the tutorial handy while you work on making the block.
Thoughts on the Letter
We all have our “guilty” pleasures, those things we do where we feel like society frowns upon us for doing it. One of mine has to be fabric. In the same way that Bookworm saved and look forward to a new book acquisition that’s how I feel about fabric. It’s easy to dismiss a hobby as a luxury and of no value to the day-to-day activities that contribute in a financial way, however the mental health value of having a hobby (like reading or sewing) far outweighs the financial impact of having a hobby (if done within your financial means, of course!) and I think that’s the point of this letter. All work and no play… I see others, and I know I do it too (not as much as I used to), dismiss their hobbies and play down how important they are but it’s the freedom that comes from that mental break from the daily grind that recharges us and allows us to get through all the things that we do from obligation, responsibility and necessity. It’s like the souls recharge cable – if you don’t plug it in every once and while your battery will deplete and you won’t be able to do anything. So don’t hide your hobbies, think of them as the core things that allow you to be a “normal” functioning and contributing member of society. Embrace them, celebrate them and indulge in them.
Tutorial: Block #2 “Aimee”General Information
- See tutorial for seam pressing details.
- I used a Schmetz 70/10 needle.
- I used 50wt Aurifil #2600 (Dove) thread for piecing.
- I used Flatter by Soak in Yuzu 248ml as my starch.
- I used Reynolds Freezer Paper for my pattern templates.
- I used Washi Tape to attach my pattern pieces to the freezer paper.
- Fabrics shown in the tutorial are from the Gnome Angel Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Bundle from Fat Quarter Shop.
Measurements for the pieces needed to construct this block will not be provided in this tutorial. It is a pre-requiste of making this block that you have a copy of the book, The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them. Measurements, where applicable, can be found in this book and it’s associated media.
If you use the traditional foundation paper piecing method the cheapest, thinnest, printer or photocopier paper you can find is best to use to print your pattern pieces on to. You can also use velum, just ensure that it is compatible with your printer and printer ink as you do not want to transfer printer ink to your hands or your fabrics.
On Point Blocks
Please note I am not doing my blocks on-point. If you are fussy cutting your blocks please be mindful of your fabric placement so that the motif will sit correctly if you decide to put your blocks on-point.
You can find the From Marti Michell Patchwork Template Conversion Charts by clicking here.
Helpful Links & Videos
- Rachel (of Wooden Spoon Quilts) no ripping foundation paper piecing tutorial.
- Melissa (of Miss Midge) paper piecing for Block #13 Belle tutorial.
- Cat (of Cat + Vee) paper piecing for Block #1 Addie tutorial.
This method of block construction is called “Foundation Paper Piecing” however it can also be referred to as “Paper Piecing” which can get confusing as there is also a technique called “English Paper Piecing” (EPP) and it’s often referred to as “Paper Piecing”. I have tried to always refer to the technique as “Foundation Paper Piecing” in the tutorial, however I may slip up and refer to it as “paper piecing”. If paper piecing is mentioned in this post it only ever refers to foundation paper piecing.
In traditional foundation paper piecing you stitch on the sold lines on the pattern pieces. You can follow the techniques shown in this tutorial to do the traditional method, you would just skip making the freezer paper templates and stitch through your paper pattern.
How to Make the Block
- Tolerance Levels: you need to decide what is an acceptable tolerance level for “mistakes”. For example if your blocks are consistently 6¼” instead of 6.5″ are you ok with this. Or if your seams matching are less than an eight of an inch “off” are you ok with this. There’s no hard or fast rule and it’s different for everyone, so remember it’s your quilt so make your decision for you.
- Press your seams at each step. Click here for a great article on how to press your seams for patchwork.
- You can iron and starch your fabric prior to cutting. I also starch when pressing bulky seams.
- When pinning, pin away from you so that you don’t move your pieces when pinning.
- Where possible I chain piece all the pieces I can in one step. If you’re unsure of what chain piecing is, click here for a tutorial on how to do it. However, for the purpose of the tutorials I will step you through all the seams individually.
Please note: This is the first time I used this technique and I’m really happy with the results. My seams are a little “off” but it’s something I’m willing to live with and so I’ve shared my warts and all version of the blocks. I hope this encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Remember, patchwork (like everything in life) takes practice, practice, practice!
If you are planning to hand piece this block, or even machine piece it based on the templates, you can find everything you need on the disc that came with the book. Block directions are located on page 161.
Printing Instructions: All of the foundation paper piecing patterns that were provided with the book are mirror images of the completed blocks pictured in the book. This is only an issue for blocks that are not symmetrical, and I will cover ways to deal with that when we make those blocks, however this block does not require you to do anything but print the pattern at 100%. Foundation Paper Piecing patterns can be found in the folder titled “Paper Piecing” in the associated media that comes with the book.
Due to the multitude of printers, desktops and programs on the market I’m unable to provide specific support for your particular setup, however the principles are the same for every program and printer. You need to ensure you’re printing at 100% scale. My printer automatically defaults to 94% when printing the templates and patterns. This is how I change the scale when I print on my Mac and with my Canon printer. The arrow points to where I amend the scale settings by clicking the checkbox for scale and then changing the amount to 100%. If you are unsure how to scale your printing I strongly recommend asking Google (simply type “how do I print to scale for <insert your printer name and desktop (whether mac or windows)>”) or getting a computer savvy friend in to help. Once you’ve worked it out you’ll be unstoppable when it comes to foundation paper piecing!
1. Print out the foundation paper piecing pattern for Block 2 Aimee at a scale of 100%. Using paper scissors roughly cut out the foundation paper piecing pieces leaving approximately 1/8th of an inch of spare paper around the dotted line. Place foundation paper piecing pieces on top of the freezer paper (non shiny side) and cut matching pieces of freezer paper for your pattern pieces. Using either staples or Washi Tape attached the pattern pieces to the freezer paper (non shiny side). See diagram 1 for more detail. Keep the block diagram and instructions for the joining order found at the top of the foundation paper pattern (you’ll need this later on).
Please note: For copyright reasons the numbers have been removed from the template pieces in these diagrams. Your pieces will have the piecing order numbers printed on them.2. Remove the thread and bobbin from your machine. Select a pattern piece and, treating it like you would a piece of fabric, put it under your needle (shiny side down) and stitch around the dark lines of each pattern piece. (As shown in diagram 2.) I set my stitch length to 1.5 for this step as it made it easier to get my needle to finish on the points. Take your time with this step as these lines will be the lines you use to make your block. Repeat this step for all pattern pieces. (If your machine is like my Brother Innovis NQ3500D it might not like stitching without a thread, so be prepared for a lot of pushing the “ok” button on the thread warnings that may appear!)
Please note: As you can see in Diagram 2 I started with my pattern pieces stapled to the freezer paper however I found the staples and feed dogs of my machine didn’t enjoy each others company and so I removed the staples and replaced with Washi Tape instead. (As seen in diagram 3.)
3. Diagram 3 shows the front and back of a pattern piece that has been traced using your sewing machine needle. These perforated lines will become the stitch guidelines for your block construction and will be referred to as “stitch lines” for this tutorial. ***Remove the pattern piece carefully from the freezer paper. Using a pen or pencil (if you use a pen make sure that it does not bleed from the paper as you don’t want to get ink on your fabric or hands when handling the template or that it doesn’t disappear when heat is applied) number your freezer paper pattern as per the pattern numbers. (In diagram 3a, for copyright reasons, the numbers are represented by the #.) Using your ruler and rotary cutter, trim your freezer paper templates leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance around all sides of the pattern. (This is the dotted line on the pattern print out.) For the purpose of this tutorial your freezer paper pattern pieces will now be called templates.
*** Alternatively you can leave the pattern attached and trim your freezer pattern template using the dotted lines to advise where the seam allowance is on the pattern.
Now for the fun part, adding fabric! To help you out I’ve worked out the sizes you’ll need to cut each fabric piece to cover the pattern sections. Please note, given the nature of paper piecing section shapes and the limits on what shapes can be cut with a ruler these shapes produce fabric wastage. You may be better served using fabric scraps that fit, however for those of you new to the process sacrificing some fabric until you get the hang of it is not a big deal. Cut the following fabric pieces:
Fabric 1 (Dark Blue)
Pattern Pieces: A1, A3, B1, B3 = 2″ x 3″
Pattern Pieces: E1, E6, F1, F6 = 1.5″ x 2″
Fabric 2 (Light Blue)
Pattern Pieces: A2, A4, B2, B4 = 2″ x 3″
Pattern Pieces: C1, D1 = 3″ x 4″
Pattern Pieces: C3, C4, D3, D4 = 1.5″ x 2″
Pattern Pieces: E2, E5, F2, F5 = 1.5″ x 2″
Pattern Pieces: E4, F4 = 3″ x 4″
Fabric 3 (Red)
Pattern Pieces: C2, D2 = 2″ x 4″
Pattern Pieces: E3, F3 = 4″ x 4″
For rectangle pieces please ensure you line up the side of the fabric with the seam allowance that will ensure your fabric covers the relevant section. See step 6 for more information.
Tip: If you’re like me and get easily confused looking at the pattern pieces you may find value in using colouring pencils to mark the corresponding fabric colour on both the pattern pieces and the block diagram found at the top of the foundation paper pattern. Again, make sure that whatever you use to add colour to your templates doesn’t bleed on to your hands or fabric.
Please note: Given the nature of foundation paper piecing I will be showing you the technique using one section of the pattern and then you will apply that technique to making the remaining sections before we join them together to make the block.
4. Each pattern piece has a letter (for the pattern section) and a number (for the order you add fabric). Pick a section to begin with. (At this point it doesn’t matter which section you start with as we will make all the individual sections before we move on to joining them together to complete the block.)
You will need to start with the fabric that corresponds to section 1 of your template. With foundation paper piecing you work in numerical order to stitch each section. You only stitch the stitch lines, not the seam allowance. When making the sections of the blocks you do not stitch around the block stitch line (this happens when you join sections) you only stitch the lines to join each fabric to the previous fabric.
This is where you have to have your wits about you and it’s the step that I always have to pause and think about whenever I do foundation paper piecing. The template is applied to the wrong side of the fabric. (See diagram 4) This is where the beauty of using freezer paper comes in. You can apply heat to the template and attach it to the piece of fabric. (This is also why we made the template with the shiny side on the back.) Do not iron the shiny side of the freezer paper – it’s wax and will leave residue on your iron. This is crucial – ensure there is at least 1/4″ of fabric extending past the stitch line and seam allowance on all sides of the sections shape. (See diagram 4)
Tip: If you want to make double sure that your fabric is giving you enough room for your seam allowance hold your fabric and template up to a light source so you can see where the edges of the fabric are in relation to the stitch lines.
5. Using the perforated line caused by your machine needle when making the templates fold back the template along the seam line (where you’ll stitch with your threaded machine) and trim the fabric to leave a 1/4″ seam. Diagram 5 shows how you fold the paper back, line up the quarter inch mark on your ruler (shown by the black line) and then trim.
Please note: If you are using the tradition (non freezer paper method) of paper piecing this block the technique shown in Step 5 works exactly the same and makes lining up fabrics so much easier. You would do exactly the same process (fold the paper along the stitch line and then trim your 1/4″ seam allowance). 6. This is why we fold back and trim – line up the next sections fabric, right sides together with the first sections fabric, against the trimmed seam line. Diagram 6 shows the wrong side (shiny side of the freezer paper) of the template and the fabric positioned right sides together. Important: You want to ensure that when the new piece of fabric is flipped over to show the right side of the fabric that it covers all stitch lines and seam allowances of it’s section. (This is why using the fabric measurements I provided will help to ensure you get the right amount of coverage.)
For rectangle pieces please ensure you line up the side of the fabric with the seam allowance that will ensure your fabric covers the relevant section.
Tip: If you have appliqué pins you can pop a couple of these pins into the seam allowance to hold the fabrics together while you flip the fabric over and hold the fabric and template up to the light and confirm you have adequate coverage.
7. Carefully move your fabric and template to the sewing machine. For the freezer paper method you want to keep the template flipped back to show the fabric (as shown in diagram 7). You’ll line up the needle on the edge of the template. For all sections of this block you will start from the the seam allowance end of the stitch line (I like to start one stitch length into the seam allowance). You will use your normal stitch length to stitch this seam. Use reverse stitch or tie-off function on your machine to secure the seam end. Stitch along the edge of the freezer paper until you are about one stitch length into the seam allowance. Use reverse stitch or tie-off function on your machine to secure the seam end.
Please note: If you are using the traditional foundation paper piecing method, you would not flip the paper back to reveal the fabric you would leave it unfolded and stitch through that paper and fabric on the stitch line. You would also set your stitch length to 1.5 to make the stitches as short as possible so they perforate the paper and aid in it’s removal later on. (This is the other beauty of the freezer paper method, you can stitch a normal stitch length which means if you have to unpick the stitches are easier to see, etc.)
8. Once you have joined the two fabrics together you remove it from the machine, flip the fabric over and press the seam from the right side of the fabric. Be careful not to iron the shiny side of the freezer paper.
Please note: If you are using copy paper or velum to do this you may want to skip pressing your seams and either use a seam roller or just hold your fabrics in place as you do the next step. This is another reason why I like the freezer paper method as when I press my seam the freezer paper will adhere to the fabric and stop it from shifting as I apply more fabrics which means greater accuracy and less chance of puckering.
9. Once pressed you fold back the next sections stitch line (as per diagram 9) and trim the 1/4″ seam line (as shown by the dark line in diagram 9a).
10. Add the next fabric, right sides together, with the previous fabric (as per diagram 10 which shows the wrong side of the template). Pay careful attention if using a rectangle piece of fabric to ensure it covers the entire section when stitched and pressed. Diagram 10a shows the fabrics from the side that you will see when stitching together. Stitch fabrics together as per step 7.11. Press fabrics as step 8. Fold template back and trim 1/4″ seam line. Diagram 11a shows how you would line up your quarter inch ruler mark and trim fabrics.
12. Add next fabric as per step step 7. Repeat the process until you have added all fabric required for the pattern section. Diagram 12 shows the back of a completed section piece. Using your ruler and rotary cutter trim 1/4″ seam allowance around the section. Diagram 12a shows what a trimmed section will look like from the right side of the fabric.
Tip: Some people run a stitch line around the outside line of the section. I don’t do this (because I’m lazy) as these will form the seam lines when joining the section together so I find the step redundant. If you feel more comfortable having the pieces stitched down then do it. Be careful when joining your sections however as these stitch lines may be visible if you do not stitch exactly over them (another reason I don’t do it, I’m not that accurate!). This is another area where the freezer paper shines (pardon the pun) because your fabrics are now pressed to the freezer paper and they’re secure until you remove the freezer paper.
Making the Sections
Continue to follow the above steps to make all sections of the block required. If you are feeling confident you can batch process (which is a similar way of saying ‘chain piece‘ however as you have to remove each piece from the machine before you can start the next one it’s not technically chain piecing) each addition of fabric to a section.
13. Once you’ve made and trimmed your section lay them out in the block formation (as shown in diagram 13).
Joining the Sections
If you’ve used the freezer paper method you have 2 ways of joining the sections.
- You can remove the freezer paper (which means you can use it to make another block) and join with a quarter inch seam as per a normal patchwork block, or
- You can use it as per the traditional method of foundation paper piecing and use the freezer paper template as you stitching guide for your seams.
I made my Fat Quarter Shop version of the block by removing the freezer paper and using my quarter inch foot. This was great because it was less bulky and I didn’t have to change my stitch length, tear the papers to remove them and it meant I had a template ready to go when I made my second block. However, it meant that my middle seam (the pinwheel) was a little “off” as I didn’t have the stitch guide. I decided I could live with that and didn’t unpick and try again. (The beauty of having the flu, you tend to care less about accuracy!)
However, I made my red version of the block by leaving the papers on there. It worked a treat for the middle (pinwheel) seam, but it was a pain in the butt for the outer seams and I ended up removing it. How you do it is totally up to you and your personal preference.
Joining the sections is the same as any other patchwork – right sides together, 1/4″ seam and you stitch all the way from one edge of the section to the other.
14. Join section 1 to section 2.
15. Join section 3 to section 1+2. Join section 4 to section 1+2.16. Join section 5 to the block. Join section 6 to the block. Woohoo, that’s Aimee done!
I removed all papers from my block. If you use the traditional paper piecing method you can either leave them in or take them out now. Either way, before you quilt the quilt top you’ll need to have removed the papers.
Thoughts on the Block: As previously stated paper piecing isn’t my wheelhouse. I’m much more accurate when piecing and I’m more accurate when using the traditional foundation paper piecing method. With that said, the positives of freezer paper piecing totally outweigh the slight inaccuracies that I had this time around. Given this was the first time I’d ever done it (and I was doing it for a tutorial while sick) I’m really happy with the outcome. I admit that I unpicked the last 4 seams of my red version and did them each about twice to try and get them a little more accurate. Overall I’m really happy with both blocks (especially given I didn’t have to rip papers out – I really hate ripping papers out) and think this will be a method I try again and try to perfect. I’d love to know how you found it if you give it a go!
The Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sew-along Blogger Line up for Month 2
The Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt Sew-along Official Bloggers will be posting their tips, tricks and tutorials for the blocks as they are released. You’ll be able to find them at the following links.
05/11/2015: Cat @ Cat + Vee
06/11/2015: Kirsty @ Bonjour Quilts
11/11/2015: Nadra @ Ellis and Higgs
18/11/2015: Jemima @ Tied with a Ribbon
20/11/2015: Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins
25/11/2015: Cassie @ Cassandra Madge
Blog posts will be published as per the timezone of the blogger. Why not subscribe to their blogs via their mailing list or a blog reader such as Bloglovin’ so you don’t miss a post!
The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W; RRP $28.99 – Click here to purchase.
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