It’s so exciting to be starting the Modern Medallion Quilt-a-Long! I hope you’re got all your fabrics picked and a can-do attitude in your pocket.

I’m not going to lie, this week is going to test your skills. If you’re like me this will be your first waltz with curves. I’m here to tell you now, you can do it! Seriously, if I can do it – you can too!

But before we get on to that lets cover off what you’re going to be doing this week. The Medallion (center panel) is made up of 4 blocks – each with two curves and some pointy triangles.

I thought I would start this week by sharing some of the tips and tricks that I used while constructing the medallion.

Things to have on hand:

  • Scraps bucket – the 5″ squares for the foundation piecing are really generous (which is really handy) so it means that there’s going to be a lot of useable scraps generated. You can either use these in this quilt or save them for another project (or the backing piece?). As I cut the pieces down to size I just throw the off cuts into the scrap bin and then when the bins full or at the end of the project I sort them into my colour scrap boxes.
  • A new rotary cutter blade – your blade is going to run through fabric and paper so it’s handy to have a new blade on hand when you’ve finished the foundation piecing – same goes for a machine needle.
  • A couple of versions of your free hand foundation pattern – if you’re like me you’ll stuff up at least one set of the foundation piecing.
  • Your trusty unpicker – it took me 5 goes to get my first curve in properly. I unpicked that sucker and re-sewed it 4 times and on the 5th go I was ready to quit when it worked like a charm.

Things to keep reminding yourself while working on your blocks:

  • Speed Kills – if your machine has a variable speed control now is the time to use it. Especially when it comes to doing the curved pieces.
  • Embrace the wonk – this one was especially hard for me, but I kind of got there in the end.
  • You’re your own worst critic – no one else can see that the pattern doesn’t line up the way you meant it to, or the fabric is in upside down, or that you meant it to go the other way. Just relax and enjoy the process. (And if you learn how to do that, teach me!)

And most importantly you need to have a big dose of self belief. (And that’s a life rule, not just a Modern Medallion one!)

you-are-supposed-to-make-mistakesImage source: God is Heart

Now, lets get down to business. The Modern Medallion pattern suggests using quilters muslin for the foundation piecing.  I went to Spotlight to try and get some when I got my fabrics, but alas they were out and so in the end I just used photocopy paper. The only time this was an issue was when it came time to pick all the papers out… it was at this point that I was silently kicking myself for not taking Crystal up on her offer of some muslin.

It’s not a big deal what method you use, you just have to go with what you’re comfortable with.

I ended up taping a couple of sheets of A4 together and then used a compass, ruler, pencil and eraser to draw the archs and the triangle on. (Make sure you draw a 12″ square on your paper first so you know your archs will fit for the block space.) I then handed my masterpiece over to HUBBY sent him to Officeworks to get it photocopied on to A2 paper. While he was at Officeworks I set about cutting up my fabrics.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]Here’s a bit of a tip – take the time to think about the look you want to achieve with your New York Beauty Contest. I didn’t really think about it and in the end I ended up with a set of 4 blocks that are pretty similar and so the wonk factor is only slight. I wish I’d drawn 4 different templates and really made the wonk pronounced. [/pullquote]

A great example of this is the version that Sylvia, @creative_chicky, has done. You can see it on her Instgram feed: here.

What ever design you settle on you’re going to have to have a working understanding of foundation piecing to get this block completed. If you’re not too familiar with it there’s heaps of great video tutorials on YouTube and there’s some classes on Craftsy (might be a little more than you’re looking for right now, but good to know for later).

Here’s a couple of tips that I have found handy for foundation piecing on copy paper:

  • Shorten your stitch length – it works the same way the machine that used to make old school postage stamps did (ok, did I just lose some of you?) – the holes made by your needle act as a perforation and make tearing away the paper easier. (It also makes unpicking a bit of a crappy task… but hey, what can you do?)
  • Draw in your seam allowance – I use a dotted line to draw in seam allowances. I find this easy for checking to make sure my fabric will provide enough coverage. I use a dotted line so I don’t confuse it with my sewing line.
  • Use your rule to make a crease mark – this was a trick I found on the internet back when I first started to dabble in foundation piecing and it’s been such a handy one to have. (I just wish I could remember where I found it.) This tip is so handy that I’ve written a tutorial to show you what I mean.

I really love foundation piecing because it appeals to the almost anal need in me for perfection. I had a lot of fun free handing my pattern and I kind of wished I’d thought about it a bit more, but I’m really chuffed with how it’s turned out. I’m sure this will be a technique I try again in the future.

For now, here’s the tutorial. Let me know if you’d like me to clarify anything.


1. Start with your foundation piecing pattern and a ruler. With the paper right side (so the side that your pattern is drawn on) facing up line up the quarter inch mark on the ruler along the line of the stitching you’re going to do. (Ignore the dotted lines, I used those to make sure I had enough fabric to cover the blocks that required the print fabric.)

So in this example I’m doing the first point and I’ve lined up the ruler against the first line of stitching and worked out where I want the edge of me seam allowance to come to (it will be the edge of the ruler).


2. Pick up the edge (so in this case it’s to the left of the ruler) and fold it back over the edge of the ruler. Run you finger (or finger nail if you have them) along the edge of the ruler. You want to mark the line into the paper. You don’t need a lot of pressure to do this, you just need to use enough so you can see the mark when you fold the paper back.


When you remove the ruler, fold the paper out and turn it over you should have a mark like this on the paper. This will become your guide for fabric placement.


4. Take the first 2 pieces you’re going to use in your block. For me this was a background piece (low volume in the pattern) and a solid. Place them right sides together and then line their edges up with the score mark you made with the ruler.

Important: Check that the top and bottom edge of your fabric pieces extend past the top and bottom arch lines. This is where having a 5″ piece comes in handy because it should clear these lines with plenty to spare.  If you pin against the line and fold the fabric back (so the pin acts like the stitches will) and hold it up to the light you should be able to confirm that once stitched down your fabric will cover your piece.

You can pin the fabrics in place if you’re worried they’ll move when you flip the paper to run it through your sewing machine. I usually only pin at the top, although after having a seam move on me I started pinning top and bottom. It really depends on how confident I’m feeling about my sewing skills at the time.


5. Once you’ve got the fabric pinned in place you want to flip the paper and fabric together and put them through your sewing machine.

Important: Make sure you secure your start and finish – this is particularly important with foundation piecing as you’re going to put pressure on the stitching when you come to remove your papers. (You don’t want to pull your stitching apart – I got caught on this one a couple of times myself when I got lazy.)

I also like to run 1 or 2 stitches past the end of the line so that when I come to do my curved join I was sure to catch the seams and stitching properly.


6. With your seam stitched (and secure) remove it from your sewing machine and take it to your ironing board. You now iron the top piece of fabric over and expose the right side. This is exactly the same as you would do when you piece regular patchwork.


7. Once you’ve ironed your seam take your paper and fabric back to your cutting mat. Now you just repeat the steps 1 and 2. Line up your quarter inch mark with the stitch line, fold the paper and score the paper.

This time you’re going to leave the paper folded and use it as a cutting guide.


8. Line up the edge of your ruler with the fold in the paper. Be careful to ensure the edge of your ruler does not lie on the paper (you don’t want to slice your template off!). Using your rotary cutter trim the fabric.


Fold the paper back out and flip it. You’re edge should look like this – nice and clean.


9. Grab your next bit of fabric and line it up (right sides together) with the seam edge. Ensure that it extends out past the top and bottom arch (I’ve marked the arch in with 2 dots on this image to show how much room there is).

Now do steps 5 – 8 again and continue all the way through your arch. Bob your uncle!

So, think you can do it? Trust me – it’s easy – you just have to take your time, remember speed kills (or causes you to have to unpick!) and it’s all about embracing the wonk!

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  1. Thanks for visiting…and yes, great tutorial. So need to try out some of those tips. Saw this Medallion the other day. It is really beautiful and I was tempted for a moment, but…I have a stack of things I need to finish, so I will follow along as an observer.

    • I know that feeling all too well. I’m drowning in projects but my “must sew” list is just getting bigger… oh what a delightful problem to have 😉 🙂

  2. What a Great Tutorial on paper piecing and very informative. Lots of wonderful tips. One of my tips is: when flipping the paper back use a post card (even a magazine tear-out). Gives a crisp line! FYI: happily found you through Karin and Anything Goes Monday!

    • Oh great tip Helen! Thanks so much for sharing (and taking the time to read and comment really appreciate it!). Hope you’re having a great day!

  3. Um dumb question number one. If I’m using the muslin do I still do a paper template? Embarrassed look here.

    • Hi Robyn – not a dumb question at all! No need to do a paper template your muslin is the paper. If you wanted you could draw up your pattern on some paper lay it under the muslin and then trace the design on to your muslin if you’re worried about making an error with the template. 🙂

    • I just watched those Quilty vids and read your post and MIND BLOWN! I never understood paper piecing and what the heck it was, now I’m so excited to try it!

      • That’s awesome Lisa. It’s a really great technique to have in your bag of tricks as it can help you make some pretty amazing blocks. Would love to know how you go trying it out. 🙂