Skill Builders Series – Foundation Piecing

22 10 2012

Woot! Another Skill Builder’s Post from me, finally! This one is all about foundation piecing, also known as paper-piecing, but not the English sort. ūüôā

Sandi has done a Skill Builder’s / Test Your Skills Sampler post over at Piecemeal Quilts, focusing on the spiral block. I’ll be using the Crossed Canoes block today. Sandi did a lovely mini-quilt using this block (photo used with permission):

Mini Kayaks

I’ve created a PDF of the foundation templates, available for download. When printing your PDF, please be sure to select ‘Actual Size’. Also be sure to download the PDF, instead of printing from Google Docs, and print from your PDF reading program. I personally use Adobe Acrobat Professional. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free download, and I know there are other free programs out there.


I also advise measuring your templates, to guarantee that they’ve come out at the right size. This particular block will finish at 9″ inches, so each quadrant should be at 5″ with their seam allowances. When cutting these apart, I do not cut right at the seam allowance. I just do a rough trim around the edges.


I prefer to sew right through the foundation paper, versus using freezer paper like Sandi does. There’s quite a few products available for this. I’ve personally used Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper and Martingale’s Papers for Foundation Piecing. I’ve not noticed an advantage between either of them, other than price point. I can typically find the Martingale’s Papers for Foundation Piecing at a much cheaper price, particularly on Amazon.

I create most of my foundation piecing templates all through EQ7, because it’s a handy program and I lurv it to death. Now, a word on creating foundation piecing templates in this program… Actually, more of an illustration:


I like to ensure that I have the options ‘Mirror’ and ‘Grayscale’ are selected. ‘Mirror’ is critical for blocks that aren’t symmetrical. I like ‘Grayscale’ for differentiating which fabrics go where.

I opted to use only three fabrics, since I plan on using the block in my own version of the Test Your Skills Sampler:


1. I started by cutting strips from each fabric. In this instance, I cut a 4″ by width of fabric strip of the background solid, and 3″ by width of fabric strips of the yellow and dark teal fabrics.¬† I decided on these widths by laying my foundation pattern over my fabric:


2. Start by cutting off an appropriate sized chunk of fabric to cover the inner corner of a quadrant. I like to hold the foundation paper and fabric up to the light to confirm that I’m covering the complete area, including seam allowance. The right side of the fabric should be facing away from you. In the picture below, the right side of the fabric is toward the ceiling. Now, you can actually do this for two quadrants at a time, since we’re doing a symmetrical block. That is, of course, assuming you’re using the same number of fabrics I am.


3. Once the first piece of fabric is in place, align your second piece, to cover your next patch. In this case, we’re looking to cover the center, the long part of the ‘canoe’. Note that the two fabrics are facing each other. When paper piecing, you’re essentially working in reverse, so no worries!


4. Now sew along the line indicated the seam between the corner triangle and the long part of the canoe:


5. Once you’ve done that, flip the paper over, so it’s on the bottom, and iron the canoe open. I will admit that you do not have to iron this. Some folks are content to finger press this. I don’t like the puffiness that can result, so I dry iron a lot when I’m paper-piecing.

6. Fold back your corner, and trim to a 1/4″ seam allowance. Ignore that the teal fabric is magically bigger… I took this photo belatedly, when I was making the other half of the block.


7. Now, you’ll take your background fabric and line it up with the seam line for one side of the canoe, ensuring that you’re leaving adequate seam allowance.

8. Sew along the line again. Here, you’ll want to trim back to a normal seam allowance, since the canoe narrows toward the corner.

9. Fold your paper back. You’ll have to tear the paper along the seam you’ve already sewn.

10. Trim to your 1/4″. If you’re working on a very small scale, you can reduce the seam allowance, to reduce bulk. The paper will stabilize that seam allowance while you’re working.


11. Once it’s trimmed, press fabrics open. Then repeat steps 7 through 10 for the other side of the canoe, and you should have something like this:


You’ll notice that the paper actually extends past the fabric. Again, this is because I don’t cut the paper down to exactly the seam allowances. Again, if you’re making a symmetrical block, you’ll actually have two units like this.

12. Flip to your paper side, and trim down to a 5″ square, following the printing on the paper. You’ll now have a very neat half a canoe:


Now that you’ve done (at least) the one quadrant, the other half of the block is just as easy! Repeat your piecing instructions for the other half of the block, using the appropriate fabric. Also, refer back to the photo¬† in Step 6. See how the fabric is reversed from the photo in Step 3? I did that to eliminate some of the bulk when putting all four quadrants together.

Once you’ve made all four quadrants, it’s time to remove the foundation paper. I start by folding the paper over, and weakening the paper further by dragging my thumbnail along the fold. Then I tear it, which is made easy as the needle essentially perforated the paper. Once you’ve done both sides of the canoe, you can simply lift the middle section of paper out.


Once it’s all of your paper is removed, it’s time for the final step of putting it all together. I pressed the seams to one side in order to nest them together for more accuracy…

There you have it. Paper-piecing and crossed canoes as simple as I could make it! Sorry that I’m a day late – I had photos done for this earlier, but I was totally wiped after work yesterday. I ended up pulling dozens of boxes out of the backroom and restocking a ton of stuff. Very, very sore after that.

Still, done and done. Time to get to sewing more of the Test Your Skills Sampler!




2 responses

23 10 2012
TYSS: Crossed Canoes « Piecemeal Quilts

[…] four separate pieces that are joined together. Jeanne of Grey Cat Quilts used this block in her Skill Builder Foundation Piecing post, so you could follow along on this post if you’d like. Her post demonstrates the more common […]

23 10 2012

You did a great job on this!

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