Saturday, June 26, 2010

Black & White - Foundation Paper Piecing

I love the preciseness you get with foundation paper piecing. This is the Indiana star from Carol Doak's book about the 50 stars of the 50 states. In the book the star points are done in blues & pinks on a black background and the outer background is a floral print.
Lately I've been playing with using only 2 colors in quilts as opposed to the rainbow I typically use. I am enchanted by this black & white rendition of the Indiana star. It's difficult to see in the photo, but the white star points appear to be floating in the black background. The white fabric and black fabric are tone on tone. At Cotton Fields Lori had so many black & white print fabrics to choose from, it took me a while to make the decision to use this one for the outside pieces and I'm pleased with the selection.
This will be a lap-size quilt with either 9 or 12 blocks - I'm going to play that part by ear. It will be named "Night & Day".
I am very particular in the way I approach foundation paper piecing. I cut the fabric pieces for one block and audition it to make sure I like it because it takes 1.5 - 2.0 hours to make a block like the one in this photo, so even a small quilt is going to have a lot of time in it. This is the perfect time to find the potential quirks of particular blocks. This block happened to go together very nicely. The fabric cutting measurements given in the book for each piece are accurate. It's best to make sure of this on one block rather than cutting the fabric for 12 or more before finding out that one piece would work much better if it were slightly larger. Or, you could find a way to minimize fabric waste by altering the cutting measurements downward for a particular piece.
On the Southern Rhapsody quilt we just finished, I discovered that one of the large triangle pieces would have worked much better had it been a little larger. I also discovered that taking the time to make a tiny dot on the reverse side of the pattern helped tremendously with fabric placement when working with those tiny slivers of fabric.
After that is done I make a "kit" for each block. The kit contains the patterns and all the pre-cut fabrics for that block. I also take the time to use a straight edge to pre-fold the patterns, and arrange the fabrics out in the order they will be used.
I know this is a lot of "pre-work" but it's organization-type work that I can do while watching TV. On the back end, though, when I'm ready I just grab a kit and sit down at the sewing machine and sew. Because foundation paper piecing requires that the pieces be sewn in a specific order, I find that the pre-work/organization helps to avoid mistakes later.
I set my machine stitch length to 1.2-1.3 and keep my fingeres crossed that no seams have to be ripped out.
The star centers have a tendency to be very thick, so I press these seams open - even then, they are very thick.
Removing the foundation paper once the quilt is assembled can be a bit tendious, but I don't strip a gear if every single little tiny piece of paper is not removed. I remove the big chunks, use tweezers to remove as much as possible, then know that only the machine quilter and myself will know there may be some little bits of paper in that quilt sandwich. It's a good in-front-of-the-TV type of task.
I actually have two lap-size foundation paper piecing projects going - this one, and one that will look like sunbursts. Tomorrow I will sew the first block for it, then assemble the kits. Will try to get a photo posted as soon as possible. And will keep you posted on how this project progresses.


  1. love the block, paper piecing for me is sooo difficult but love the results.

  2. I love your block. I have a love/hate relationship with paper piecing. I do a lot of it, because I love the accuracy and the intricate blocks that can be done with it. I hate removing the paper. But, it is always worth the effort.

  3. Looks terrific. I agree with the prep work being a lot--kind of like painting! My only attempt at paper piecing is still sitting in a box, unfinished :(