Quilting

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

June 10, 2019

This month’s block teaches the foundation paper piecing technique.

Before we dive into the details, you might be wondering, what is foundation paper piecing anyway?

Foundation Paper Piecing (FPP), is a technique for constructing blocks that utilizes a printed diagram of the pattern in the desired scale. Fabrics are stitched to the paper diagram in numbered order. When all the fabrics are stitched together, the paper (foundation) can be removed. This method is especially helpful for achieving precise points and angles that aren’t as accessible through traditional methods.

So, for this month’s block our quilt blogger, Lara, has created a simple FPP design to teach you this addictive technique.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

We’re excited have Lara Whiting contributing our block of the month series. Lara is going to be teaching you how to make 9 different quilting blocks, which you can use in any combination to make a 9-block quilt. This month’s block is the second in the series, and teaches the FPP technique. 


I’ll admit, the first time I tried to wrap my head around this technique, I was thoroughly confused. After a few rounds of trial and error though, I found my groove and will continue to use this method to my advantage.

The pattern is a 6.5” square, which you’ll make 4 exact replicas of. As a solo 6.5” block it’s not very exciting, but when we make four and arrange them in the right manner, we get a radiating medallion style block. Ready?

Omnigrid® supplies:

Dritz® supplies:

Other supplies:

  • This PDF pattern
  • 4-8 sheets computer paper or Foundation paper (looks and feels like newsprint)
  • Colored pencils that correlate to your fabric selection
  • Sewing machine with a fine point needle (size 70 OR 75)
  • 50wt cotton thread

Fabric requirements:

  • Gold: Two 4” squares, each cut in half diagonally.
    • *OR: Four triangle scraps leftover from flying geese block in previous month.*
  • Coral: 3.5” x WOF strip
  • Medium blue: 5.25” x WOF strip

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Prepare your pattern pieces:

Print 4 copies of the 6.5” square pattern piece. Make sure your printer is set to 100% so that it prints at exactly 6.5”. If not, your quilt block will not be 12.5”. You may want to print a few extras for any errors. You can use regular copy paper, or print the pattern on lightweight newsprint (such as Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper).

Trim each 6.5” block to size and remove excess paper from around edges. You should have four pieces that look like this.

At this point I also like to lightly color each section of the block. Since the section numbered 1 will be medium blue, I add a little swipe of blue there to help orient me. Sections 2 and 3 will be coral, so a quick swipe of something orange-ish to define that area, and then a bit of gold on section 4. This tactic is especially helpful when you get into the more intricate paper piecing patterns where the numbers are into double digits.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Prepare your fabrics:

These fabric measurements are slightly larger than the numbered sections on the block that they will cover. When paper piecing, you want your fabric to extend beyond the lines by at least ¼”. Taking this precaution ensures you have a seam allowance to hold block together when the paper is removed. We will trim excess fabric away during the process to lighten the load, but I like to start with a little bit more for wiggle room.

  • Medium blue: 4 pcs: 5.25” x 7.75” rectangles
  • Coral: 8 pcs: 3.5” x 6.5” rectangles.
  • Gold: 4 pcs: 2, 4” squares cut in half

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Choose one 6.5” paper pattern, set the rest aside. On the backside of paper without the writing, lightly apply some glue within the lines define section 1. Lay wrong side of a medium blue fabric rectangle over this area. The glue will temporarily hold your fabric in place while we maneuver the duo.

The wrong side of your fabric should be touching glue/paper. Make sure that the fabric completely covers all of section one, and extends beyond the perimeter at least ¼’’. You could also hold this duo up to a light source to confirm the adequate coverage.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Now that the first fabric is set to cover section 1, we’re going to prepare for adding the coral piece that will cover section 2. To help me line up placement for second fabric, I start by defining the stitch line that will join these two fabrics. Lay your ruler directly on the line separating section 1 and 2. The right side of ruler should be precisely on this line.

With one hand; hold the ruler in place along the stitch line, and with the other hand fold paper up so it’s perpendicular with the table. Run your finger up and down the edge of ruler to create a crease.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Lift ruler, fold section 2 back so it partially covers section 1.

Now you can see the edge of medium blue fabric. Place ruler back down on this paper/fabric sandwich and trim blue fabric to ¼’’. This Omnigrip ruler with the frosted yellow highlighted edge helps me quickly cut fabric to ¼’’ seam allowance.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Place fabric 1 and folded paper over right side of coral piece.

When section 2 is folded back over section 1, you can see how the coral fabric piece will cover this area. Make sure that the ends of coral fabric extend beyond the lines marking borders of this section.

Almost ready to sew!

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Carefully flip paper section 2 back open so the paper is flat. Use one flat flower head pin to carefully hold the two fabric pieces in place. You’ll pin through the paper and both layers of fabric.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

With paper on top, put your paper/fabric/fabric combo under the needle, right at the beginning of stitch line. Your needle should penetrate the paper on line 1, as indicated by the arrow in the image above.

Before stitching, do a quick check to ensure fabric is still in the correct place and that you have ¼” of both fabrics to the right of the current stitch line.

Begin stitching slowly along line 1. Use backstitch/reverse function, to secure stitching but do not stitch all the way back into section 4.

Once you’ve backstitched, stitch forward all the way to end of line, stopping at 2. Since this is the outside of block, you can actually extend your stitches into ¼’’ seam allowance on edge. This just adds a bit of security down the road.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Your work in progress should look like this.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

When the stitch line between 1 and 2 is complete, take your block to your pressing area.

With numbered side of paper pattern facing down, flip coral away from blue fabric so it covers section 2. Gently press seam with iron so you have two pieces of fabric covering their designated sections.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Repeat this same process to add coral fabric to cover section 3.

Above is sections 1, 2, and 3 with the fabric stitched and fully covering their respective sections.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Now fold back section 4, right on the future stitch line. Trim ¼” away from the fold line and establish the seam allowance.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

The last seam for this quadrant of the block will be to add the gold. Keep using the same methods to define stitch line and establish seam allowance. Stitch directly on the line separating section 4 from sections 1-3.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

When all the fabrics are stitched to their corresponding section, flip block so paper side is facing up. Align the edge of your ruler with edge of paper and trim away excess fabric. Repeat on all four sides of block so fabric and block are 6.5” square.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Continue repeating these steps until you have four identical 6.5” squares.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Time to tear paper! For simple blocks like this, I like to remove paper before stitching finished blocks together. Gently rip paper away from seams, taking extra care not to tear the thread. Depending on how much glue you used, the paper may stick to section 1.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

Stitch blocks together in pairs, making sure the gold points in corners align with one another.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

When you have pairs stitched to each other, make your final seam down the middle to complete the block.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Foundation Paper Piecing

So, there you have it! It’s a beauty, don’t you think?

A simple foundation paper pieced pattern can create a stunning quilt block. I know this method of quilting can certainly be fussy at times. However, once you get the basics down, it opens up a world of possibilities. I love the way it allows me to make precise lines, and different shapes that are hard to create with basic patchwork techniques.

Carolina Sunset Block of the Month: Modern Flying Geese

As a refresher, here are the 9 blocks that I’ll be showing you how to make. The first two are now complete (modern flying geese in the top left corner, and now this one, to its right: a radiating medallion style block made with the FPP technique). Check out each block and also this post about choosing fabric colors from nature.

I can’t wait to see all the different combinations of colors everyone chooses, and the progress you make each month! If you’re quilting along, remember to share progress on social media with #carolinasunsetbom – we’re having a lot of fun on Instagram and we’d love for you to join us!

Lara Whiting is a passionate quilter whose designs are inspired by a fusion of influences that include traditional quilting, architecture and the natural world.  When she’s not quilting, you can find her training for half marathons, tending her garden or hanging out with her rescue dogs. She lives in upstate South Carolina.