Saturday, April 30, 2011

Foundation piecing tips

I finished piecing Hokule'a this afternoon.  Here it is on the background fabric.  It is 24" x 24".  Doesn't it look like it is out there in the Milky Way somewhere? I have decided on a fabric for the center, but haven't cut it yet. I really learned a lot about paper piecing with this one, so I would like to share some tips with you.  This is not a tutorial, just some things I thought I would pass on.
I really enjoy working with foundation piecing, but I find some of it a bit difficult.  I have found a few things that really help me make this very fun.  Finding foundation pieceing patterns is pretty easy.  Unfortunately, they don't all come in the sizes I want.  That was true for this piece.  I had some general ideas about how many sections I needed for each point, so I started sketching.  Once I drew out the sections, I remembered to add a 1/4 inch seam allowance all around the perimeter.  That is very important.
The hardest part for me is putting on the first two pieces.  I have no easy tips about how to do that.  Some people pin the first piece, some don't.  The most important thing is to remember to put that first piece, right side out, on the non-lined side of the foundation.  The second piece needs to be right side toward the first piece.  See my tips below for how I measure and cut the fabrics to fill the spaces. Beyond that, I have nothing magical to offer. 
The first thing I figured out was to pre-fold the foundation pattern along all the lines.  I was trying to fold and cut after I made each seam, but it was a pain.  This is an extra step, but I have come to learn that creating something using foundation piecing takes time and I don't mind this extra step.  I find that it has saved me time in the long run.

Another important thing to remember is to finger press or iron each piece into place as you go.  This prevents problems such as the wrong piece of fabric being cut or sewn into the wrong place.

This is the thing I discovered that has helped me the most in getting my pieces lined up correctly.  I am about to add piece #7 on this unit.  I have folded back the paper along the line for #7 and set my ruler 1/4" away.  Then I cut all the extra fabric away.  When you are getting ready to cut, make sure you are not cutting any of the fabric covering the areas they are supposed to be covering.

That leaves me a very lovely 1/4" guideline to place my next piece of fabric.

Turn the piece back over and line up the next piece, in this case #7, with the nice cut you just made.  Make sure the piece will cover the area it needs to cover.  This brings me to measuring the pieces.  I always cut my pieces 1" longer than the longest measurement for the shape, and 1" wider that the widest part of the shape. For the side pieces, be sure and add the seam allowance into the equation. So far, this has worked for me.

Another thing I had to learn the hard way was where to start and end my stitches.  I thought I needed to sew 5 or 6 stitches past the line, but that just made the paper really hard to remove.  Now I start and end my sewing 1 or 2 stitches before and after the line.  I have also played around with stitch length.  I have finally settled on #1 on my Bernina.

I hope these little tips make some sense to you.  Following these guidelines, I was able to put together this mariner's compass without ripping out more than two seams, and those happened at the beginning of the process.  I believe each seam ripped out is a learning experience.  It was certainly true in this case.
Thanks for stopping by.  I would love to hear from you about your experience or interesting in foundation piecing.
Joyful quilting, everyone.


Impera_Magna said...

I love your Milky Way star block... gorgeous! Thanks for the tips about foundation piecing... I've not tried that yet but it looks interesting.

Quilter in the Gap said...

I really enjoy doing paper piecing. If you plan on doing any more consider getting a "add-a-quarter" ruler. It is well worth the few dollars!

Jann Gougeon said...

Wonderful, Miki!!! The piece above is similar to a painting I was working on and am just getting back to . . symmetry & circle . . love it!

Willa said...

Absolutely beautiful! I took a course on foundation piecing and the "add a quarter" ruler is great! I will bring mine this summer.

susan said...

That block is fantastic! I've never foundation pieced so great to get some tips. Thanks.

Rachaeldaisy said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for taking the time to show us these great tips. I've foundationed pieced but am still a beginner. I have a knack of sewing on the wrong lines, Lol!
Your block is stunning!!