Night and Day – Paper Pieced

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Here’s another fabulous, paper-pieced block from Musical Starling.  Thanks, girlfriend!


**Disclaimer:  I apologize for the quality of the following photos.  The lighting in my sewing room is NOT great and I’m still learning how to use this new “big girl” camera.**

I’m back again for another paper piecing lesson!  I hope I haven’t scared you off by showing you Garden Party first, because it’s really not difficult!  It takes a little more thinking I guess, but it’s worth it for the results (when you’re not distracted that is! You’ll see what I mean further down…)

So, we’ll speed up a little this time, but I’ll still try to explain each step.  If I lose you somewhere along the way, don’t hesitate to ask questions!

(ND01) First step, cut apart all of the pieces to your pattern.  In this case, there are eight pieces, four of each.  This pattern in particular from the Yahoo group has one piece from each set that’s off by a smidge.  (ND02)  So, holding it up to the light (or in my case against a daylit window) I traced the new line so all four are now matching (ND03).

Now that you have two *correct* sets of templates, let’s start filling them in!  This part always feels like paint by numbers, I love it!  For this pattern you can ignore the numbers since there are only three pieces and just place your center strip where it needs to be so you have at least 1/4″ of overlap on either side and you are covering your seam allowance at the top and bottom and stick a pin in there.  (ND04) Sometimes I live dangerously and don’t use pins, but for the sake of this tutorial I did.  Then place your larger triangular piece of fabric face down on this strip so it overlaps your seam by at least 1/4″. (ND05)

Please don’t sew while you’re tired, or at least if you’re going to sew tired then have a few drinks.  Then at least you will know what to blame it on when this happens: (ND06).  Take a deep breath, have another drink, pick out that seam, and this time sew it the right way: (ND07).

Once you have your biggest triangles sewn to that center strip, it’s time for the smaller of the two.  (ND08) This is how it will look from the paper side and (ND09) this is how it will look from the fabric side.  So sew those two together, and don’t forget to trim those seams! (ND10)  These pieces go together Much faster when you’re chain piecing, so feel free to form a little assembly line for all eight little triangles like this: (ND11)

Once all eight are done (four of each) you’ll have two pretty little stacks, like so: (ND12).  So take one piece from each stack and sew them together along the longest side.  (ND13)  Ignore my crooked stitches, they are the result of multiple distractions and I got tired of ripping and sewing only to re-rip again so they became design elements.

Don’t forget to rip out the papers in those seams!  (ND14) Now complete for all four sets so you have four pretty two-colour blocks like these (ND15).

Now line up your four little squares so you can see which sides to sew together next (ND16).  Take any two adjacent squares and sew them together, then repeat with the remaining two so you now have two halves as shown (ND17).

Now, the LAST seam!!  Just sew those two halves together, rip out those papers and admire your work!  (ND18)

Well, that is, unless you got distracted by doorbells, telephones, cats, and the loving husband as I did.  Then you end up with seams like this: (ND19).  *sigh*  Oh well, it was going a little too perfect up until that point…

Now, a little overview.  I LOVE this block!  So simple, and if I had to guess it’s much easier to do this way than it will be with tiny templates (I chose this block because a lot of people had issues using the templates).  I will be re-doing this block at some point (simply because I’m re-doing them all in different fabrics) and when I do I will likely remove the papers BEFORE I join the eight triangles in the beginning.

This may seem crazy, but removing those papers first will do two things:
1. It will allow me to press those seams flat.  Every time my poor machine had to go over those adjoining seams it grumbled at me quite loudly.
2. It will allow me to pin all of those intersections so they match up much better, even with distractions!

So, that’s Day & Night!  Not too bad, right?  Even with a sketchy center seam, you still won’t see it from a galloping horse.  Hopefully yours is distraction-free and turns out much better!


Garden Path – Paper Pieced

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Here’s another Paper Piecing tutorial from Musical Starling.  Can’t wait to give this a try!


So, on to our next block, Garden Path.  I know, I’m going a little out of order here, but you have to learn to walk before you can run, right?


Now, be warned.  This block is not for the faint of heart!  It does give you perfect points using this method, but I’m not promising you it will be easy!  There’s also an inset seam in this block (at least there is with my construction method, I couldn’t figure out how to avoid it) so you have been warned!  I don’t mean that you should be afraid, it is not that bad once you get the hang of it, but it was because of this block that I wanted to do another easier block to make sure you got the hang of paper piecing because this one is a little tricky.


So with the warning out of the way, let’s get to it!  First, this pattern is in multiple pieces, so your first step is figuring out where they all go!

GP 01

I laid mine out so my center square pieces were together, then the outer border, then the four outside corners.  16 pieces in all!  This is when it’s really helpful to have your book nearby so you can keep it all straight.  Trim your pieces just outside the 1/4” dashed seam allowance line so they’re easier to handle.  You can trim them to the seam line if you wish, I usually do that toward the end when I’m sewing pieces together.


GP 02 GP 03


Just as we did before, place your fabrics right sides together, wrong side of fabric 1 to the wrong side of your paper, and sew along that first seam line (that separates 1 and 2).


GP 04


Trim your seam allowance and press open, then sew on your next piece.  Fill in all of your pieces as we did before with Gentleman’s Fancy.  I missed a picture in between these two steps, but it works the same.


GP 05 GP 06


Once your two centre pieces have been filled in, put them together so your seams are matching and sew together along the seam line on one of the pieces.  If you’re really good with your 1/4” seams you can remove the paper before doing this, but I prefer to leave them in place so I can follow the line to be sure.


GP 07


I press this seam open, to reduce bulk, but you can press it to a side if you wish.  I usually remove the paper that will be hidden by this seam before I press just so I’m not digging for it later. Don’t forget to trim your piece along your dashed 1/4″ seam line as well.


GP 08


Your next two pieces to complete this center block are just like your normal templates, so cut them to size and add them to the sides.  I find it works to line up the top of your triangle (seen toward the center of the above photo) with that center seam and keep your outside edges together.  Then sew along that outside edge and press open again, removing the bits of paper in the seam.  At this point you can remove all of the paper or you can keep it in place until you are finished, totally a personal preference.  I like to remove it as I’m going.


GP 09


The four outside borders are much the same as the last two triangles, they are just the templates from the book, so sew them with the shortest side centered along one side of the block.  Don’t run off the edge this time, stop where the line stops before you hit the seam allowance.  Why?  Because here come the inset seams!


GP 10 GP 11


Just as you would do mitered borders, fold your fabric in half diagonally and butt those two edges together.  This is much easier to get folded properly if you stopped before your 1/4” seam allowance.  Now sew from where you stopped (if you’re using white thread like me then it’s a little easier to find that point) and sew right to the end.  It’s not that scary, right?  Then when you open it should look like this:


GP 12


How cute is this little block?  I want to pinch its cheeks!  Well… If it had cheeks…

So now we add the outside corners!  For each corner, you will have two pieces that look like this:


GP 13


So you place them together so they look like either of the two examples below (it’s the same positioning, just one has the triangle on top and the other has the angled strip on top.  Six of one and half a dozen of the other as my mother would say).


GP 14 GP 15


Then, tear out the paper from that seam allowance again (I managed to capture a picture this time!) and press that seam open.


GP 16 GP 17


What a cute little corner!  Now we add it to our block using the tip of the triangle to help us center it again.


GP 18


Sew along that outside edge, and repeat for all four corners.  Here’s what mine looked like with two, it actually looks cute with just two, and after all that work I really did debate whether it really needed four corners because they were a LOT of work!  But, we’re making blocks and not funny-shaped-whatchamacallits so I figured I had to carry on…


GP 19


And once all four corners are in place and your paper is removed, you’re done!  And now you have two pretty little blocks that look like these:




Yay!  Super cute!  So now that you’ve seen two paper pieced blocks, from the simple to the complicated, I hope I didn’t scare you off and you’ll stay tuned for the next two.  They’re easier than Garden Party, I promise!  But look at those perfect little triangles, you can’t stay mad with progress like that, right?


Thanks for having me Meli!  I can’t wait to show you the next two blocks, that is if I haven’t scared everyone off!

Gentleman’s Fancy – Paper Pieced

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For this block, and a few others, we have a guest presenter: Musical Starling aka Dee.  She’s going to teach us how to complete these blocks using a paper piecing technique.  I, for one, am excited to learn this technique.  Everything else here is from Dee.

Thanks for letting me do a few blocks Meli!  I know paper piecing can seem quite intimidating, but it’s really not that bad, I promise!  It does take a little more work sometimes, but the results are always perfect.  Your points are always perfect, and your block always comes out at the perfect size.  So for those blocks that are really making you scream and cry, paper piecing is the answer!  Now I don’t pretend to be a paper piecing expert, so some of the steps I show may not be perfect but this is how I do it and it works for me.

Before I get into the actual blocks, I just want to start with some general paper piecing tips.

1.    When you are printing your patterns, if your finished block size is very important to you (ie, it HAS to be 6.5”, not 6.25” or 6.75”) then make sure you print it at 100%.  Every printer is different, but there should be somewhere to either turn scaling off or set it to print at 100%.  Then, once it has printed you can use your ruler to double check the size if you wish.  You also may have to print it in reverse, depending on the block and the pattern.  You’ll figure this out pretty quickly once you put your first block together and it’s backwards.  But depending on the pattern, it may not matter.  Just make sure you make all of your blocks backwards so it looks like a design element.

2.    When it comes to paper, I just use regular copy paper.  Some people like to a thinner paper like parchment because it rips easier, but copy paper works just fine for me.  Totally a personal preference!  I would suggest not going with a paper that is too thin though, because if it tears away too easily when you want it to, it will also tear away too easily when you don’t want it to, and it’s very important that the paper stays put until you’re finished!

3.    If you find your paper is not tearing away as easily as it should, try decreasing your stitch length.  But BE CAREFUL!  If you shorten it too much, you’ll just end up munching a straight line right through the paper and you won’t leave enough behind for the thread to hold on to.  Not that I’ve done that… Ahem…

4.    There is a little more waste with this method.  If you cut your fabric so it is a little bigger than the templates given in the book then you might be able to get away with less waste. For me, I’m using fat quarters that are cheap and plentiful so I don’t mind the waste.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get to the first block!  The first one is a repeat, but it’s such a great block to learn paper piecing with so it’s worth repeating.  Gentleman’s Fancy is a simple block and it comes together so quick and easy with paper piecing.  All of those little triangles are perfect, and the center square is great for a fussy cut (which is SUPER easy with paper piecing!)

GF 01 GF 02


You’ll notice on your pattern there are numbers, and these are very important because they show you what order you will be working in.  You always begin with 1 and then work your way out.  Sometimes you can mix up steps in between if they are all the same (like in this particular block, 2, 3, 4, and 5 can be completed in any order) but it’s less confusing if you just stick to the order as laid out on the sheet, and that’s what I’ve done for you here.


GF 03


You’ll also notice a dashed border around the outside of the block.  This is your 1/4” seam!  When you have patterns with multiple pieces (like the next blocks) this becomes VERY important.  So when you get to the outside layers, you have to make sure your fabric fills in these areas as well.  It will all make sense when we finish, I promise!


So to begin, pick a fabric for your first section and cut it so it is the size of your section plus at LEAST 1/4”.  That little center section is SCREAMING fussy cut, so… I did!  I find it easier to hold the paper up to a light, and I have a lamp on my desk that’s perfect for this.  So that’s why my pictures look a little funny because I took them with the paper stuck up in front of my lamp.  So you hold up your paper so the printed side is facing you, and then put your fabric choice behind it with the right side facing away from you (so the “wrong” side of the paper and the “wrong” sides of the fabric are together) and move your fabric in place so it’s perfectly centered, and pin as I did below.


GF 04


How awesome is that?  And below is how it will look when you turn your paper over.


GF 05


So then look at your second section and cut your piece of fabric so it will cover that section plus at least 1/4” (I’m usually generous for these pieces just so I know I’ll have enough).  Put your paper up to the light again so you can tell where it is, and look very carefully at the line where sections 1 and 2 meet.  You need to overlap that line (into the 2 section) by at least 1/4”.  It’s hard to explain with words, so here is another couple of pictures.

GF 06 GF 07


So you place the majority of your fabric outside of the section you’re trying to cover, it seems weird but it will make sense when you get used to it.  And you just put 1/4” worth of fabric in that space.  Again, take a close look at the picture, because words don’t quite cut it here.  And the second photo shows how it will look from the back, right sides of the fabric together, wrong side of fabric together with the wrong side of the paper.  Now, it’s time to sew that first seam!  Sew ON the line (or as close to it as you can get is my motto) that separates your two sections, as shown below and go past the line by a stitch or two (don’t be afraid!)


GF 08 GF 09


Sounds a little scary as your needle punches through the paper, but you’re not hurting anything, promise!  You are dulling your needle a little quicker than you would with just fabric though, so your needle will need to be changed faster if you do a lot of paper piecing.  I always keep spare needles around for just such an occasion.


GF 10


So now you will want to fold your paper back along that line (with your fabrics still together, not pressed apart) and trim your fabric back to 1/4″.  It doesn’t have to be a perfect 1/4”, but you can measure it if you like.  I’ve had a screaming back ache this past week, so I’m hacking it off with scissors.  Not as pretty as with a rotary cutter and a ruler (the “Add a Quarter ruler” works amazing for this!) but it works and keeps me from getting up and down.


GF 11


Now flatten your paper back out and press that seam open.


GF 12


With your seam pressed open, look at your fabric through the paper again to make sure you’re covering your next seams (in this case 6, 7, and 11) by at least 1/4″.  If you’re not quite at 1/4”, it is in the seam allowance so it can be forgiven (unless it’s only a couple of threads, then it’s not going to work) but ¼” or more is preferred.


GF 13 GF 14


Now move on to your next section and repeat the last few steps until you have filled in all four surrounding pieces so it looks like the picture below.


GF 15


Easy, right?  Now on to the next section!  Place your next fabric so it’s just barely 1/4” inside your seam, as you did for the first four pieces, and sew along that line.


GF 16 GF 17 GF 18


Trim your seams as you go and continue all the way around until those four sections are complete and it looks like the picture below.


GF 19


By this point, your paper looks well loved.  Don’t worry, that’s a good thing!  The more your paper has been wrinkled and folded along the way, the easier it will be to tear out at the end.


GF 20 GF 21


Now that we are working on the outside of our block, we need to make sure that we have enough fabric to cover our section (10 in this instance) plus the seam allowance (inside the dashed area).  This is VERY important!  Continue to add layers until you get to the end and you have a block that looks like the one below.


GF 22


Getting close!  Now one last layer for the corners and you will be left with something that looks similar to the block below.


GF 23


Now it’s time to trim!  So place your ruler on top of your paper pattern and trim accordingly (my block is 6.5” so I’m using my 6.5” square).


GF 24


When your block is trimmed and square, it’s time to rip off all that paper.  If it doesn’t come off easily, then try shortening your stitch length next time or using a thinner paper.


GF 25


For now, crease your paper REALLY well along that seam line and it should pop out easily because as you were sewing, you were also perforating the paper along those lines.  Sneaky!  You can also leave the paper attached until you sew your blocks together, it will help prevent your fabrics from stretching if you’re storing them for a while.  I just starch my blocks really well instead and it seems to have worked pretty well thus far.


GF 26


And that’s it, one block done!  It may take a little longer than using the templates, but will always turn out flawless!  That makes it totally worth it for a beginner like me.


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