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.