Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Have you been practicing your foundation piecing? I picked an easy foundation pieced block as our first one.
I will not be providing a detailed lesson in foundation piecing for these blocks. I have a freezer paper foundation piecing tutorial over here. There is also a link in the sidebar.

To help those of you who have the book and not the CD, however, I will give you the numbering I used for the blocks. This may or may not be the same as on the CD because I sometimes find that the computer program can overly complicate things.

Before we start, a couple of tips:
Shorten the stitch length on your machine to about 15 stitches per inch. This will make the removal of the foundation paper much easier.
Don't try to be too conservative with fabric. Foundation piecing gobbles up fabric. Make peace with that. If you cut your pieces too small and have to redo the seam, you'll use even more.
If you use printer paper for your foundations, a light box is very handy for determining where to place your fabric. If you don't have one and you think this may be a problem you may want to look into using something more transparent as your foundation. I have also used many a window for this purpose.

Let's make a block.

Trace the block pattern from the book onto your foundation paper or print it from the CD. Number the sections in the sequence you are going to attach them. I also shade the sections I'll be using my dark fabric for. This eliminates having to look at the block photo regularly to check which fabric to use. The center block here will, of course be in the dark fabric too. I just forgot to shade it. :-)
Remember to leave at least ¼" seam allowance all the way around when cutting out the pattern. I like to draw in the seam allowance and then cut the pattern out an extra ¼" beyond that, giving me &#189" of seam allowance.

(No, I did not use this sketch to make my block. I just didn't want to break any copyright rules.)
Cut fabric for sections 1 and 2 big enough to extend at least ¼", preferably more beyond each seam line bordering it. Lay the section 1 fabric onto the back (unmarked) side of the foundation with the right side up. Lay the section 2 fabric on top of it, right side down. In the following diagram you can see the placement of the fabric relative to the sections on the printed side.

Carefully holding the fabric in place, flip the whole thing over. Stitch the seam between section 1 and section 2 along the seam line on the pattern. The first seam is the hardest because both fabric pieces are loose.

Fold the foundation paper away from the fabric along the seam line.

Trim the seam. Because these blocks are so small, I trim my seams to a little over 1/8" to reduce bulk.

Press the seam open. At this point you may want to trim away the excess fabric sticking out the sides of the pattern. Be very careful if you do this. Make sure that fabric always overlaps any seam it'll cross by at least 1/4".

Cut and attach section 3 in the same way. Remember that you will always be flipping the new section you attach away from the previous section when you open it up to press. This will help you determine which part of the fabric is seam allowance and which is the actual section. I have a tendency to place the fabric the "wrong way round" and ending up with a big seam allowance and ¼" section. Unpicking 15 stitches per inch is a pain.

Once again, fold the foundation back and trim the seam.


Repeat these steps for all sections of the block.
When you get to the part where the sections do not overlap any more, you can save time by sewing four at a time before pressing.

Towards the end there will be a lot of fabric bulk. Don't stress.

Just trim the seam and keep going and you will end up with a beautiful block. At this point you may or may not want to remove the foundation paper. Many people prefer to leave it on until they're ready to attach the block to others because it'll hold its shape better.

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