In the September/October ’12 issue of Quiltmaker, we focus on foundation piecing. You’ll find the innovative Pile O’ Leaves from Caroline Reardon, the more traditional Faith, Hope & Love by Carolyn McCormick and Sonja Callaghan’s whimsical Did Someone Say Treat?
So many different looks from one technique! And if you’re new to foundation piecing, we’ll even take you through the basics, step-by-step.
I am absolutely addicted to foundation piecing, so I thought I’d share some tips.
Paper: When selecting paper for this technique, consider how you will print the foundations, the paper transparency and tear-ability. Most of the time I use plain old copy paper, but I recently tried and highly recommend Simple Foundations Translucent Vellum Paper from Anita Grossman Solomon and C&T Publishing.
Fabric: Any cotton fabric you use for piecing and applique will work in foundation piecing, but my very favorite are batiks. Have you ever sewn a foundation piece wrong side up? When I use batiks, I don’t even have to think about it–there is no wrong side!
Cutting the Patches: This is a foundation piecer’s biggest challenge. You want to be sure patches are big enough without too much wasted fabric. I use the Add-Enough tool by Carolyn McCormick from CM Designs, Inc. (addaquarter.com) for measuring patch sizes. Just line it up with the bottom of the patch, note the measurement and add 1/4″ to the dimension for a little insurance. I’ve never run short. (And it can also be used to fold back the paper before trimming.)
For really odd shaped patches, try this: Copy the foundation onto freezer paper and cut apart the pieces. The freezer paper pieces are used as templates. Just iron to the back of the fabric and add an additional 1/2″ on all sides. The fabric can be stacked and the freezer paper re-used to cut several patches. I prefer keeping the straight-of-grain along outside edges, and often use this method for corner patches.
Testing: Always make a test block first. I keep a list of my colors and patch sizes. When I know the sizes will work and the fabrics look good together, then I cut multiples.
Trimming: My “must have” foundation piecing tool is Carolyn McCormick’s Add-a-Quarter ruler. It has a lip that butts right up to the folded paper to cut that perfect 1/4″ seam allowance.
Pressing: I like a hot iron (no steam!). For small patches, I sometimes use a “little wooden iron.”
Unsewing: Smaller stitches make ripping more difficult. Using a seam ripper with a sharp point, I cut every third or fourth stitch from the fabric side. Turning to the paper side, I lift the top thread and gently tug. If the paper rips too much, mend it with transparent tape before re-sewing.
Removing the paper: Once all the seams around a foundation have been sewn, the paper can be removed. To make it easier, I use a larger needle (90/14) to perforate the paper and Aurifil thread which doesn’t break easily. I start by removing the paper at the outside edges of the foundation. To remove inside papers, gently pull the fabric away from the paper at the seam line, and the paper will pop right out.
We think you’ll enjoy sewing up any one of the fun foundation quilts in our newest issue, but you can also find many easy foundation patterns on our website under Project Linus.
If you have a foundation piecing tip, please share it with us. Got a question about the technique? Leave a comment we’ll try to help.