Category Archives: Tips & Techniques

Enlarge or Reduce ANY Size Block Pattern

children small to big

One of the many advantages of paper piecing is how easy it is to make blocks whatever size you need, simply with the help of any photocopier or nowadays, most home printers. When you are ready to copy or print the block pattern to create your foundations, input the correct resizing percentage into the machine:  percentages larger than 100 will enlarge the pattern (make it bigger);  percentages smaller than 100 will reduce the pattern (make it smaller). Continue reading

Partial Seam Technique

Woven Ribbons blockSome quilt block patterns, such as Woven Ribbons (left), require the use of the partial seam technique to complete the sewing of the design. These designs typically (but by no means always) have a center square surrounded by four identically shaped pieces in a sort of whirling effect.

If you’d like to practice this technique before using it in a project, cut one 3-1/2” center square, four 3-1/2” x 6-1/2” rectangles, and follow the steps below to make a sample block.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Sew the first part of the seam (red line). Leave the rest of the seam unstitched for now.



Step 1:  Place the first rectangle next to the center square exactly as shown in figure 1. Sew only the first part of the seam as indicated by the red line, stopping and backstitching midway along the seam line on the center square.




Figure 2

Figure 2: Sew rectangles 2, 3, and 4 around the center square counter-clockwise, sewing each seam completely.



Step 2: Place the second rectangle as shown in figure 2, to the left of the first rectangle and the center square.  Sew the seam and press toward the center square. Add the third rectangle in the same way, and then add the fourth rectangle, pressing the seam each time toward the center square.




Figure 3

Figure 3: Finish sewing the seam that joins rectangle 1 to the center square and along the side of rectangle 4, as shown by the dotted red line.


Step 3: Now fold over the nearly completed block along the very first, partially sewn seam. Line up the raw edges and finish sewing the seam as shown by the dotted red line in figure 3. Press block and you’re done!




I often use this exact method for my quilt borders, since it’s easier and uses less fabric than mitered borders, and more interesting than standard butted borders (two strips sewn to sides, then to top and bottom).

Pentagram paper pieced quilt blockAlthough the practice block uses rectangles around a center square, it is possible to have pieces of other shapes if the center square is rotated or off-center.  For example, Woven Ribbons has triangles surrounding the center square.  But the technique is the same no matter what the surrounding shapes are.  In fact, the center piece doesn’t even need to be a square! Pentagram (right, available in my Etsy shop) has various irregular shapes surrounding a central pentagon.

Embroidering and Embellishing Paper Pieced Blocks

A few touches of embroidery, beads or buttons often make a paper pieced quilt block come to life. Markings for these elements are usually shown on the foundation patterns.

embroidered spider web on quilt

from Escaping Bugs
Bottle Quilt pattern

This spider’s legs were machine satin-stitched after the block piecing was completed. Can you imagine trying to paper piece all those legs?! But they were very easily added following the markings on the paper foundation, and tapering the satin stitch to a point at the end of each leg. The web was machine embroidered with a straight stitch in metallic gold thread, after the quilt top was completed. Continue reading

Precision Paper Piecing

Spools of threadPaper piecing is easy and fun, but some blocks (particularly intricate, geometric designs) require a certain level of accuracy in the sewing and assembly to look their very best. Try one or more of the simple techniques below to help you achieve the most beautiful block possible.


  • If needed, temporarily hold the first fabric piece to the foundation with a straight pin or a tiny dab of glue stick.
  • When paper piecing, take care to sew accurately not directly ON the printed seam line, but just ever so slightly to the RIGHT of it. This helps accommodate the slight bulk of the fabric’s thickness. When you flip the newly sewn fabric piece open and press it, the fabric seam will sit accurately over the printed line.

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