Foundation Paper Piecing

Photo of snow owl quilt

Do you want to know what I’ve never done?

Foundation paper piecing.

I still consider myself a beginner when it comes to quilting.  I’ve really only made some basic square or triangle designs.  That all changed with this quilt!

I found this beautiful snow owl design that would make the perfect gift for my owl loving mother in law, but it’s a foundation paper piecing design.  It’s from the book Animal Quilts by Juliet van der Heijden.

What’s a girl to do besides learn how to foundation paper piece.

It’s a good thing that I love to learn new skills where sewing is concerned.

At first glance, this pattern seems daunting! 

There are so many pieces!  A through Z, so 26 separate patterns that you’ll have to sew together once you get them done individually. Yikes!

I will say that these instructions were not very thorough for a beginner.  They only tell you which order to sew them together.  There’s no color chart, so I had to take the picture from the book and number the different colors.

Then go through my fabrics and match them to the picture.  I numbered each of my fabrics.

I then numbered each section of each pattern piece by looking at the pattern piece and comparing it to the picture.

In the end, I wound up with a couple of spots where I would have chosen a different fabric had there been a chart, but overall I love the quilt.

I really didn’t want to mess this up, so I googled some foundation paper piecing templates and gave it a try.

Yup, I only tried one practice run and then decided to jump in.

The first thing to know about foundation paper piecing is that your first fabric that goes on the back side of piece 1, is that it goes wrong side facing the paper.

After that, all the rest of the pieces will be right sides together.

So, piece 1, take a piece of fabric, making sure it’s larger than the pattern piece and place it on the back side of your paper.  I like to use a little Elmer’s glue to hold it in place.

Next, take a postcard or something else a little sturdy and fold your pattern piece back towards you along the line between the 1 and the 2.  I’m using a hotel key card.  My husband travels a lot so we have plenty of them lying around.

Take your ruler, I like this add a quarter ruler because it has a little lip on it that you butt up against your paper and it gives you a perfect 1/4″ to cut along.

Take your fabric for section 2 and align it along the fabric you just cut, right sides together making sure you cover the width of the section completely.  You can see it through the paper that’s folded over.

Fold the paper back flat and pin the two fabrics in place.

Sew along the line between sections 1 and 2.

Flip your paper over and use a seam roller to smooth out your seam.  You’ll iron the entire quilt when finished.

Repeat this process for section 3.  Fold along the line before section 3.

Using your add a quarter ruler, cut the existing fabric down to 1/4″.

Place fabric for section 3 right sides together along the fabric you just cut.

Fold the paper back into place and pin fabric.

Sew along the line before section 3.

Flip over and flatten seam.

Continue this process for each pattern piece/number.

Here’s one wing completed!

And the two eyes.

Now the entire top is pieced.

Layer batting on your ironing board. 

Some of these pieces have a lot of seams and the batting will prevent you from getting shiny sections from running the iron over them.  My ironing board is a little thin, so I doubled up on the batting.

Lay the quilt top right side down and iron the seams flat.

Now I need to figure out how I’m going to quilt this. 

Like I said before, I’ve really only made square or triangle patterned quilts, so this one was definitely trickier for me.   I like to use Crayola washable markers to draw my lines.  I’ve never had a problem with getting them to wash out.

I drew my lines throughout the quilt.

Once that’s done, we need to sandwich it.

Lay the backing fabric out, wrong side up. 

Layer the batting next and then the quilt top.  I like to spray lightly with spray adhesive.  My favorite is 505 spray.

Next, I pin in place. 

I know a lot of people say you don’t need to do both the spray and the pins, but I’m paranoid that it’s going to shift and bunch up on me, so I’m more comfortable doing both.

Take it to the sewing machine and follow along your lines.  I like to roll up the side so it fits into the throat of my machine.

Once it’s quilted, pull the batting from the backing.  Usually, there’s some spray adhesive still on there.

Very carefully cut the excess batting so it’s the same size as the quilt top.

I prefer to self bind my quilts, meaning I just use the backing folded towards the front rather than a separate binding.  I cut my backing fabric so it’s 1″ wider than the top.  I’ve got this great ruler that’s exactly 1″ wide, so I place it along the top and just cut.

Fold the backing in half so it’s just touching the quilt top.

Fold again so it’s now covering the edge of the top.  Pin or clip in place.

When you get to the corner, continue your double fold to the end.

Now, take the corner and fold in half at an angle towards the top.

Fold the side twice to just cover the edge.

This will give you your nice mitered corners.

Stitch it all down.

That’s it! 

Now wash it to get rid of the marker and give it that nice crinkly look and you’re finished.

Doesn’t it look awesome! 

I really hope my mother in law loves it as much as I do.

Snow owl quilt


Have you tried foundation paper piecing before?  What do you like or dislike about it? Drop me a comment below and tell me about it.

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