Introduction to Paper Piecing

I recently met Sarah online when she reached out to me asking to do a guest post on paper piecing. I tried paper piecing once at a Boston Modern Quilt Guild meeting, but promptly forgot how to do it. I haven’t done my own paper piecing project yet, but it’s definitely on my list!

Sarah has a sewing blog where she blogs about sewing projects and techniques. She also puts up videos demonstrating various presser feet, sewing tools and serger techniques.

Thanks Sarah for writing this paper piecing tutorial! Now I can refer to my own blog for instructions when I’m ready to start my first project!

Please, check out her: Blog, instructional YouTube Videos and Facebook Page.


INTRODUCTION TO PAPER PIECING:  I’ve always admired quilters that made difficult shapes, like stars or lighthouses, look so effortless. Then, I learned paper piecing. It’s super fun and as simple as painting by numbers! There are thousands and thousands of free paper piecing patterns available. All those tiny scraps you’ve been stashing (never know when you’ll need a 1 inch scalene triangle) can finally be used. There are piecing patterns that literally use the tiniest of scraps, so when your partner gives you grief for keeping an itsy bitsy scrap, you have justification. Waste not!

paper piecing feature image

This star pattern is great for easing in to paper piecing. Believe it or not, this took maybe 20 minutes. You can sew it into something as big as a full blow quilt or as simple as a pot holder. Either way, you’re going to love playing around with paper piecing!

Tip: If you’re having trouble following the directions below, check out our video instructions.


  • Paper Piecing Pattern. There are TONS of free paper piecing patterns all over the internet. All you have to do is find one you like and print it from your computer. Can’t find the size you like? You can reduce an image on your computer or have an image enlarged at Kinko’s. Here are a few trusted sites: Forest QuiltingPiece By NumbersCarol Doak.
  • Fabric Scraps. Most patterns will come with a list telling you how large each scrap needs to be.
  • Universal Needle
  • Thread
  • Scissors or rotary ruler and rotary mat
  • Pins
  • Ruler
  • Printer and Computer Paper

Step 1: If your pattern does not have 1/4 seam lines drawn in, go ahead and mark them yourself using your ruler.

step 1

step 2Make sure you have enough scraps to cover all your steps. I like to separate mine into piles.

step 3Step 2: Mine has 3 separate pieces that will be sewn together to form a star, but the process is the same for each piece. First, let’s start with number 1. Place your first scrap fabric right side down on the table. Now, place your paper pattern on top of the fabric scrap, wrong sides together. The pattern diagram should be facing you.

step 5Remember: Whenever you are adding a new piece of fabric, it always needs to be at least 1/4 inch larger (on all sides) than its corresponding shape.

Now that you have the pattern template laying on the first fabric piece, let’s go on to number 2. Once again, you want to make sure your fabric scrap is at least 1/4 larger (on all sides) than your template.

Place the new scrap fabric piece right sides together with your first fabric scrap. So, from top to bottom, you have your paper pattern facing you, then the wrong side of first fabric, and right side or second fabric scrap.

To ensure that your fabric scrap is lined up correctly, hold all three layers up to a light source. You will be able to see the shadow of the second fabric scrap. (The darkest shadow is the fabric for number 2)

pp fixed copyStep 3: Reduce your stitch length just a tad to create a  perforated line. Sew along the straight line between shape 1 and 2. Don’t forget to back stitch.

step 6Fold the paper back on the sewn line.

Using a ruler, trim the fabric to a 1/4 inch.

trimmed dowmPress the seam and move on to number 3. You repeat the same steps along the border of number 2 and 3 as you did with one and two.

press seams openThe first section is finished! Time to move on to the next section. Start the exact same way we did with the first part. Number for is the new number 1.

IMG_6571These are the basic steps to paper piecing. You will simply be repeating these steps until you have pieced all of you pattern.

step 15You can remove the paper pattern after each section or once you have sewn the entire block together.

step 17Once all the individual parts are pieced, you can sew the 3 sections together.

step 16Sew all the pieces together to make your quilt block. Press. Use your ruler and rotary cutter to trim up any uneven edges. Not too shabby, right?

I did some satin stitching around the edge of the star using a Stitch in the Ditch foot. Super easy! Just install your foot and set your stitch length to a short zig zag.

IMG_6578All finished! Time to make another 11 of these for a fun baby quilt!

step 19Thank you so much for reading and I hope this tutorial was helpful. Happy Sewing (and Quilting)!



2 thoughts on “Introduction to Paper Piecing

  1. Thank you so much for your tips. I am just a beginner and interested in learning. I first saw a video showing how to hand stitch a Hexagon shape, but never showed how or when to remove the pattern she said she re-used. Your tips really helped fill in the blanks. Thanks!

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