Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Paper-Piecing Without Sewing Through Paper

Like how? Huh? I know. I first learned of this technique from Joanne at Canuck Quilter Designs.  It has made me quite like paper-piecing ever since!  **Note! This tutorial will be needed for my upcoming Freefall QAL which begins on the Spring Equinox.  When is that? Monday, March 20 at 6:28 am EST.  If you want to try this method with minimal fabric to make the leaf point or just to make some cool triangles in a square blocks, here is what you do to get a 3" finished block as shown.

The worst parts of pp, for me have always been cutting the pieces of fabric big enough to cover the section I'm working on, (read waste), and then not so much though, the tearing off of the paper, because that is kind of satisfying in a way, much like popping the bubbles on bubblewrap! However, picking out all the little bits trapped in the stitches? Not a fan.😣
This method gets rids of both of those issues, and allows you to reuse multiple times the paper template.  You can use freezer paper if you like, as Joanne does, because a touch of the iron will adhere it to your fabric.  Alternately, you can use graph paper as I did, and use a dab of a gluestick to hold the first piece of fabric to the back of the graph paper.  I've done both; the only difference is that with graph paper/gluestick, there is a wee bit of gluestick residue on your fabric, but less is more remember, and a spritz of water will remove anything if you ensure you use washable glue.

Draft the paper-piecing template.

1.  To get the paper-piecing template you see above, first draw a 3" square, leaving room to add seam allowances.  Put your pencil at the opposing corner to the one where my 'mmm! quilts' watermark is and draw a line that ends on the halfway point of the opposite side, so, in this case, at 1.5", of the bottom side of the square.  Put your pencil back on that starting corner point and draw a second line that ends at the 1.5" mark of the side of the square perpendicular to the one on which you first ended.  Label this inside centre triangle, '1'.  Label each side triangle as I have, 2a and 2b.
2.  Now add 1/4" seam allowances (I like to make a dotted line) around all four edges of the square.  Cut out on the dotted line.  Last step that will help for later:  fold along the straight lines you drew to form the inside triangles.

Update: Click here (affiliate link to my Craftsy store) for a free downloadable PDF of the leaf point made by Tish 😘 in EQ7.

Make templates for sections 1 and 2a/b

1.  I find this really cuts down on wasting fabric when paper-piecing.  Trace the leaf point shape #1 from the template you just made. Now add 1/4" seam allowances all around. Here is a tip I learned whilst taking a Kaleidoscopes class.
Because your pencil adds width by nature of its lead thickness, this gives an accurate 1/4" allowance. Place the 1/4" line, which in my 1x6" ruler's case is the solid yellow line as indicated by the top right arrow, just on the inside of the pencil-drawn line, as indicated by the top left arrow.  Draw your 1/4" seam allowance with a dotted line where I've indicated.  Repeat this on all 4 edges of this leaf point, and then the entire process for the side triangle.  You only need to do one side triangle, as you will simply flip it over if you need the mirror image side triangle. Label as shown below, labelling your side triangle 2b on the reverse side of 2a!
Here is your paper-piecing template, with the fabric templates both traced and cut out.

Cut your leaf point fabric and then see below for how to cut two pairs of side triangles! First you will need to cut two 2 3/4" x 3 3/4" rectangles and ensure they are stacked wrong sides together.  Now lie your fabric template 2a so the seam allowances rest on the raw edges. You will find the rectangle slightly big, which is fine as that way we can trim the unit to a perfect square later.  You will notice that you have an upside-down side triangle formed that, when you cut along the diagonal, and flip it around, matches exactly the 2a template. It's like a 2 for 1 deal!
No, wait--even better, because you've stacked 2 rectangles atop each other, you get 4 with that one slice, two of 2a and two of 2b, the mirror image!


1.  Place the leaf point fabric wrong side against the underside of the paper, ensuring 1/4" of fabric extends beyond the stitching lines.  Press lightly if using freezer paper, so the paper adheres to your fabric. If using graph paper, as I am, apply a very small swipe of a gluestick on the paper and then press the fabric against it.

Hold it up to a light source to double-check you're covered.
Now place one of the side triangles, doesn't matter which, right sides together on that leaf point fabric, aligning the 1/4" seam allowance beyond that stitching line.

The green side triangle fabric should be right below that paper folded-back side triangle 2b.
Ensure you have a little dog ear sticking up that disappears exactly at the 1/4" stitching line.
Years ago one of my friends showed me this trick to ensure proper placement.  All these weirdo angles and potential slippage of fabric/paper can lead to uncovered seam allowances, so simply very carefully, trying not to shift the fabrics as they are aligned, fold back over the paper template onto the about-to-be-pieced-in side triangle.  Does it cover those seam allowances? Shift it slightly if need be. Bring the unit carefully over to your machine.  Now let's stitch.
Fold that paper back on itself as you first had done when aligning raw edges.  You are now going to sew right up against that folded edge, not through any paper.  Sew slowly.  You can chain piece these babies if you have a few to do (which we will in the QAL), so you might like to make a couple of copies of the pp template.  Repeat for both 2a and 2b side triangles.  Open out and check once more for coverage.  If it's good, then carefully remove the paper, and then press the seams to the background or open, whatever you prefer.

Squaring up

Some important registration marks to aim for when squaring this unit to its required 3.5".  Be sure to have the 1 3/4" dots on the seam line as indicated by my arrows.  Then, at the leaf point, line up the 3 1/4" dot as shown by the third arrow. You may need to wiggle your ruler a bit to hit these three marks.  Why is this important? Well, you will get a nice crisp leaf point for one, and hopefully align the 1 3/4" marks with the adjacent section leaf point.   Once you've squared two sides, repeat with the other two, looking once again for the same 1 3/4" dots but this time the 1/4" dot at that leaf point!

The rest of the leaves are regular piecing.  Of course, you really can avoid the paper totally if you want to simply use the templates you make as I showed you here.
Paper.  vs Templates.

Press to the dark side. vs Press open.

All methods/beliefs are welcome in this QAL. 😍💙🌈

Linking up with
Quilting Jet Girl


  1. Thank you Sandra! I shall try this! x Teje

  2. I learnt about freezer paper when I went to a Mariner's Compass class. So I am using it for the Canada 150 Logo. Started that, but found I had a mistake, so am starting all over again. I have done paper piecing, but hated tearing out all those tiny pieces, this looks like it will be a lot of fun in March. Your photos and the words all help to make it so easy to follow. Thanks.

  3. I will take a closer look at this when I have time. I swore I would NEVER paper piece again but I will check this out. :-)

  4. I've been doing this too, but with freezer paper. I used it for Alison Glass's Tessellations and Feathers patterns. If you have a pre-printed pattern, just trace onto freezer paper. Use over and over and never rip paper again!

  5. I use freezer paper all the time for paper piecing and love not having to rip out papers.

  6. Yes I have done that method several times, especially with my leaf block runners. Can't remember where I learned that from. I never thought to use freezer paper though.

  7. Great tutorial and tips: especially for getting the templates you will need for your fabric pieces.

  8. Oh my! That's enough to boggle your non-quilting sister's brain LOL!

  9. It is amazing what a little bit of glue will do. Thanks for sharing the tips. I especially appreciated the pencil width helping get your quarter inch.

  10. Thanks for sharing. I learned to to use a second copy of the pattern to cut fabric the shape you need with the seam allowance. Definitely helps me paper piece much better. But I've never tried not sewing on the paper, even though you've told me to go check it out.

  11. Arghhhh Sandra, I hate paper piecing. But as I lurve everything you do, I will give this technique a whirl😀 looking forward to your QAL 😀 xx

  12. When I start paper piecing (ahem), I know where to turn :-) Love what Linda said :-D

  13. Thanks for this great tutorial Sandra. I love the accuracy you achieve with paper piecing but I hate sewing blocks together with the papers in and removing the papers. I had heard about using freezer paper for PP but hadn't seen how to do it. Thank you!

  14. A very useful tutorial. I never thought of turning back the edge to sew along it and not through the paper. Very helpful.

  15. I came over to see you from Jedi Craft Girl... I am really enjoying your blog!

  16. I missed this at the time . Tonight with my melon brain I'm thinking , um , but it will all be clear when I read it again to make my leaf ! I quite like paper piecing , sort of

  17. think I am going to love this method of pp... thank you for your tutorial!

  18. Hi Sandra! Thanks so much for the link. I'm going to give this a try next time I have to do some paper piecing. ~smile~ Roseanne