Foundation Paper Piecing | Top Tips

Foundation paper piecing can be a bit of a brain twister. I don’t just mean getting all the fabric pieces to fold the right way and having to work in reverse a lot of time; there are also a lot of different tools… what do they all do and do you really need to use them all?

Read on to find out about my favourite FPP tools and how I use them, plus some top tips for FPP success.

These are my favourite FPP tools:

Add-A-Quarter Ruler
The best feature of this ruler is the 1/4″ wide ridge along the underside of one edge. When you trim away the extra fabric after sewing each seam line in your FPP project, the ridge butts up against the bulk that has been folded out of the way and the 1/4″ means you trim to the perfect seam allowance.

Seam Roller
When I’m sewing, I like to keep my iron away from my sewing machine…it’s a good excuse to get up and move around a little and I don’t run the risk of burning myself! But with FPP you have to press seams sooooo often, the project would take twice as long if I was up and down to the ironing boarding every two minutes. I use a seam roller instead of my iron so I can have it right by me and it works really well.

Serrated tracing wheel
Usually used during dressmaking to trace the outline of your pattern piece into the fabric, this tool has a great use in FPP too. The serrated roller with add a line to perforating dots into paper so if you roll it over the seam lines in your FPP templates, it will make the paper pieces easier to remove when you have finished sewing.

Foundation Paper Piecing paper
For years I used regular printer paper for FPP templates which does work just fine. But then I tried special FPP paper and it really does work better! I use Foundation Paper from PatternTraceUK; it is semi-transparent so you can see your fabric placement, it tears easily, and it isn’t effected by the heat of an iron.

A few top tips for successful FPP projects…

  • Use a fine weight thread that colour matches your fabric (e.g. Aurifil 80wt, Bottomline etc). A finer thread will blend in more easily, especially on the seams where two FPP blocks are joined together; I often find that joining FPP blocks with 50wt thread, like you would use for patchwork piecing, leaves visible stitches at the seam join.
  • Put a new blade in your rotary cutter. As the layers and overlapping seams of your FPP project start to build up, you’ll need to trim through quite a lot of bulk at times and a blunt blade will not be your friend!
  • Diagonal and off-centre sections in an FPP project can be harder to line up and use the right size of fabric piece. Try testing your fabric piece first (before sewing it in place) by folding a rough 1/4″ seam allowance and lining the folded line up with the sewing line to check that when your fabric piece is flipped to cover the FPP section, it covers all the sections and seam lines it needs to. This way you avoid having to unpick if/when it a fabric piece doesn’t fit properly.

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