Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Trying Something New: Paper Piecing

Over at Quiet Play they're doing a Block of the Month project.

January's block ("Measure Twice") was a nice beginner intro to paper piecing.  I have been interested in paper piecing for a while but most of the blocks I had seen either looked too involved for a raw beginner or they just didn't interest me.

I actually liked "Measure Twice" and it looked like it really was beginner friendly.  Very few pieces so less chance to really cock it up.

So I thought.

THIS was my first go at it.


I forgot to add the little piece at the end of the measuring tape strip (piece three).  In a moment of hubris, I thought I could just add it on after I had already attached piece 4.  So I pulled piece 4 away from the paper up to the point where piece 3 needed to attach to piece 2.  But, as the second photo there shows, I cocked that up too.  So I had to scrap this, my first attempt.  (this was after I had made a mistake with the first two pieces, that had me tearing them apart and starting over using the same paper template).

After one complete FAIL, I saw what I had done wrong (mostly just not paying close enough attention to what I was doing) so I insisted that I give it another try.

THIS is my final product.

As you can see, it's far from perfect.  In fact, it's still just this side of fail.  The top right corner fabric is not big enough to cover the temlpate and there is also a bit of size issuse along the right side, too.  Not a huge issue (I can just trim the block down to hide those flaws) but technically it's not correct.

I think my big issue was that top fabric.  I should have picked something more forgiving.  I was trying so hard to match up the pattern (even though the pattern isn't hard and fast--the cages go all directions) that I forgot to make sure the piece would be long enough AFTER I matched the images.  And even then, I didn't match the images well enough (it's pretty crappy at the match point).

I did do well on the text fabric, which makes me happy.  I wanted the blue text to show (since it matches the blue of the bird cages really well) and be right side up, which it does.  So that was a win.  BUT, it doesn't line up properly with the next piece and the next piece is also too short so. . .

Yeah, maybe I should really consider this block yet another FAIL but I'm not.  It's salvageable and it was good for me to try something new and see it all the way through (not just give up when it didn't work out the very first time).

So, what do I think about paper piecing?

It's not bad.  I can't say I LOVE it though.  First, it seems kind of wasteful unless you're using actual scraps to start with (which I was).  I was hacking away at this fabric making smaller and smaller scraps which seemed kind of nuts.  Second, it's not very forgiving.  If you don't estimate correctly for the bit you're sewing, then you can't move on to the next step.  And if you have to tear apart two pieces, you're also removing the paper which means you kind of have to free ball when re-attaching those pieces (which could lead to more inaccuracies later on in the block).  So every time you add a new piece you're basically running the risk of cocking up the whole block and having to start over.  I'm not a fan of that kind of pressure.

The pros?  The finished blocks (even funky half fails like the one I made) look really cool.  And if you had more skills than I do, you could blast through some serious scraps (including really bitty pieces) with this technique, which is also cool.

Will I try it again?  Perhaps.  I plan to keep with this series to get all the patterns so I have them to play with later on in life (a few of them look very involved, too advanced for me).  I like all the patterns in the set and if I practiced more I'm sure I could do them all.  But at this point there are other projects I'm more interested in so paper piecing will go on the back burner (for now--if other blocks in this series seem beginner friendly I'll probably try them when they come around).


  1. I didn't have enough fabric on one paper pieced item I did this month, I just sewed a bit more fabric onto that edge. I don't think you'd notice except for close up if you do that in that corner, if you plan on quilting your final project!

  2. Hey your block turned out well, especially considering it's your first foray into paper piecing (love the bird cage print!). It's definitely one of those techniques that can take a bit to get the hang of.

    I still sometimes try to piece fabrics too small for the section. Like Ali, I just add in an extra piece and have an extra seam ;) I'd prefer an extra seam to unpicking hehe!

    You're right - pp is great for using up scraps (and also making them!!). I'm glad you like the BoM series!

  3. The fabrics you've used are lovely and I really like the tape measure fabric. Paper piecing does take some getting used to and I still make a few boo-boos along the way.