Foundation Paper Piecing – A Different Approach

Years ago I became very excited to make a foundation paper pieced quilt – sharp points, no cut off tips.  My hardest decision was deciding on what star pattern I wanted to do from 50 Fabulous Paper Pieced Stars by Carol Doak.

Decision was made, 150 copies of the foundation pieces A and B made (I said I was excited), fabric purchased and cut per the instructions, lowered my stitch length  and I was ready!  The first two were fun.  The next two at bit less fun.  And when I had four A’s and four B’s, I constructed the block.  Very pretty and look at those points!  Time to remove the paper.  Well, the paper was like a thick interfacing and was not designed to tear easily.  After five complete blocks, I decided to put it aside for a bit (ten years I believe it has been).  I think it was five years ago I went to a retreat where an online friend told me she would teach me how to foundation paper piece without stitching on the paper.  Others wanted to learn, also, so we all crowded around the table anxious to see what she was going to share.  I don’t remember the book she said she learned it from, although I’m sure I will run across it someday, but was unable to find it on any of the normal sources online after I got home.

I still didn’t pull out my Maryland Star UFO.  I had a few smaller projects to try this new process and was delighted there would be no teeny tiny papers to tweezer out.  Yes, the new improved way worked, but it is still a time consuming construction process.  Points are just as crisp – the reason one does foundation paper piecing in the first place, I guess.  I am now determined since I located the original quilt blocks, that I will not put it away until I complete all 30 remaining 12″ blocks, assemble them into a quilt and quilt it!

Ready for some photo shots I hope will be helpful in explaining the process?  Let’s get at it!

Tools I used:  Add Enough, Add-a-Quarter Inch Ruler, business card, glue stick, rotary cutter, and cutting mat.

First fabric to cover #1 space lays face up on the reverse side of the foundation paper.  Glue into place covering #1 space.









From right side of foundation paper, check that fabric does indeed not only cover all of the space, but also has a minimum of 1/4″ completely around the space.  If not, move and check again from the right side.


Place a business card, post card or the Add-Enough ruler on space #1 at the line between space #1 and #2.  Fold the foundation paper over the card.  Some fabric will be extending beyond the fold.  Now, butt the Add-a-Quarter ruler against the fold and cut the extending fabric off with the rotary cutter. 

Up to this point, the steps have not differed from the sew-on-the-line foundation paper piecing procedure.  Adding additional fabrics is where a different path is taken.



Next fabric #2 will be placed and stitched to fabric #1.  Being certain #2 fabric is positioned so once stitched and flipped it will cover the #2 spot with 1/4″ around the shape, simply line up the straight cut edge of fabric #1 and the straight edge of fabric #2 positioned for correct coverage.  Fold the foundation paper back and now stitch 1/4″ seam.  Finger press the seam flat, being aware you some seams maybe on the bias.  Gentle pressing should not distort the piece.   







From here you will fold the foundation back on the line separating space #2 and #3, place Add-a-Quarter ruler against the foundation paper fold, cut away excess fabric.  The whole procedure repeats until all spaces are covered.  Pins are used when I want to secure the pieces so they will not shift when finger pressing and aligning fabrics to cover spaces.  When the foundation paper piecing is complete, using a ruler, cut the 1/4″ seam allowance (generally a darker line indicated as a cutting line) around the piece and press gently to not distort or stretch the bias cuts.

Can you tell which of these was paper pieced for these photos versus the one I had done sewing on the lines and then removed the paper?  Check the points and 1/4″ allowance for seaming without losing any points.





Here is what a block constructed with stitching on the founda-tion.  That center where all the fabrics meet is a big lump.  Should be fun getting all the tiny paper pieces from there!  I am also showing you the completed star block as it will be seen in the quilt.   The pastel fabrics are more distinct than they appear in the photo.  









As you can see, the only time saver using the method of not sewing on the paper is removing the paper.  The steps are all the same.  These papers shown were purchased years ago and I don’t even know if they are still available.  I do know there are tissue paper thin sheets now on the market that would most likely tear out easily and possibly leave no, or few, tiny pieces to remove.  Remember you will need to reduce your stitch length considerably for the foundation to be perforated sufficiently to cleanly be removed.  At the same time, remember if you for some reason feel you need to remove the stitching, a setting at 1.5 or 1.0 can be challenging!

Please let me know if you have any questions or want clarification on any steps.  This is the first time I’ve really tried to explain something someone else might want to try and know I may have assumed you knew something so I didn’t cover it, or forgot to add a small step that would make it all make sense.  So, please, let me know how you think I did and I am always open to suggestions on how I might do things better.



  1. Stitcher

    You are very welcome! I’ve had good results doing it this way. I’d love to see photos and know what you think of this new approach when you try it.

  2. Cynthia Maki

    Fascinating method. I will try it. Thanks for sharing.

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