How to do foundation paper piecing

My contribution to this month’s Quilt Block Mania is a Scarecrow made with foundation paper piecing. 

If you’ve never tried FPP (also called piecing over papers or paper piecing) I wrote this tutorial just for you. It’s a super quick way of making accurately pieced blocks, especially complicated designs that would be a nightmare to create any other way.

There’s no accurate cutting required, the templates give you all the stitching lines you need. All you need to do is to sew a straight line.

Its also ideal for using up scraps

We’re going to make a simple flower block which you can use as a border for the scarecrow.

Tip: We’re sewing to the back of the template so your fabric will be cut on the WRONG SIDE,  and your finished block will be the reverse of the printed template. 


You will need the free flower block template.

Download it here: FPP flower template

You’ll need to print one template for each block you want to make. I recommend printing one extra to use for cutting your fabric pieces.

You can print on ordinary copy paper, but I like to use 90gsm tracing paper. It’s translucent so you can see through it for accurate placement of your fabrics, which is especially good if you’re fussy cutting.

90gsm tracing paper pad

The printed template

Check the test square measures 1″

The flower block we’re making is simple, but once you’ve got the hang of the technique the principles are the same for any Foundation Paper Pieced pattern

Choose your fabrics: I used plain teal for the leaves, a pink print for the flowers and a light neutral background. This is an opportunity to use up scraps!

Take your extra template and cut it apart along the printed lines. You’ll use these pieces to check your fabric sizes. Place on the WRONG SIDE of your fabric and cut around, adding a generous seam allowance. It doesn’t have to be exact. If you’re fussy cutting the translucent paper makes locating your design a breeze. You don’t need to align your fabric on grain either as the template gives enough stability.

Step 1:

Start by finding Sections 1 and 2 on the paper template and taking the fabric pieces for each section. For this template, Section 1 is background fabric  and Section 2 is a pink print fabric for the flower.

Trim the template along the outer broken line

Cut apart an extra template to use as a pattern

Cut your fabrics from the wrong side

Step 2:

Hold your uncut template up to a window or other light source with the printed side facing you

Take your background fabric and hold it at the back of the paper with the wrong side facing the paper. Position it so it covers all of section 1 with enough overlap for the seam allowances.

Pin the fabric in place. Check it’s in the correct position by holding it up to the light again. Check you have the fabric right side up – the back is against the paper.

Now take the pink fabric and lay it right side down over the background fabric you just pinned in place. Postiton it so that when you fold it back along the seam line, it completely covers section 2 and there’s a seam allowance all around.

Check the position by holding the template up to the light and when you’re happy with it pin the pink fabric in place.

Check fabric covers stitching lines. Wrong side of fabric is towards the back of the template

Place the second piece of fabric so it will cover area 2 when flipped open

Check your fabrics are placed right sides together

Step 3:

Now stitch the seam. With the printed side of the template uppermost, stitch the seam between sections 1 & 2. Use a short stitch (about 1.5), and back tack a couple of stitches each end to secure.

Stitching the seam with template uppermost. Don’t sew past the end of the stitching line. Backtack a couple of stitches at the start and finish.

Step 4:

Flip the pieces open and finger press the seam. Fold back the template to expose the seam allowance and trim to 1/8″. Open the fabric out again and pin the pink piece in place, covering the shape marked 2.

Fold back the template along the stitching line to expose the seam allowance

Use the ruler to trim to 1/4″

Trimmed seam allowance

Repeat for each section in turn, working in numerical order, and remembering to place your fabric face down on the back of the template and to check the section will be covered and has a seam allowance all around when the piece is flipped open.

Tip: to help with positioning on the stitching line, fold the sewn pieces back and finger press along the line. Use the crease to line up your next fabric piece.

Finger press the fabric along the stitching line

Use the crease to align the next fabric piece.

Step 4:

Once the last piece of fabric is in place, press lightly on the right side.

Use your ruler and rotary cutter to trim all around the template on the broken line.

Remove the paper by tearing along the perforations made by the seams

Press again and check your block is square

Trim the completed block along the broken line

Remove paper and give it a final press

Repeat for identical blocks

Now you’ve mastered this technique, why not incorporate more paper piecing into you next project?

A good place to start is my other paper pieced designs