Friday, April 19, 2019

Adventures in foundation paper piecing

Like many other techniques, foundation paper piecing (FPP) has its share of people that love it and hate it.  I fall into the group in between.  I do not love it, but I do not completely hate it.  For me, it's simply a means to an end - I WILL do it if I must, but I will probably complain about it because I honestly do not enjoy the process.

I've put together a list of a few things that I've learned along the way which help to make the whole thing more enjoyable/less painful for me.  As always, your mileage may vary.

As a side note for anybody that might be new to my blog, you will not find affiliate links in my posts.  If I should happen to use them in the future, they will be noted as such.  Many of these products may be available at your favorite quilt shop, sewing store, or Amazon.com.  I'm providing links from the pages of the manufacturers because they are likely to be the most reliable in terms of whether or product is still being marketed/sold/available.  :)

My setup when doing FPP (my iron is to the left of the Wafer)

Let there be light!
In my first FPP projects, I would hold my pieces up to a lamp.  It worked ok, but sometimes it was hard to keep the pieces aligned where I needed them and hold it up to the light.  Buying a lightbox was really a game changer for me.  There are a lot of options available from different manufacturers, but I use the Wafer 1 from Daylight Company, the smallest of their three size offerings.  It's a convenient size to store, and I love that they offer a translucent cutting mat so you can see and cut without moving to a different surface.

You aren't going to get very far without thread.
It should come as no surprise that I use Aurifil thread when I do FPP.  I use the same 50 weight thread that I use for all of my quilt piecing. It is a 2-ply thread, so it's fine enough to not add a lot of bulk in my seams, and it's strong enough to withstand the dreaded removal of paper.

Press it real good.
This is one of the best ways to improve the finish of your sewing projects.  I find that I'm happiest with my results when I use an iron, but I don't use my regular iron.  You want to make sure that you are using a dry iron.  I use a Clover Wedge Iron when I do FPP.  It has a pointy tip which is a feature that is important to me in an iron, and it seems to get suitably hot (and it's a great size when I'm making mini quilts too).  There is no water reservoir, so I don't have to worry about accidentally having water in the iron.  My biggest complaint about the iron is that it takes a while for it to get hot. If I'm working somewhere that an iron isn't available, I will use my Violet Craft Seam Roller.  I think it's the next best option.

Go big.
I try to be as effective and efficient as I can when cutting fabric, so FPP was a bit challenging to get my head around.  FPP is not a method that super low waste.  It's just how it is.  On top of that, unlike a lot of traditional/conventional patterns, many patterns do not tell you what sizes pieces you should cut.  I've realized that I'd rather deal with cutting away more fabric as waste than deal with having pieces that are too small and having to rip the stitches.  Generally, I will cut pieces that are 1" larger than the size that they need to cover to account for seam allowances.  If I have a piece that is rectangular, I won't push it out that far.  It's one of those things that you just have to look at for each piece.  The bottom line is that you should cut to a size that is comfortable for you and adjust as needed.

You rule.
When I FPP, I like to use the Add-A-Quarter Plus ruler by CM Designs.  I love how one side has a beveled edge that allows me to fold my paper back easily and one side with a 1/4" lip for trimming without the need to line up things on a ruler.  Just place it down, butt the lip up to the seam, and trim  using your rotary cutter. You can absolutely use a regular ruler, but I love how much time I can save when I don't have to stop and measure.  They also make a regular Add-A-Quarter ruler without the beveled edge if you don't fold your papers, and there are even rulers for other seam allowance sizes!

It IS worth the paper it's printed on.
There are a lot of different options you can use to print/copy your patterns.  Some people use plain newsprint, vellum, or cheap copy paper.  I like Carol Doak's Foundation Paper by C&T Publishing.  It prints without issues in my laser printer, it tears easily when I need it to do so, I haven't had any problems with line crispness or ink bleed, and it isn't bright white which sometimes gives me a headache if I look at it for too long.  I also like the texture.

Size matters.
When you are printing (if your pattern is a PDF) or if you're making copies of the templates, make sure that they are printing the correct size.  Many patterns will include a size guide on at least one page that you can measure to make sure that things are printing as intended.  If things are not printing as expected, it is often just a simple, easily resolved misconfiguration of your printer settings.  Personally, I also like PDF because it's pretty straightforward if you want to resize the pattern templates.  The last FPP project that I made had blocks that finished at 4" square.  I wanted to make them a little bigger, so I printed them at 125% so they would finish at 5" square.

Write it down.
FPP can be a bit of a challenge to wrap your brain around when you first get started.  You sew on the printed side of the paper, so you sewing everything as a mirror image of how the finished block will appear.  Some designers may shade areas of the pattern so you have an idea of what color to put where, but that's not as common in my experience.  For that reason, I take the low tech approach and grab a pencil and write which fabrics I want in each section (on the printed side of the paper).

Embrace it or don't.
Maybe you will love the process of FPP or maybe you won't. You know what?  It's ok either way!  As I wrote at the beginning, it's just a means to an end for me.  I am glad that I know how to FPP, and I feel confident that I can successfully make something using that method if I felt inclined to do so.  Will it ever be my preferred method?  I doubt it, but things have been known to change.  I guess we shall just have to wait and see.

We've come to the end. I've basically said all I have to say on the subject right now, so let's all go forth and make.