What is Foundation Paper Piecing?

‘Foundation Paper Piecing’ is a sewing technique done by sewing machine. This technique is also known as ‘Paper piecing’ in some parts of the world and therefore often gets confused with ‘English Paper Piecing’. However, the techniques used are entirely different:

In Foundation Paper Piecing the entire quilt block, or part of a larger pattern, is first drafted onto a single sheet of foundation paper. The Foundation paper is quite thin and sometimes semi-translucent (see-through), which aids the sewing process. Therefore, some quilters like to use tracing paper or freezer paper for this method. (We do stock this type of paper and you can find it here: https://www.www.linapatchwork.com/product/june-taylor-perfect-piecing-foundation-sheets/ )

The individual fabric patches are placed onto the reverse side of the paper (right side of fabric facing outwards), covering their space in the pattern. The patches are then stitched onto the foundation paper itself in a specific sequence by stitching along the drawn seam lines, using the so-called ‘stitch and flip’ method by sewing machine: The first fabric patch is pinned in place and the second one is placed right-sides-together on top of the first patch, lining up the edges of their adjoining seam allowances. You then stitch along the seam line on the front of the foundation paper (with a very short stitch length, approx. 12 stitches to an inch), thus stitching both patches to the paper itself. The second fabric patch is then ‘flipped’ back (hence ‘flip and stitch’), pinned to the foundation paper to hold it in place and the third patch placed on top (right sides together). After careful alignment the next seam is then stitched on the reverse side of the paper by machine. You continue in this fashion until the pattern is completed.

Each piece in the pattern is numbered and they need to be stitched down in sequence for the technique to work properly and the finished block is a mirror image of the original.

Once finished the foundation paper is removed by carefully tearing it away and the short stitches used when sewing along the pattern lines aid this process.

What is ‘Foundation Piecing’?

Foundation Piecing is a variant of Foundation Paper Piecing – just without the paper!

These days some quilters move away from the foundation paper and use interfacing instead because there is no need to remove it when the pattern is finished. But the technique is essentially the same: The pattern is drafted directly on the interfacing and then filled in using the ‘stitch and flip’ method by sewing machine. The advantages of foundation piecing over other machine piecing sewing techniques is that series of quilt blocks can be drafted on paper that all are the same size and fit together perfectly. Any important pattern information, like sequence numbers, fabric choice etc can be noted directly on the foundation, thereby aiding pattern assembly and reducing the room for mistakes.

It is thought that foundation piecing with a fabric base (most likely muslin) is actually older than using paper as a foundation and the technique was very popular in the 18th century. But even some 15th century patchwork pieces are thought to be foundation pieced. Quilt making using Foundation Paper Piecing has seen a resurgence more recently in the 1990s and is still going strong today.

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