Beginner Foundation Paper Piecing (FPP) Tutorial

Today I am going to share a beginner lesson in Foundation Paper Piecing (FPP).  

Many people feel challenged and daunted when they think about learning how to foundation paper piece.  However, I do believe everyone can overcome that.  I think if you follow my tutorials and try a few times (no matter how good or bad the outcome is the first few times), that you will learn the concept of FPP, and you will make great progress with each block you make.

First, I just want to talk a little about what FPP is and some of the concepts behind it.

FPP is when you sew fabric to a printed foundation paper (printer paper in this case).  It yields a very accurately pieced block.  With this method, you are able to get very exact angles, shapes, and blocks. You can use FPP for very basic blocks such as flying geese, and it will give you very crisp and precise points.  FPP is also used for very intricate blocks that have tiny angles and lots of pieces.  Either way though you follow the same basic concepts.  So, once you understand the concepts, you will be on your way to piecing complex FPP patterns.

****The most basic, important concept of FPP is that you use a printed paper to guide your stitches so that you can make very precise seams.  When you are piecing the block, you are arranging the fabrics, right sides together, sewing the seam (along the appropriate line) and then pressing to open the just pieced portions.  You repeat that for as many seams as are in the block.  Then you join your blocks.  And, finally, you remove the paper.*****

FPP patterns have letters and numbers on them.  They tell you the order in which you piece the block.  You start with the 'A' section and piece in numerical order.  Then continue on alphabetically with your pattern if applicable.

On the pieces inside the FPP block, there is no seam allowance.  When you are sewing, you are sewing the seams exactly as they are on the paper and you cut the seam allowance later (this will make more sense when you see my videos).  There is usually a seam allowance shown around the outside of the block on the paper (again, you'll see this later).

When you are piecing an FPP block, you sew onto the printed lines of the block.  You fabric, however, is on the wrong side of the paper.  You are actually sewing a mirror image of what you see on the lined side of the paper.

There is such a thing as foundation paper piecing paper.  It is thinner than printer paper but a little thicker than tissue paper.  You can print on it with your home printer and use it.  You can also buy pre-printer ones for common blocks like the log cabin, economy block, and pineapple block.  I'm using these from Fat Quarter Shop right now in their BFF Quilt Along.  Here is a link to the log cabin one so you can see it- HERE.  My friend- Amber- also sells a lovely pineapple FPP pad HERE.  I haven't tried this one yet but I'm going to soon!!

When doing FPP, I decrease my length to about 1.5.  When you decrease your stitch length, the needle perforates the paper as you sew, which makes removing the paper very easy.

I tend to not use pins when I do FPP.  I think they warp the project and get in the way.  In general, I just hold the fabric in place with my hands.  Occasionally, I use a glue stick to hold the first piece down.  Please experiment with what works best for you.  Also, I don't use steam in my iron when FPP-ing because I think it distorts the paper too.  That might be just my preference so feel free to experiment.

There are lots of different tricks people use based on their own trial and error and experience.  This tutorial is based on how I do it.  As always, please feel free to find other tutorials to help you understand, if for some reason, mine does not make sense to you.

I will do my best to answer all of the questions you have on this topic.  I know it is confusing when you start out.  However, the best advice I can give you is to begin is to-

     1. Read through this whole post

     2. Watch my videos.  I am putting them in my stories on Instagram and then I will move it to a highlight after the story ends (24 hours from when I first post it).

     3. Actually try to make a block (or a few) yourself.  If you are able to make the block, fantastic!  If you cannot make it yet, that is ok!  Trying it out and making mistakes are great learning tools here.  The more you try, the better you'll get.

     4. Once you make the block, you'll see what you understand and where you still need clarification.  So, feel free to ask your questions at this point too!

Here is the block we are making-

Of course, the easiest way to make this block is by traditional piecing without FPP.  But, I think making a block like this first will help you understand the techniques of FPP.  You can download the FPP templates below.  You'll need to print all 3 to make the practice block shown above.

I'll see you on Instagram for the video and please just ask me any questions you have!!

Talk to you soon,