At the best of times, foundation paper piecing can produce beautifully crisp and accurate seams or points, and at the worst of times it can make you want to flip your sewing table over and walk away.
For a beginner FPP can be a daunting technique, but with a few tips and tricks you can stack the odds in your favor to get fantastic results. Below are some of the tips we went over at the Sew-In on Saturday:
- Sit near a bright window or a bright lamp… holding your work up to the light can help you align your seams and check your coverage as you work.
- When first learning, use your default stitch length as you will likely have to seam rip at least once (and that’s ok!). Reducing the stitch length can help with seam stability and clean removal of the paper later on, but it can also make seam ripping very difficult, so choose wisely.
- Backstitching is important, especially with short seams. However, much like the stitch length, backstitching can be a pain to rip out if you make a mistake, so be careful.
- Trim your seam allowances after each seam sewn, this helps reduce bulk. Scant seams are good, but don't cut it too close - you don't want the seams unravelling.
- Measure multiple times and cut once. Seriously. You are bound to make mistakes when first learning, but cut yourself some slack and take your time - you'll get the hang of it.
- Solids are a good place to start when first learning FPP. Working with patterned fabrics (especially directional patterns) can be maddening and give you results that might not live up to your expectations. Solids take the pressure off of having to figure out not only the technique but also the direction of the print. Then again, sometimes a chaotic arrangement of a pattern can create a nice secondary design!
- On larger, more elaborate blocks, it is helpful to have a color image of the finished block to refer to, digital or paper. When you are dealing with multiple sections or lots of tiny pieces, having a point of reference to look at can be very helpful to keep you on track.
- Most FPP patterns will have a code indicating what section of the pattern to start with… follow these instructions! There is usually a particular order the fabric needs to be sewn on in order to give the desired end result, so ignore the patternmaker's directions at your peril.
- Press often (ideally on each seam sewn) and do so with a dry iron. Steam, sprays, or moisture of any kind will cause your foundation paper to warp.
- When tearing out the paper, be gentle. It is exciting to be finished, but if you have used a normal stitch length and/or if you have short seams in your block, excessive force or tugging can rip or warp the seams.