Foundation Paper Piecing Tip

Sometimes a symmetrical paper pieced block, like a star, can contain awkwardly shaped pieces. I have taken up creating my own templates to be a bit more frugal with my  fabric and to be able to precisely fussy cut. Fabric here in Europe is at least twice as expensive than in the USA. We have to be frugal.

My template technique is nothing fancy.

  1. I print out the pattern.
  2. I trace that awkward piece onto a new piece of paper. (red)
  3. I add 3/8 ” around that shape for some extra seam allowance.  (blue)
  4. I cut the shape out (on the blue line) and place it on my fabric. Trace it onto the fabric. Cut fabric out.

I want to bet that many of you do the same!

But, if I have an weird shaped piece in the pattern that is repeated many times, like it would be in a star, cutting the fabric can feel like wasting a lot of pretty and expensive fabric.

I would love to share a technique I use on those awkward pattern pieces that are repeated in a block.

See how the brown-creme background fabric has a weird shape? I am using this shape as an example in this tutorial.

(pattern ‘Blurry’)

For the purpose of this little tutorial I have traced the shapes (including seam allowances) onto a piece of colored paper with a thick black marker. Not wasting any fabric here, ha ha! In real life I would use a water soluble pen or a Frixion pen on fabric. I like to only use the Frixion pen for that purpose as the lines they leave will most likely be cut away anyway because there is extra seam allowance. No worries of any ghost lines in the finished quilt.

I will show you three options of cutting out the fabric. It is up to you to decide which one you like best.

Option 1.

This is what I normally do with regular shapes like triangles. Stack them up along the bottom edge of the fabric and turn the shape 180 degrees each time.

In the drawing I have stippled one shape on the bottom right. If my paper would have been wider I would have drawn the next shape there and not in a second row.

After cutting the shapes out, you are left with a big chunk out of your fabric. The bottom right of the fabric is now only good for a triangle maybe. And that weird triangular piece in the middle… well what could you make from that?

( What a difference it makes to how you take a photo: with artificial light or daylight! Wow!!!)


Option 2

I use this technique when dealing with a directional fabric like a stripe. The awkward shapes are back to back.

After cutting you are left with a lot of triangular shapes above your cut outs. And you are left once again with a weird triangular scrap.


Option 3

When you need 4 or more of the same awkward shape and depending on how wide your piece of fabric is, you can position your templates in a square or a rectangle.

This works best for non-directional fabric.

Okay, the centre “square” piece that is left over is on the bias, but when paper piecing that doesn’t really matter. You do that all the time. So this square would certainly be used in another project.

The top of the paper only leaves a narrow strip. You can prevent that by not “building” a square but a rectangle. (If you have large piece of fabric you probably need not worry here!)

And after cutting:

A wider strip at the top remains now. A strange Z-shape scrap that I would cut down to a rectangle remains.


Whatever you chose to do, think about what the rest of the fabric will be used for. I tend to paper piece and piece in the traditional way (regular patchwork). I prefer to have fabric scraps that have straight edges so I can easily cut squares or triangles from it.


I do hope you have found this little tutorial helpful. If you cut out your fabric for foundation paper piecing in a different way, I would love to hear!



6 thoughts on “Foundation Paper Piecing Tip

  1. Fabric’s expensive here too! I cut strips off the main piece, just a little wider than the pieces I need plus their seam allowance. Then I cut one piece to size accurately using the light box and a silver gel pen, and use that as a template on the strips, cutting with scissors. My scraps are probably a little larger than yours, but I still find it a good economical way of keeping my pieces of fabric tidy whilst still ending up with little wastage. If there is no pattern direction it works well.

    • I also cut fabric in strips, especially for the more simple projects. I keep an various width handy and I tend not to precut the pieces. I just use the whole stripe and cut after each bit has een sewn on.

      • Sometimes it’s a matter of your time being more valuable than the fabric. If you need to get something finished quickly, you’re more prepared to waste a little to make that possible!

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