I’ve been thinking recently about how, when I come to do a specific technique, I grab my tried and trusty tools for that job, so I thought I’d do a few posts on what I use to do certain tasks in the hopes that it might help you guys out a bit :o)

Today I’ll be looking at my foundation paper piecing (FPP) tools, and I’ll tell you what I use them all for:

So in the photo above we have the following:

  • Wallpaper roller
  • Creative Grids rulers
  • New needles (these are Organ, but any brand you like will do)
  • Precision tip tweezers
  • Sewline glue pen
  • Olfa Deluxe rotary cutter

Let’s take a closer look at each of them:

The wallpaper seam roller is used to give myself nicely creased seams without having to keep the iron on all the time.  FPP is time consuming and often has a lot of seams, so having to press each one will burn a lot of electricity, plus you probably have to keep getting up to go to the ironing board and that wastes even more time!

I love Creative Grids rulers because of their grippy bottoms which stop the rulers from skiting about all over the fabric, but as you can see in this photo, they also have a 1/4″ line marked on two sides, which is great for trimming as you join each piece of fabric.  You can get rulers just for FPP called ‘Add A Quarter’ but as you’ll have noticed above, I’m cheap, so one ruler that does all the things is right up my street, plus when you come to trim your finished block at the end, it’s useful to line up the edges of the pattern with the 1/4″ lines to ensure you get the correct seam allowance all around.

The new needles actually come at the end of the process.  Sewing through paper blunts your needle, so while I normally adhere to the rule that you use a new needle with each project, when I come to FPP I keep the one from the last project and then replace it at the end.

I use these precision tip tweezers to remove the wee bits of paper that often get stuck in the corners of stitching when you rip the papers out.  They’re sold as craft tweezers, and can be picked up pretty cheaply at craft shops worldwide.

I use my glue pen to stick the first piece of fabric to the paper foundation – it’s much easier to try and line up the second piece if the first one isn’t moving too!  I also use it when there are larger pieces of fabric being added further into the pattern, as they can get pulled out of shape, leading to lumpy blocks.

There is a lot of trimming in FPP, and I love my Olfa Deluxe rotary cutter, as it’s comfy in my hand when trimming for days.

* Note that I’m not sponsored by any of these companies, these are my genuinely favourite tools. If you happen to be reading from one of these companies and fancy sponsoring me, do let me know ;o);

When I was sewing an FPP block on Saturday I also took a few other photos to share some other tips that you may find useful:

I prep all my pieces ahead of starting to sew.  This particular pattern required me to sew 4 identical FPP blocks to make up the finished piece, so I did it all in a oner.  Every time I make a new FPP pattern I print out an extra template and cut it down into the individual components which I then use as templates to cut out the various pieces I need.

I usually add about another 1/2″ all around the template piece.  Whilst the piece above could have been left as a square, if you have angled pieced, it’s much easier to have edges on the angles to understand how the piece will join on in the end.  It also saves fabric when you have triangular pieces, for example, as you can tessellate them better.

I mark on both the templates I’ll sew on, and the one I’m going to use as the cutting template, which fabric will be used for each piece.  It’s probably not screamingly obvious on the above, but I knew that N was Neutral, and the L, M and D were Light, Medium and Dark shades of the colour I was using.  This aves randomly odd pieces of fabric appearing where they shouldn’t.

Finally, when I come to sew, I reduce the stitch length a bit.  By default my machines uses a length of 2.5, this just happens to be 2 ‘clicks’ down from that.  Smaller stitches make the paper tear from the seam more easily.  My machine could go smaller, but any smaller and it’s a PITA when you try and unpick things…

If you’re wondering about getting started in FPP, I have an old series, Foundation Paper Piecing For The Terrified that you can find here.  The glue is an addition to the techniques from that series, as is the wallpaper seam roller, but evolution is good :o)