Tutorials/Free Patterns

Paper Piecing Using Freezer Paper Templates

Woven Star1Woven Star Block photo

I love paper-piecing. I like the precise points and seams that align. What I hate about paper-piecing is tearing the paper foundation off the back of the block when it is finished…pulling tiny bits of paper out of stitches, hoping the seams will hold.

A couple of years ago, I learned how to use freezer paper as a foundation for paper-piecing and it revolutionized this technique for me. It is fast, does not require removal of the paper foundation, and the foundation can be reused at least a dozen times, saving time and paper.

I have provided a PDF pattern for the block “Woven Star.” This pattern is for a 10 inch block. You can download the PDF here. (Please note you will need to have Adobe Reader installed to open this file. You can download the Reader for free at www.adobe.com.)

There are two units, A and B. Units A and B, when sewn together, make one-quarter of the block. So, you will need to make four of each unit to complete the block. There are only three seams in each unit, so this block goes together fairly quickly.

The first step when doing any kind of paper-piecing is to measure the individual areas within each unit to determine the size of the fabric patches you will need to cut. I have given you the sizes for this block in the pattern, but I want to show you how I determined these measurements. For experienced paper-piecers – feel free to skip ahead!

Woven1To determine the size of the fabric needed, lay a clear ruler over the area to be covered. The fabric must be large enough to extend outside the seam allowance (the dotted lines) and the solid seam lines by at least one-quarter inch. The red line shows this piece must be 5 3/4 inches by 2 3/4 inches.  I have recommended this be cut 6 inches by 2 3/4 inches. Always cut the patch larger than you need.

Photo2To measure the second patch in the A unit, place the 1/4 inch line on the ruler just above the seam line to ensure the patch will be large enough. You can see that the patch will need to be a minimum of 4 1/2 inches long and 2 3/4 inches wide to cover this patch adequately. Continue measuring patch 3 and 4 and compare them to my suggested measurements in the pattern. The good news is the patches in Unit B are the same size, so you would only need to measure one unit!

Using these measurements, cut four pieces of fabric for each section of Unit A and Unit B. Place them in order, A1, A2, A3, A4 and B1, B2, B3, and B4 to help keep things organized.


Next, cut apart the two paper foundations to make them easier to use.

Next, use a bone knife, a wooden roller, or your fingernail, to crease each seam line in Unit A and Unit B.  The seam lines are the solid black lines. This will make it easier to fold back the seam line when you are ready for stitching.


Use an index card or card stock as a straight edge to fold the seam lines. It is important to keep these folds as straight and accurate as possible, as this will become your seam guide.


After all the seams have been creased, begin by placing your A1 fabric on the shiny side of the freezer paper, making sure there is a 1/4 inch seam allowance extending beyond the A1 – A2 seam line. Gently press the fabric to the paper with a dry iron, hold it in place.


Fold the paper template back along the A1 – A2 seam line, exposing the 1/4 inch seam allowance. Place the A2 fabric right sides together with the A1 fabric. Flip the fabrics over, so the A1 seam allowance is on top. You will be sewing exactly next to the paper fold for this first seam.





Stitch as closely to the paper as possible, without stitching through the paper foundation. As you can see, my stitch line is not perfect here. I should have slowed down a bit for a more precise seam! The more perfect this seam is, the more precise your block will be.


After stitching the seam, turn the foundation over and gently press the A2 fabric down onto the shiny, sticky side of the freezer paper.


Turn the foundation over, and fold back the seam line between A2 and A3, exposing the excess fabric from the A2 patch. ( I have to apologize – I am left-handed, so I will try to orient this for right-handers from here on.)



Place the 1/4 inch line along the fold in the paper, and use your rotary ruler to trim off the excess fabric from A1 and A2 that extends beyond this seam line. This leaves you with a 1/4 inch seam allowance for your next seam.


Flip over the foundation and place your A3 fabric right sides together with the A2 fabric, matching up the edges. Take a moment to notice the seam lines and the outer seam allowance line that show through the paper foundation. Make sure the A3 fabric patch is aligned so when it is sewn and flipped over, it will cover both the outer seam allowance, as well as providing at least a 1/4 seam allowance for the A4 patch on the right.


Flip the foundation over, and stitch the A2 and A3 fabrics together, staying as close to the paper fold as possible.


Open fabric A3 and gently press it down onto the shiny side of the foundation.


Flip the foundation over and fold the foundation along the A3 and A4 seam line. Place the 1/4 inch line of the ruler on the paper fold, and using your rotary ruler, trim off the excess fabric from the A2 and A3 fabric patches.


Turn the foundation over to the fabric side and place the A4 fabric patch right sides together with the A3 fabric patch, aligning the edges. Take note of the dark seam line and dotted seam allowance lines that show through the foundation. Make sure the A4 fabric patch is aligned so when it is sewn and flipped over, it will adequately cover this area. Fold back the paper along the A3 – A4 seam line and stitch along the fold, as you have done previously.


Fold the A4 patch over the shiny side of the foundation and press it lightly with a dry iron so it will adhere to the foundation. You have now completed all the seams in this A unit.


Turn the foundation paper so the printed side is facing up. Using your rotary ruler and rotary cutter, cut out the A unit along the dotted seam allowance lines. Peel off the freezer paper foundation so you can use it to make the remaining 3 “A” units. Follow the same steps to make the remaining A units, and then do the same to make the four B units.


One A unit and one B unit form one-quarter of the Woven Star block.


Four A and B units, arranged together form the completed block.


Take care when sewing these two units together. You will find that the seam on the right hand side of this photo will “nest” together. Use your finger to press these seams together, and pin them. Pin the opposite edge of the block to ensure nice even seams.


Units A and B sewn together. Nice even seams! Now sew the top two units together, and the bottom two units together. Press the center seams in opposite directions.


After you have sewn two A/B units together to form the top row of the block, and two A/B units for the bottom of the block, it is time to sew the top half and bottom half of the block together. Place them right sides together, and using your finger, nestle them together along the seam lines marked in red and pin them to ensure an accurate seam.


After the two halves of the block have been sewn together, there is something to notice. All of the seams in this block have been moving in a counter-clockwise direction. So please press the center seam to continue this motion. The left side should be pressed down and the right side press upward. You will notice that this results in the center of the block collapsing into a flat spiral. This distributes the bulk of the seam around the center of the block. This is another benefit of paper-pieced blocks. The back of the block will be almost as beautiful as the front of the block!

Photo32Flip the block over, and this is the final product.

This block has a “star” corner, which means it will produce a secondary star pattern when the blocks are sewn together. I love these!

Woven Star Quilt

Paper piecing requires some patience when you are first learning the technique. The beautiful blocks that can be produced using this method are well worth the time invested.

Until next time,


Quilts Using Men’s Neckties


The Shirt

Last Fall I wrote a post about making quilts using men’s neckties. The subject had a lot of interest, so obviously there are a number of quilters who are interested in ways to use discarded neckties. Indeed, neckties are made of expensive, beautiful fabrics. I posted a link to a paper-pieced pattern for this 12-inch block called “Starched Shirt.” That link had an issue, so I am now posting a replacement link for simple templates for this block. You can find the pattern here: Starched Shirt PDF. Note the long pieces of the shirt front span onto a second page, so you will need to tape the pages together and cut out this template.

Shirt detail


There are three inset seams in the block. Don’t panic, they aren’t too difficult. Sew the sides of the shirt to each side of the tie. Then sew the neck piece to the tie section (seam 1), starting and stopping 1/4 inch from each end of the seam. Turn the left side of the neck piece and fit it to the upper left shirt collar and stitch (seam 2) from the tie to the top of the collar , and repeat for the other side (seam 3). Then do the same for each background pieces. Sew the small seam at the collar, starting and stopping 1/4 inch from each end of the seam (seam 4). Then turn the background to fit along the neck, and sew from the top of the collar to the top of the block (seam 5), and repeat for the section along the shoulder (seam 6). Be patient, and gently ease the fabric pieces into place. Leaving the 1/4 spaces at the ends of the short seams is important, as it allows you space to start your next seam.

While we are revisiting the subject, I thought I would share a few more photos of these creative projects using men’s neckties.

This quilt was made by Nancy Sturgeon. I love that she has not only incorporated shirting fabric into the design, but she has also used the label sewn to the back of the tie in her border design.


Virginia Anderson has given these silk ties new life by using them in this beautiful Crown of Thorns block. This is an amazing use of color and she has done a great job of mixing a variety of fabric designs.


This lovely quilt was a custom design done by Linda Gutherie McClelland. For those of you who have ties and need some help getting them into a quilt, you can find Linda on Etsy.


I cannot provide the name of the maker of this quilt. If someone can provide the maker’s name, leave a comment and I will update this image. I love the use of the dark grey solid fabric between the tie fabrics in this quilt. It allows the use of a variety of fabric designs and colors, without it looking mismatched.


I don’t have a maker’s name for this quilt, either. The ties are sewn together and cut into blocks, then separated by solid black strips which helps unify the design. The solid blocks also provide a place for the eye to stop and rest.


This art quilt was exhibited at Quilt Expo Beaujolais in 2013. I love the movement created by the soft curve in the ties when they were sewn together.  The circle of appliqued ties on the surface helps reinforce the circular movement.


I could hang this Christmas Tree skirt on the wall and look at it all day long! This custom tree skirt is made by Chicago Lost and Found. Each skirt uses over 250 neckties. Beautiful!


This last piece of necktie inspiration comes from the website of Italian architecture firm Oreste Ruggiero. They do not identify the maker of this beautiful labyrinth style quilt, but it is a stunner. It appears to be an applique piece, and has such a calm, meditative quality to the design. Bellisimo.

Hopefully, these beautiful and inspiring quilts make you want to grab an armload of ties and a pair of scissors! So many options….

Until next time,


The Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap

As I described in a previous post, this is the week that Stitched Postcards will be traveling through the postal systems of over 20 countries in the Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap. I received my swap partner: Chrissy, in Aylestone, Leicester, England. It will be great fun to anticipate what will be arriving in my mailbox from her.

Should you want to participate in one of these swaps in the future, I will show you how I made my card for this swap. The standard size for one of these postcards is 4 inches by 6 inches. Once you have your idea for the card, choose a background fabric. A solid or very small print is the safest choice. I decided to make an “Art Girl” card, which will be a raw edge applique. I began with the drawing:


 I chose a tiny white dot on a pink background as my background fabric. The skin areas were cut from a text fabric and placed on the background fabric.


 These are really tiny pieces of fabric!


One of the challenges of this swap was to incorporate paper into the design. I used a piece of scrapbooking paper to make the girl’s dress. I then used tiny pieces of fusible interfacing to fuse the pieces to the background fabric. Did you know that paper can be fused this way, too? Neither did I, until now.


Then I put her into the sewing machine and did some free-motion outlining with black thread to give the design some detail.


Then it was time to work on the back of the card. I used white cotton fabric and drew the dividing line with a black Sharpie. I appliqued a flower in the lower left corner of the card, and used a post-mark motif to make a faux stamp for the card for a little whimsy. I am going to enclose this in an envelope to mail it to Chrissy, so I don’t need to leave space for a real postage stamp.


The next step is to provide some stability for the card. I ironed each piece on to a heavy weight fusible interfacing. This will give the card some stiffness, but won’t make it rigid.


I then cut out the front and back pieces, placed them with their interfaced sides together, and used a zig-zag overlap stitch around the perimeter of the card to hold the two pieces together.


The back of the card is now ready for my note to Chrissy, and to be popped into the mail and sent on its way to England.

Until next time,



Making Quilts Using Men’s Neckties

I have published an article on Answers.com about using discarded men’s neckties for quilt-making. You can read the tips in the article, which I have linked at the bottom of this post.

This subject first came to mind a couple of years ago when a friend of mine gave me a huge box of beautiful silk neckties. Her husband, a physician who wore a lovely tie to work every day, had died and she couldn’t bring herself to throw them away. I have taken the ties apart, sorted them, and cleaned them. What now?

I have been considering two patterns for this project (which I will return to my friend as a loving memory of her husband). The first is the classic pieced “Bow Tie” pattern. Necktie fabric would translate well, and the solid background fabric would make the tie fabric pop.

Bow Tie

The templates for a 6 inch Bow Tie block can be found here: BowTiePDF. You can easily increase the size of the block by taking it to the copy shop and increasing the size of the templates.

The second block is a very easy foundation-pieced block called “Starched Shirt.”

The Shirt


It would be fun to make 12 to 16 of these blocks and use Oxford cotton or other men’s shirting fabric for the shirt, and a variety of beautiful silk ties.  This pattern is for a 12 inch block and it will print out on four pages. Tape the pages together, using the registration lines in the margins, and cut out the foundation pieces.

(3/1/2015: UPDATE. The digital paper-piecing pattern I originally posted had an error that I have been unable to correct. I am posting a new link for templates for the same 12 inch block. I apologize for the failed original link! Happy piecing.) The new link is here: StarchedShirtPDF.

I have noticed a number of unique ideas for quilts using men’s ties on Pinterest.  This “Tie Burst” quilt from QuiltingBoard.com is terrific because the entire top surface of the tie is used without the need for piecing.


This quilt, which was inspired by the book “Daddy’s Ties,” by Shirley Botsford, was made and pinned by blogger, Shout4Joy. The pointed angles at the end of the ties are a perfect fit for the blades of a Dresden Plate block.


This quilt, based on the Storm at Sea pattern, was made by the pinner in memory of her father. It was posted by Thimblebug6000 at Quilting Board.


Men’s neckties can be used effectively in a variety of quilt patterns. They are generally busy prints with strong directional patterns so they need lots of solids around them to calm things down visually.  Visit a closet near you, or take a trip to the thrift store, and try your hand at making a unique quilt using men’s neckties!

Here is the link to the article: Tips for Making Quilts Using Men’s Neckties.

Until next time,



Chain of Fools

The July block for the Aurifil Designer’s block of the month was designed by Laurie Simpson of  the duo Minick and Simpson. Polly Minick and Laurie Simpson are sisters who design fabrics for Moda. Laurie makes quilts and Polly hooks rugs, so they divide their designing time between cottons and wools. They have recently developed a collection of thread for Aurifil that coordinates with their Moda fabric lines.

The block Laurie designed is called “Chain of Fools” and was inspired by the song of that title, sung by Aretha Franklin. This is Laurie block:




This is my version of the block:




For the instructions for making this block, click here. This is a very pretty block, but I have to warn you that almost every seam in it is a Y seam. If you don’t have a lot of experience with in-set seams, you might want to hand piece this block. Hand piecing makes it easier to manipulate the patches for sewing. Mark the fabrics with the little dots on the templates, matching them up as you go.

Until next time,



Tutorial for Crosses and Star

This tutorial is for the block “Crosses and Star”.


Download the PDF file for the templates here   –  StarandCrossTemplates

Cut 12 of Template A

Cut 4 of Template B

Cut 4 of Template C

Cut 1 of Template D

Cut 4 of Template E

Cut 4 of Template F


Using this slightly wonky diagram as a guide, begin by sewing one E and one F to each side of  C.

Next, sew A to F, and another A to E. Then sew a third A to E-F. Repeat for the remaining three corner units.

Sew the top two corner units to each side of B. Press toward B.

Sew a B to each side of D. Press toward B.

Sew the bottom two corner units to each side of B. Press toward B.

Sew the top units to B-D-B, and finish by sewing the bottom units to the other side of B-D-B.

Until next time,



Beware of Curves!

This month I am the tour director for my Round Robin Bee group and the subject is sewing curved seams.  Sewing curves may be intimidating but with a little practice and some patience you can tuck this technique into your tool belt and produce some unique and beautiful blocks.

The old fashioned “Orange Peel” block is made with two very gentle curved seams, and is an excellent block to practice sewing curves.

You can find a template for this block at www.popularpatchwork.com/sites/4/documents/orange_Peel.pdf.

This is the block we are ultimately producing:

You will need to cut 4 of the “petal” shapes and 8 of the background shapes.

Take one petal shape and two background pieces and fold them in half and finger press a seam across the half way point on each.

Match the center point of one of the background pieces on the center point of the petal piece and pin.

Pin each end of the background piece to the ends of the petal piece.

Beginning at the center pin, insert pins about every half inch, working out to the edges. Yes, it is a lot of pins, but believe me, pins are your friends in this block!

After you have placed your pins on the front, turn the piece over and make sure the fabric on the back is nice and smooth along your pinned seam.  If you need to, smooth the fabric with your finger outwards toward the edge until there are no puckers or ridges.

The 411 on this block: sew slowly and patiently. Don’t work on this block if you are tired or in a hurry.  Curved seams are not as forgiving as straight seams, so take your time.

Keep the outside of your 1/4″ foot exactly on the outside edge of the fabric. Sew four or five stitches and then pause, lift the presser foot and realign the fabric, if necessary. Don’t sew over a pin. Stop and take the pins out as you come to them. It helps if you keep your eyes in front of the right side of the presser foot while sewing along the curve instead of watching the needle.

Once you have completed the seam, take a small, sharp pair of scissors and clip the seam every half inch.  Clip within 3 or 4 threads of the seam, being careful not to clip into the seam itself.  The clipping allows the fabric to splay and relax into the seam so you can iron it flat.

Press the seam toward the center.

Using the same guidelines, align the center of the second background piece with the center of the petal piece, inserting a pin at the mid-point.

Again, pin on the outer edge…

Pin, pin, pin…

Once again, after you have sewn the seam, use small sharp scissors and clip the seam every half inch to let the fabric relax and spread open on the seam.

This is the first of the four squares in the block. Repeat the prior steps to complete the three remaining squares in the block.

When you sew the four blocks together, please pay attention to the concave and convex curves and match them so the blocks come together in alignment.

If you choose to put the petals together as above, you will have a flower block and if you angle them the other way you will have the circle block. Give it a try!

Until next time,