Wednesday 6 May 2015

A guide to Foundation Piecing

I think I mentioned in an old post how long it took me to get my head around foundation piecing - a long time!! Now me being me, having learnt the technique I then felt the need to design my own foundation pieced templates and started out with one of my favourite shapes, the 60deg triangle.
I just love the way these can turn into large hexagons without having to play with annoying Y-seams.

I designed the block below together with a second triangle which turned into my first quilt pattern for sale, Hazy Hexies. This new pattern includes all the cutting and sewing instructions you need to complete the quilt top, but also expects you to know the basics of foundation piecing... just in case you don't, this blog post is going to help!

So, here's what you need - a cutting mat and rotary cutter, an Add A Quarter ruler (more on this in a minute), a piece of medium-weight card, your paper template, and the fabric pieces - measurements for these will be in your pattern.

An Add A Quarter ruler is a very handy tool when foundation piecing as it has a slight lip ¼”  in from the edge that sits up against the folded fabric when cutting your seam allowance. You'll see what I mean in a minute. If you don't have one of these, if you're careful you can use a normal quilter's ruler, just use a steady firm hand to keep it in place when cutting.

Foundation piecing is kinda sewn back to front, you pin the fabric on the reverse of the template and sew on the marked lines on the front, you'll get the hang of it, promise!

1. Firstly turn your template over and pin your first square in place, right side up, ensuring that it covers Triangle 1 completely with at least a  ¼” overhang on each side of the triangle. A handy tip is to hold your triangle and fabric up to the light with the paper facing you so you can see the fabric edges through the paper. Pin your fabric in place.

2. Flip over your template and place your piece of card to the left of the first sewing line - the line between Triangle 1 and 2. Fold back your template over the card to reveal your fabric underneath. Now place your Add a Quarter ruler so that it's lip sits up against the card and trim the excess fabric.

3. Turn your template over again, and place your second fabric piece on top of the first, aligning it with the edge you just trimmed and pin. Go to your sewing machine, reduce your stitch length to about 1.4 or 1.5 – this helps you get the papers out afterwards. Starting in the seam allowance, sew along the drawn line, ending in the opposite seam allowance. Turn over and either finger-press or gently iron the seam flat.

4.  Flip over again, and as before, place your card to the left of the line between Triangle 2 and 3, fold back the paper template to reveal the fabric, butt the Add a Quarter ruler up to the card and trim the excess fabric.

5.  Flip over, place your third fabric piece along the seam you have just trimmed, checking that the fabric edges will cover the whole of Triangle 3, pin into place (the more experienced you get, you'll find you can just hold the pieces in place and won't need to pin) and sew along the drawn line, again starting and finishing in the seam allowance.

6. As your third triangle doesn't touch the fourth, you don't need to trim this just yet. Do the same with Triangle 4 and press seams flat. When you're folding your paper template back you may find that you have stitches from when you stitched over into the seam allowance holding you back. Simply pull the fabric away to loosen the stitches so the paper can lay flat.

7. You just need to trim your template now - I tend to use my quilter's ruler and line up a ¼” mark with the edge of the template, then trim, rather than using the dotted line on the paper, just to be sure I get an accurate seam allowance.

Congratulations! You have completed your first foundation-pieced block! Why not have a go my Hazy Hexies pattern which features this and another triangle, together with solid triangles which are sewn into rows to create large hexagons!

Linking up with Late Night Quilter's Tips & Tutorials Tuesday


  1. I really like your tip about using thick cardstock pressed into the fold of the template to line your add a quarter ruler against!

  2. My first paper piecing class instructor suggested an index card and I've used that same index card ever since. The add a quarter ruler is invaluable as well.

  3. You're right ladies, that piece of card really does make all the difference! Happy Quilting!

  4. Ive searched this page till Im blue in the face and can’t find out how to print off a template in order to try this … am I blind?

    1. Hi Min, this is a tutorial on the general technique that can be used for foundation piecing, so I haven't included a template. The triangle I have used is actually from my Hazy Hexies pattern mentioned above. You should be able to apply this method to any foundation template you come across, there are lots of free patterns online.


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