How to do paper piecing for intricate quilts

Have you ever looked at a quilt with perfect, intricate patterns and points and asked yourself: “how did the quilter do that?!” The answer may surprise you!
While some people are like Michelangelo with a quilt and can piece together perfect designs effortlessly every time, the rest of us need a little help. That’s where paper piecing comes in. Paper piecing is a fun and simple quilting technique that involves using a piece of paper as the foundation for your quilt block. Using a pattern of your choosing, you can follow along the printed lines on your paper to sew together different patches into the design that you want, without any measuring or guesswork. With this method, you can get accurate points and shapes every time – all you have to do is follow the pattern on the paper!
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Here’s how to get started:
Step 1
The first step in paper piecing is, of course, the paper. According to Karen Johnson of Connecting Threads, you can use nearly any type of paper for this project, including printer/copy machine paper, newspaper, tracing paper, vellum, and freezer paper. You can also buy foundation paper at a crafts store or a crafting website, which is specially made so that you can print out your design from the computer without worrying about any ink bleeding. There is even wash-away paper that disappears when you wash the quilt after your project is complete!
Print or draw your pattern on the paper of your choice (making sure to have a separate pattern page for each block in your quilt), and then you are ready for the next step.
Step 2
After printing or drawing your pattern, you must then affix your fabric to it. Lindsay Conner of Craftsy.com recommends starting with a square or material an inch larger than your pattern block. Once your fabric is cut, either pin or glue the back side of the pattern paper to the back side of the fabric. Depending on how you want your quilt to look, you can add other pieces of fabric at this step as well. This process is explained in detail in the video from Craftsy’s Angela Walters below.
Step 3
The next step is to sew along the lines of your pattern, beginning a few stitches before the line starts, and ending a few stitches after, as you can see in the tutorial. Whether you are sewing by hand or using a sewing machine, sew through the paper as if it were fabric. When you finish with the first section, fold over the paper, cut away the excess material (leaving ¼ inch of extra space) and move on to the fabric for the second section. Repeat steps two and three until you have attached and sewn all of the pieces you would like to use in that particular quilt block.
Step 4
The final step in the paper piecing process is to remove the paper. Simply rip the paper off the back of the quilt block, or, if you have wash-away paper, just toss the square into the washing machine and let the paper melt away. Once the paper is gone, you’re ready to move on to the next block in your quilt. Keep going until your perfectly pieced quilt is complete!
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You can see the full paper piecing process in detail in this video from Craftsy:

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