Foundation paper piecing is a method of constructing quilt blocks that uses a paper foundation to stabilize fabric pieces as you sew them together. The paper is sewn to the fabric, creating a stable base for intricate designs and precise piecing, meaning that you can create some beautiful quilt blocks which would be impossible to create without a guide.
If you are new to foundation paper piecing, you might be wondering if you need to use any special type of paper when you are paper piecing. In this post, I thought it may be helpful to explain some of the different types of paper that can be used for foundation paper piecing and their pros and cons.
Option One: Plain Printer Paper.
Plain printer paper is the most commonly used paper for foundation paper piecing, and my own usual choice for the majority of my paper piecing projects. It's widely available and affordable, making it an accessible choice.
The main downside to using plain printer paper for paper piecing projects is that it can be difficult to tear away from the fabric once the sewing is complete in some circumstances, for example, if your stitch length is set too long, or the piecing needed for a particular block is very intricate (best to arm yourself with some tweezers in this circumstance!).
Option Two: Freezer Paper.
Freezer paper is a paper-backed, wax-coated paper that's commonly used in the kitchen to wrap food for freezing in the United States of America. Honestly, here in little old NZ, I hadn't heard of it until I started quilting, but I did manage to find a roll of it at my local Spotlight Store and it was relatively cheap when compared with some of the other specialty papers I tried.
There were a few things I loved about using the freezer paper method. The first was that my stitch length didn't need to be as short. Freezer Paper sticks to the fabric when ironed, creating a stable base for piecing, and then is peeled back at the end, so no tweezers are necessary! Plus you can use the same foundation template a few times over, which is great if you have a repeating pattern like my Rainbow Connection Cushion Patterns shown in the photo above.
On the other hand Freezer paper is unlikely to work as well with designs that are incredibly intricate, and because (for me anyway) the paper comes in a roll, I had to take time to cut my sheets to Letter/A4 size before printing my templates. I also wouldn't recommend printing a PDF pattern directly onto the paper if you have a printer that runs hot, as the paper might stick in the printer.
Option Three: Vellum
Honestly, I do not recommend using Vellum paper for paper piecing. I have read a few blogs that do recommend it, and it does have some merits. It's translucent so you can see through it, which is nice, but in my experience, it curled when I used my iron on it, making it harder to piece, and the paper itself became very brittle and plastic-like meaning it was not easy to tear away, as many other bloggers will often report and actually pulled at my stitches worse than regular printer paper does.
It is possible that my iron was too hot, or that the quality of the product I purchased wasn't the same standard as other quilters might be using, so I would love to hear your feedback on this one.
Option Four: Specialty Foundation Piecing Papers.
There are also a number of specialty foundation paper piecing papers available that have been specifically for foundation paper piecing such as Foundation Piecing Paper by Kirsty Lea of Quiet Play, or the more widely known Carol Doak's Foundation Paper. These papers are on the more expensive end of paper supplies when it comes to quilting, and I personally haven't tried them, but according to friends I have asked who have used them, they are worth the extra cost. The reasons they gave being that the sheets are printer-ready, making it easy to print out patterns directly onto the paper (as opposed to the freezer paper which you will recall I had to cut to size). The papers are stable, and won't warp as you sew or press your quilt block. Plus my friends reported that they were easy to tear away from the fabric without tearing your stitches out.
Option Five: Sulky Solvy Paper
Another type of specialty paper for foundation piecing which I really loved using was Sulky Paper Solvy. Paper Solvy is different from the other specialty papers I mentioned in the previous paragraph because although it looks and feels like normal paper (albeit, it does feel a little bit thinner than regular printer paper), and is printer ready, the real magic of this paper is that it dissolves away in water. If you are unsure how it works check out this Instagram video which demonstrates it being washed away!
Once again, this is on the pricier side for foundation piecing papers, but if you are making a really intricate block with lots of tiny pieces, I feel it is definitely worth the investment as there is no need to pull the paper out - it simply washes away.
Which paper should you use:
Plain printer paper is a good starting point for beginners, but as you become more experienced, you may want to try other paper options. Which paper you should use ultimately depends on a number of factors such as what the project is that you are working on, what your budget is, and your own personal preferences. Each type of paper has its pros and cons, so experiment with different options to find the one that works best for you and your project.
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