Friday, April 19, 2013

Foundation Pieced Quilt - Design Phase

Foundation Piecing is commonly called Paper Piecing because you sew the patches directly onto a pattern printed on a piece of paper.  I prefer to use the term Foundation Piecing as not to confuse it with English Paper Piecing which is an entirely different piecing technique.

I designed this block in Electric Quilt:

Some benefits of Foundation Piecing:

  •  You can easily piece patches of awkward shapes with really acute angles (like A7 and A10 above).
  •  You don't have to consider fabric bias; the paper stabilizes the fabric regardless of bias orientation.
  •  You can precisely match the corners of patches at vertices that have several patches coming together (there will be eight patches coming together at some of the corners of the blocks).
Four of these blocks are rotated to create this compass star:




  • Patches 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, and 11 are all the same color and should blend, so you have to pick the fabric carefully to make sure they blend (no grid, plaid, etc).
  • The fabrics used for patches 18, 19, and 20 need to alternate between blocks to create the spiral effect
  • I made the design decision to eliminate patch 14 (combine with patch 13).

The final design looks something like this:


There were some fabrics I really wanted to use, but I didn't have enough of them to use them exclusively, so I decided to make it scrappy with each star having different fabrics.


Not all blocks can be foundation pieced.  When designing a block, you're limited straight lines where the following rules are observed:

The endpoints of each line is the edge of the block, or another line whose endpoints are:

 The lines don't intersect:
 Lines can only have other lines end on one side:
I think of it sort of like a game of pick-up sticks. If you can remove a single patch from the block by cutting along a straight seam edge to edge, and if you can continue to remove single patches in this manner until all the patches are removed, then you can foundation piece the block.

One trick is you can break a block that can't be foundation pieced into sub-blocks that can be.  For example, I designed this block:

Which can be foundation pieced in three sections like so:


When repeated and rotated (and alternated with a variant block), this quilt looks like this:


Notice that this pattern has 12-patch corner (Oy!), but foundation piecing makes this feasible (but not easy).

Another alternate foundation pieced block I designed avoids this many patched corner by including a 'buffer' block in the corner:


Notice that without the buffer block these corners would have 16 patches!

Piecing Phase - Next Post >

3 comments:

Eric said...

(Hey, I know that kitty!)

Really cool post, Andrew.

Are the rules of foundation piecing motivated by technical concerns or aesthetic? The last black and white diagram suggests a technical motivation, so the sections can be stitched together in a simple way?

Unknown said...

Wow, Andrew. Super impressive, beautiful work. Cheers, Matt.

Vickie said...

Your quilt is gorgeous! I see that you used EQ to draft your pattern. Is there a way to receive a copy of the foundation or to help me draft one? I really like it. My skills with EQ are really basic.