Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Foundation Piecing with Freezer Paper.

I sort of view foundation piecing as a necessary evil: it's the only way to piece certain types of patterns, like stars and compass roses.  I love both.  What I don't like is the fabric waste and with the traditional style, needing to make a separate template of each partial block and then tearing off the paper.  So I was delighted when I ran across using freezer paper in the November 2009 issue of American Quilter magazine.  It eliminates the need for multiple templates and for tearing off the paper.  Fabric waste can be minimized with some careful prep.

Preparing the template.
Be sure to use freezer paper with a Plastic and not true wax coating!

I cut pieces of freezer paper to the standard 8.5 by 11 inch paper size.  I flatten the pieces and then print the template using my computer printer onto the dull side of the paper.  I have had no issues with the ink coming off onto the iron.  Of course you can trace, although freezer paper is sometimes hard to see through. You will be able to use the template multiple times - I have used them through 8 iterations.  So, yes, you may have to make more than one set if creating a larger quilt of many blocks, but probably only 1/4 as many. This saves time and money in the long run.  I also think it makes the blocks more consistent, which is helpful when sewing them together.

If I trace, I tack down the edges of the paper over the template master so keep things from shifting.  DO NOT iron the freezer paper onto the template master: the paper will permanently stick to the freezer paper!

I now look at the template and decide if certain pieces should be oriented with fabric grain (recommended for anything with outer block edges), what colors go with which piece and a minimum size of fabric to cut.  The last is helpful with larger pieces that might have to be oriented with fabric grain.  I make sure that the measurements include at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch beyond the block element across the widest dimension each way.  I write this directly onto the template.  If in the course of piecing with the template the first time, I find my measurements off, I record those changes onto the template.

Photo 1: Determining Colors, fabric grain and measurements.
Once that is done, I am ready to start piecing.  In my example, I have two partial blocks, labeled A and B.  I cut them apart and piece each separately before sewing them together to form a quarter of the total compass rose.

By having the measurements determined ahead of time, I can cut strips of fabric and them subcut them into the needed pieces.  For really small pieces (like pieces 1, 2 and 5 in part B in Photo 1) I will use scraps.

The hardest thing to get used to in foundation piecing is placing the fabric right side DOWN!

1) Piece 1 is easy: make sure it extends at least 1/4 inch on all sides of the element outline numbered 1, place it right side down on your ironing surface and iron the template onto it.  (Photo 2)

Photo 2: Starting the first piece.
2) Now carefully fold the template along the line between elements 1 and 2.  Crease it hard with your fingernail the first time.  The next time you use this template, it should readily fold along this line, so be picky the first time you fold!  Trim the exposed fabric to 1/4 inch seam allowance.  (Photo 3)

Photo 3: Trimming the seam allowance.
3) Here is the part I have the most difficulty with and which I have yet see explained anywhere.  Often pieces are at an angle and if you don't position the piece correctly, it will not cover the template element the way you need it to.  The following seems to work well.
  • Place the next piece face down and put the template over it to ensure that the fabric extends at least 1/4 to 1/2 inches beyond all the edges of the template element.  If grain is important, that needs to be oriented, too.
  • Now fold back the template and mark where the seam allowance of the previous piece hits the next piece (Photo 4). Add a registration mark that goes across the exposed seam allowance and onto the new piece.
  • Trim the new fabric piece EXACTLY 1/2 inch beyond the marked allowance edge.  Extend the registration mark across this section to the cut edge.  (Photo 5)
Photo 4: marking the allowance edge of previous piece onto next piece.
Photo 5: 1/2 inch trim beyond allowance edge and registration mark.
  • Now put the right sides of the 2 fabric pieces together, matching the registration marks. Keep the foundation folded back and sew right along the fold edge, trying not to catch the paper.  Note in Photo 6 that I use my 1/4 inch foot to help with this.  You need to sew at least 1/4 inch before and after the actual line.
Photo 6: Sewing the pieces together.
4) Fold out the template to make sure the next piece is postioned correctly.  Fold it back again.  Set your seam and press the piece out on the right side to ensure there are no folds (avoid the wax) and that you have a flat seam.  Now flip the whole thing over and iron the template over the new piece.  Photos 7 and 8.

Photo 7: Pressing the right side.
Photo 8: Press template over new piece.

 5) Continue the same sequence of steps until the entire template is filled.  Now trim the outer edges.  I like to extend the pieces along the outer edges beyond the usual 1/4 inch mark until I have finished the block, in case something goes wonky.  Seams that will be sewn immediately are trimmed to 1/4 inch.

 6) After completing a whole unit, carefully peel off the freezer paper.  Remember there are a lot of biases and you don't want to stretch the unit out. Press and starch this unit thoroughly.

 7) Now sew the units together.  Matching diagonal seams is a bit tricky.  Mark where the 1/4 inch seam will cross the seam in each piece and insert a pin through those points to hold them together.  Place one or 2 pins on each side of this point.  Pull the holding pin.  If you spread the seam open, you should see a sharp point.  If not, adjust as needed.  Do this for each point along the seam.  Then pin the rest of the seam, easing as needed.  In Photo 10 below, you can see where this was done in 2 places.  I like to press seams open, but you may prefer otherwise.  Now you can trim the partial block to size.  Photo 11  I recommend a final pressing and starching.

Photo 10: Unit seam sewn, matching points.  Look for the sharp V for properly matched points.  Note all the matched  registration marks from the piecing phase
Photo 11: Final quarter unit for block.
Since you have not sewn through the freezer paper, the templates can get used over again.  No tearing out and picking at paper, etc.!  :-))  With subsequent uses, it does stick less tightly but folds readily along all the lines.  If you try to use one set for each full block, that block should be consistently pieced.  I would be hesitant to switch to fresh templates within the same block, in case there was a slight difference in printing or tracing.

Please let me know if this is helpful or if you have additional suggestions!

1 comment:

Talented Chick said...

I found you when looking to see what I could find out more about Frixion pens Voila! It's been a while since you did your tests and still they are for sale everywhere. Not for me! I just ordered some chalk pencils. I am anxious to try your paper freezer piecing method. Thank you! - for both valuable services. : )