Make the Most of Your Fabric Scraps when Foundation Paper Piecing

Foundation paper piecing is an important skill to know if you love accuracy in your quilting or love to craft designs beyond the traditional quilt block with precision. But unlike some other quilting techniques, it can produce a significant pile of oddly-shaped offcuts - some too big, some too small, and some just right. This tutorial will not only show you how to decide whether a scrap will be sufficient to complete a section of your FPP pattern piece, but also how to make the best selection. 

Pattern pieces featured in this tutorial are from Nesting Phoenix, the 5th star pattern in the Constellations Series and the mystery pattern for this year's Ships & Violins Mystery Quilt

The colours below represent the right and wrong sides of the fabric throughout this tutorial and any future ones for the Nesting Phoenix. The duller colours on the bottom row are the wrong side of the fabric.


Make the Most of Your Fabric Scraps when Foundation Paper Piecing

Let's begin by determining which of the oddly-shaped scraps below is best suited to complete section 3 of template C.



Step 1: Prepare your template as per usual. Template C has been rotated and folded along the solid line between sections 2 and 3, and a 1/4'' seam allowance has been prepared.

Step 2: Identify the boundaries of the section you are trying to complete including seam allowances.
Step 3: Place a scrap that you think might fit right side up on top of the folded section. Align a raw edge of the scrap with the raw edge of the prepared seam allowance. Does it cover the entirety of Section C3?
Not quite. There's a corner of the section that is not covered as shown below.


What if we move the scrap over to the right? (Make sure the raw edges are still matched.) Does it cover the section now? 

No, it doesn't. This scrap is too small. Let's try another one.


Scrap #2 seems large enough because it covers the entirety of Section C3. But, as you can see in the second image below, it's TOO large. I bet we can find something that works a little better...



TIP: Feel free to rotate the scraps as you need to. Most important is that the scrap is right side up.

Scrap #3 appears to cover the entirety of Section C3 once rotated, and we can see there's less excess around the section than scrap #2. It will work!

Step 4: Transfer the scrap below the template in the exact position that it was determined to cover the section from above - do not shift it left or right. The scrap should be right side up and the seam allowances should still be flush. 

TIP: Create a reference mark by creasing both seam allowances before transferring your scrap below the template, then match the crease when placing the scrap beneath the template. 

Step 5: Complete the rest of the template as per usual. 

IMPORTANT: Take extra care when choosing scraps for interior sections of a template. Ensure you have at least a 1/4'' excess around the entire section first.



A summary of things to look for:

  • a scrap that covers the entirety of a section (when folded) including seam allowances. 
  • a scrap that isn't too big.


Quiz Time: Let's look at another example. Which of the following scraps is best suited to complete Section G2:


Is it scrap #1?


Scrap #2?


Or scrap #3?


The answer could be scrap #1 because the scrap does cover the entirety of the section including seam allowances, but it wasn't the best suited. The correct answer is scrap #3 because it will successfully cover the section without too much excess fabric. Scrap #2 was too small. 

The more you put these tips to practice the better you will become at deciding what scraps may or may not work. Give it a shot - I bet you'll get the hang of it quickly.

Join us for the 2nd Annual Ships & Violins Mystery Quilt event by registering here, and put these foundation paper piecing tips to the test!

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Cristina De Miranda

Cristina De Miranda has been crafting and creating since her early years watching Art Attack. A tactile world of colour, pattern, and design appeared before her when a colleague introduced her to quilting in 2018. Cristina quickly dusted off her sewing machine and dived into a plethora of designer fabrics. Today, she is totally and irreversibly immersed in a whimsical world called Ships & Violins.