Monday, July 2, 2012

Paper Piecing with a Squirrel

Yesterday, Beth from Plum and June, mentioned in her June wrap up post that she wanted to try paper piecing. I left her a comment saying that I had also been wanting to try this for a while now - and she suggested we make a pact to both try it this month. I said, sure, why not? Then I got really curious and started googling tutorials and trying to figure out how to do it. Sometimes you just need someone to give you a little push. Thank you, Beth! :)

A few weeks ago I started thinking about tangrams. During one of my first industrial design classes freshman year, we were given an exercise that involved tangrams. So what's a tangram? Straight from wikipedia:  

"A tangram is a dissection puzzle consisting of seven flat shapes, called tans, which are put together to form shapes. The objective of the puzzle is to form a specific shape (given only an outline or silhouette) using all seven pieces, which may not overlap. It was originally invented in China at some unknown point in history, and then carried over to Europe by trading ships in the early 19th century. It became very popular in Europe for a time then, and then again during World War I. It is one of the most popular dissection puzzles in the world."

The reason this came to my mind regarding quilting is that you can depict thousands of objects using just these basic geometric shapes - shapes that would be easy to sew together!

I thought using the shapes in the tangram would be the perfect way to explore paper piecing. I decided to use the theme of animals. There are lots of examples of tangram animals out there to choose from. (But hold up for a second - those two words next to each other are impossible to think or say without mashing them together - "tangranimals", so that's what they are now, lol.)  Here are just a few of the ones I found:

My goal is to piece two blocks per week, to end up with a quilt that has sixteen total blocks.  I will be posting every week on my progress, along with the templates I design for the blocks if you feel so inclined to make some animals yourself! :) It would make a great baby/kids quilt!

First things first - if you've never paper pieced before, here are some GREAT tutorials and tips that really helped me figure this all out. I would do a tutorial myself, but I promise it wouldn't be as good as these ones:
  • This video, from The Crafty Gemini, explains paper piecing with a really simple, basic block. It's really easy to follow.
  • This video, from Karen Johnson, of Connecting Threads, shows a more complicated block and offers up more advanced tips.
  • Here is a great blog post, from Fresh Lemon Quilts.
  • This article, by Janet Wickell, on, has a great list of general tips to reference when paper piecing. 
Here are my own personal tips:
  • Sew with a shortened stitch length - I went with 1.2
  • Use really big, over-sized pieces of fabric! Don't skimp out, because wasting fabric isn't as bad as using the seam ripper
  • GO SLOW - you don't want to have to use a seam ripper on those tiny little stitches. It'll probably happen though. It took me FOUR tries, starting over from scratch, to make this block!
  • Before you stitch a seam, pretend it's already been sewn and fold it over along the pretend seam line. Does everything look right? Or did you almost just sew the piece on backwards? It's easy to do! :P
  • If you ever make your own paper piecing design, remember that whatever you sew will be a mirror image of the template you are using!
Okay, so you got it right? On to Block One!

I should mention that these blocks won't be true tangrams, because I had to modify the outlines of the shapes in order to make this work for paper piecing. In paper piecing, it's very important to have a plan, and to sew things in a specific order, otherwise you might end up at an intersection of seams that just won't work!

I broke this block up into four smaller blocks - it's the only way I could figure out how to make it work, and I think it makes it easy because each block only has a few pieces. The final block will be just under 6" square. I added borders to make my finished block 10" square.

Download the pdf of this block here.

Step one: Figure out how to paper piece (LOL, do ya like that?)
Step two: Download the pdf of this block here. Print out the template at 100% scale (ie do not scale or fit to page)
Step three: Cut the blocks out - just be sure to leave some white space around each block
Step four: Paper piece each block individually, starting with 1 and following the numbers in order
Step five: Trim the blocks down - leave 1/4" around the entire block
Step six: Sew blocks A and B together
Step seven: Sew blocks C and D together
Step eight: Sew the two sections you just made together to create the final block
Optional: Sew a border of pretty fabric around your finished block!

That sounds like a lot of steps, but once you "get it", (and like I said, it took me four times!) it should go pretty quick. I hope it went well for ya! :)

A little disclaimer: This is my very first time paper piecing. My plans might not be perfect, and there may be easier ways to do things. If you see something that's wrong or have a suggestion - please let me know! I'd love to hear from you!

From now on I will post two blocks in each post, but I don't want to overwhelm you guys today - this post is long enough as it is! lol! I'll be back later this week with Block Two: Pig! At least, it's supposed to be a pig - it's a little ambiguous. Hehe. :P

Thanks for sticking with me for such a LOOOONG post! :D Hope you had a great Monday!

Linked to Fabric Tuesdays!


  1. Wow - the pressure is on! But you actually have made it a lot easier with this great post - okay, I will paper piece using your pattern by the end of this week. It is in writing now!

  2. Some great tips and resources! I'll make sure to check out the videos and tutorials you suggested whenever I get myself around to trying paper piecing!

  3. Wow, what a cool idea. It will make a great quilt!

  4. I really want to try paper piecing. Yours looks very nice

  5. Wow, what a great idea! This is so original and the finished quilt will look amazing! I've got a couple of paper piecing patterns I won, but I honestly have no idea where to start!

  6. Great pattern and a fab idea. I really love paper piecing but haven't done any for ages, I think your squirrel will be a good place to start again!

  7. What a fun idea! So many ideas out there I don't know where to start;-P

  8. Hi, Thanks for sharing. I love paper piecing and tangrams, too. You can find here one.
    Now working on a cat. :)


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