Week in Review 2020 – 11/20

Over the years I have taken a class with Carol Doak, the go to authority on paper piecing, as well as reading my share of online tutorials on the topic. This has helped me hone my own paper piecing skills. However, none have helped me cope with how to handle the mirror image vision necessary to create a paper pieced block. So, now that I have a method that works for me, I thought I would share it with you.

Image of the working blueprint for Cautiously Optimistic
Fig. 1 – Working blueprint for Cautiously Optimistic

Cautiously Optimistic is made up of 5 rows of 8 blocks. Every single block is different, unlike traditional quilts that are formed using repetitive blocks. So, how do I keep track of which fabric goes where? My working blue print is vital. See those tiny check marks in the working blue print (Fig. 1). Those tell me which blocks I have completed and which still need to be done. The numbers at the top and along the sides are a value guide for the fabric. Number 1 represents white on white fabrics and number 10 represents the nearly black fabrics.

Image of a guide to create one of the blocks used in Cautiously Optimistic.
Fig. 2 A guide to create the current block under construction in Cautiously Optimistic.

Since the working blue print is printed out on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of copier paper it is too small for my old eyes to work with. Therefore, I print out individual block guides. Figure 2 is the block I just finished. See those numbers? Don’t forget that 1 stands for white. Once I have printed out the block guide, I note which white through black fabric goes where, not specific fabrics, but their values along a gray scale.

Image of fabric layout for the current block under construction for Cautiously Optimistic
Fig. 3 Fabric layout for the current block under construction for Cautiously Optimistic right side up

I layout all the individual pieces that make up the block on a cookie sheet. Note, they are right side up and match the block guide.

Fig. 4 How to flip the fabric from right side (front) up to back side up

Here’s where the magic takes place. That’s the cookie sheet from Fig. 3 in Fig. 4, but what happened to the fabric from Fig. 3? If you look around the edge of the cookie sheet, you should be able to spot a corner of a piece of fabric and a mustard colored border on the left and top. Flipping the fabric is like flipping an upside down cake onto a platter. You put the platter on top of the cake, hold it securely in place and flip.

Fig. 5 Back side up fabric layout revealed when the cookie sheet is removed.

Once the cookie sheet is removed you can see the mustard colored “platter” with the fabric on top. However, this time (Fig. 5) the fabric has reversed from right to left and right side up to back side up. The platter is a stiffened felt like fabric, sturdy enough to carry from my sewing table, to the iron station and over to the cutting mat.

Fig. 6 The paper piecing pattern guides are laid on top of the block layout

Even with paper piecing pattern segments it is easy to get turned around. Note in Fig. 6 how the the type face or arrows remind me which way is up. Also the segments are placed in alphabetical order starting with A in the top left corner and finishing with I in the lower right hand corner.

Fig. 7 Voila! Another 8″ block containing 65 individual pieces is sewn.

The individual segments are sewn, then sewn together and every single piece is where it is supposed to be with a nary a muddle. Now to add it to the rest of Cautiously Optimistic, but that will have to wait until next week.

I am linking up with Nina Marie’s Off the Wall Fridays.

By Gwyned Trefethen

I am an artist who uses fabric, thread and miscellany to create designs gifted to me by my imagination.


    1. Frédérique, I’m glad you enjoyed my how to flip a block post. Why a cookie sheet instead of stiff piece of cardboard is because this one has a lip on one end. I can snug the stiffened felt against the lip to keep it from shifting.

    1. Paper piecing is like some many other things in quilting and life. You need to try, refine, experiment and play until you figure out what works for you. Part of that trial and error is seeing what others do and deciding what to take from it and what to ignore. Personally, I love paper piecing, so I turn to it again and again.

  1. Paper piecing is one of my least favorite techniques, one I try to avoid if I can. That being said, your method here is a great technique that may persuade me to give paper piecing another try. Thanks so much for sharing (and for visiting my blog so I would end up visiting yours and learning about your great system!).

    1. What I love about quilting is there are so many ways to build a quilt top. Even the broad categories like piecing and appliqué have many different styles. I suspect most quilters settle on a few favorite methods and avoid others. I struggle with appliqué. Still, I’m grateful I can manage it in a pinch. If my tutorial helps you, when paper piecing is needed for something you feel called to make, I’m grateful for that, too.

  2. Gwyned, what program are you using to create the paper piecing patterns that you’re printing out? When I had EQ7, I kept a sack of my kids’ leftover colored pencils from their school supplies and I used to color a scribble in each patch to help me keep track of which color goes where, but when I upgraded to EQ8 I was delighted — euphoric! — to discover that now EQ8 gives me the option to print my FPP patterns in color, saving me so much time and fabric from the mistakes that kept happening occasionally. Your method with the cookie sheet is clever, but if you are using an earlier version of EQ to print those patterns anyway you might want to upgrade just for that one feature alone.

    1. Would you believe I am using EQ8. I love it. I know I can choose whether to print a mirror image of a block or the actual image. I opt for flipping with the cookie sheet, because I like to do the layout as it will be seen. Yes, being able to print out the color really helps me avoid misplacing/miss piecing.

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