Paper Piecing Tools

There are many ways to get things done.  You can follow pattern instructions line by line and never deviate, or you can be like me and improvise to make thing go easier and more quickly.  With paper piecing there are many tricks you can use to speed the process and tools to use to make things much easier.
For instance, while visiting a friend in Cayman I was asked to show her how to paper piece.  She downloaded a pattern for paper pieced square.   The pattern was then printed on regular copy paper.  There were no instructions.   She did not have all the tools I have for paper piecing so we just made it work.   It was definitely not as easy, but she got it finished and it looked beautiful.  However, if she were to have had the tools I think help things along she would have been able to complete several squares in the time one was completed.
I’m all about speed and organization so I prefer to have helpers.   I have most of my paper piecing tools in a container to keep them all together.   I know, I said I like organization.  They are organized!  Into one big pile in a container!
Here is what is in the container:
·       Jumbo paper clips  
o   I use these to hold the cut templates on the fabric.  I put one clip on each section which holds the template in place while cutting.   Once they are cut then the fabrics and the template are already clipped together.
·       Binder clips – I get a box of both the medium and large.
o   These are used to clip together fabrics and templates that are too thick for the paper clips.  Of course you                 have to clip them after cutting as the binder clips will get in the way if you clip them before cutting.
·       Template plastic – this is used to make a fold template.
I have two sizes of fold templates cut from plastic that is 11” and another that is 18” wide.   I use the one that is closest to the fold size.  When you are paper piecing, each section is folded on the sew line.   Thefirst paper piecing quilt I made I did not use a fold template.  It was much harder to get the fold on theline and took more time.  I also use this fold template to stabilize the piece as I take it to the machine to stitch.   This is very helpful for larger seams as it will keep everything aligned as you move it from your cutting table to your machine.
·       Fabric Glue
o   The glue is used on the first section of each square.  This will hold the fabric in place.  Once you have sewn the first seam the glue is no longer necessary.   I like Sewline glue as it dries clear and soft.  I don’t even need to take the step to loosen the fabric from the glue once the seam is sewn as it will easily loosen when you are removing the papers when the square is complete.
The glue is also used when putting together the curved pieces.   All you do it run a light line of glue along the seam allowance of the piece that lays flat.  You then place the center of the curved piece and match it to the center of the flat piece.  Then run your finger along the edge pressing the two together.  No pins are needed and the fabrics are then held together without puckers so you can sew them together and get a perfect curved piece. 
·       Add-A Quarter Ruler
o   The person who invented this gadget is a genius!   You could paper piece without it like we did in Cayman, however using the add-a-quarter will keep the back looking neat and also serves as a guide when placing the next fabric piece.  If your edge from the last section was not an even ¼” then and you would need to take more time to make sure your placement will result in the fabric covering the next section.  
o   I have three sizes – 6”, 12” and 18” and use the one closest to the size of the seam.  If you only want one, then opt for the larger size…but imagine using an 18” ruler on a seam that is 1”!  It will work, but will slow you down.
o   I especially like the pink ones.   Mine are yellow, my least favorite color.  I didn’t see any pink ones when Ibought mine.
·       Machine needles –
o   The smaller the needle the less paper is going into your machine to clog up the feed dogs.  It really does make a difference when you are piecing thousands of seams of paper.  I like the 70’s as shown here.
·       Thread –
I started using whatever thread I had that came close to the color of the fabric.  What I found was that regular sewing threads are way to thick for paper piecing, especially when you have multiple seams that meet.   I now use a tread called "Bottom Line”.  It is very thin and does not add bulk.   I use either black or white.  It’s so thin it just does not show on any color fabric.
·       No Slip Ruler –
I like the Martelli’s 16x4” rulerI use this ruler to trim the edges of the completed squares.  It holds the squarefirmly so you can cut without slipping.   The plastic rulers will slip on the paper which can cause devastating results!
·       Stiletto –
I love the blue plastic "Press Perfect” stiletto from CloverI don’t use this for pressing, I use it to remove the paper from the back of the square.   The curved tip is perfect for lifting the papers without puncturing thefabric.   I also have a metal stiletto that I use for other stiletto things, but this fatter plastic one really makesremoving papers a breeze.
·       Flower Head pins –
I like these pins as the shank it much longer than most other pins.   When piecing two completed squares together it can be necessary to weave the pin through the fabrics to make sure they hold firmly while sewing.   The flower tip is also easy to grab to pull out before your run over it with your sewing machine.  Besides, the flowers are cute.
·       Rotary cutter and NEW BLADES
I know, I was screaming on those last two words.  That is because it is really important.   A dull blade will not cut the fabrics cleanly and will waste time as you need to go over the cut line more than once.   I suggest changing your blade the moment you find a cut does not cut through.  My favorite rotary cutter is made by Kai.   It is light and the blade automatically retracts.
All of these tools except the glue, thread and needles can be reused forever and on other projects.  Therefore the investment in the tools can be spread over many quilts.  If you are like me, paper piecing will be a part of your life forever so why not get the right tools to do the job.   I’m think I’m going to put together a tool kit for paper piecing on my website.  
 If you want further explanation of how I use any of the tools mentioned, just let me know.  I’d be happy to explain further!

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