CM Designs, Products and Tools

Paper Piecing

The Add-A-Quarter™ is an extremely versatile tool which simplifies paper piecing and helps save you time. To help demonstrate just how effective this product is, we've created several tutorials for you to follow. Each one is written by the tool's creator and should help you maximize your quilting experience.


How to Paper Piece | Use with Templates | Other Uses


Add-Enough Usage Instructions - 74KB PDF Document


Add-A-Quarter Plus Instructions - 225KB PDF Document

Why Paper Piece?

Paper piecing is great for beginners as well as experienced quilters. One can make a wonderful quilt on their very first try since complicated patterns are broken down into easily managed steps. Sewing the fabric to paper makes matching points relatively easy and the paper stabilizes the fabric; that is especially important when using flannel.

Before you start to sew

Make copies of the patterns that you are going to use. Make all of your copies from the same original and use the same copy machine. All copy machines distort to some extent so check your patterns by holding the original and the copy together with a light source behind the two sheets of paper. Make as many copies as necessary. It’s nice to have a few extras in case you make an error. Use the lightest weight paper you can find. The heavier the paper the more difficult it is to remove.

After making all your copies, trim each pattern leaving 1/8" to ¼" on all sides. Do not trim on the line.

Set the stitch length on your sewing machine to 18-20 stitches per inch. On some machines that will be a 1. The smaller stitches make it easier to rip off the paper.

Place a piece of muslin or scrap fabric on your ironing board. When you press the pieces, the ink from the copies may transfer onto your ironing board cover.

It is helpful to have something white to place your pattern face down on. It could be a white sewing table or just a piece of white paper. Placing your pattern on something white allows the lines to show through, making it easier to place your first fabric.

You are now ready to start

Instead of templates with seam allowances as many of us are used to seeing, we have lines and numbers. The lines indicate where to sew and the numbers indicate the sequence in which to sew. The only seam allowances that are shown are the ones that go around a block or a unit.

Add-A-Quarter Tutorial 01
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The lines and numbers are printed on the front of the pattern. This is the side to sew on.

The back of the pattern is the blank side. This is where the fabric will be placed.

Some patterns tell you what size to cut your pieces; that is great if they do; then you don’t have to guess how big your fabric piece will need to be.

Always make sure the piece of fabric you are using is at least ¼" larger for cotton and 3/8" larger for flannel all the way around the foundation pattern.

Add-A-Quarter Tutorial 01
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Place fabric number 1 right side up on the blank side of the pattern. You may either pin the piece in place or use double-sided tape to hold the fabric in place. The tape makes the fabric lie flat on the paper. The pin can make a small rise in the paper.

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Turn the foundation pattern over, look through the paper towards your light source or place pattern on white and make sure the fabric extends over the lines on each side by at least ¼" for cotton and 3/8" for flannel.

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Place your template plastic or an index card on the sewing line between piece number 1 and piece number 2. Fold back the foundation pattern over the edge of the template plastic. You will see the excess fabric from piece number 1.

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Place the Add-A-Quarter ruler for cotton, Add-An-Eighth for miniatures or if you are using flannel use the Add-Three-Eighths ruler up against the fold of the foundation paper with the lip side down. Use the rotary cutter to trim the extra fabric from piece number 1. You will now have a straight line to help you place fabric piece number 2.

Add-A-Quarter Tutorial 01
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Next, place position number 2 fabric of the pattern on the trimmed edge of piece number 1 with the right sides facing each other.

Add-A-Quarter Tutorial 01
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Turn the foundation paper over and stitch on the line between piece number 1 and piece number 2. Sew a few stitches before the line begins and a few stitches after the line ends. Make sure piece number 2 does not slip.

Add-A-Quarter Tutorial 01
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Flip the paper over and open piece number 2. Press using a dry iron.

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Fold the foundation paper back along the line between piece number 1 and piece number 3 using the template plastic or the index card. Butt the ruler of your choice up against the paper and trim the excess fabric.

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Turn the foundation over and position fabric piece number 3, being careful not to displace your fabric. Sew on the line between number 1 and number 3.

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Continue sewing each piece in place in the numeric order given until all the pieces are sewn in place and each unit is complete.

After all the pieces are sewn onto the foundation, you will be ready to trim the edges. Line up the ruler with the solid line on the foundation. You will need a ¼" seam allowance for cotton and miniatures and a 3/8" seam allowance for flannel around the entire block. Never trim on the solid line! Trim off the excess fabric using your rotary cutter.

Add-A-Quarter Tutorial 01
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If you are paper piecing a block that is made up of multiple units, the time has come to sew them together. If you have points that need to match, carefully push a positioning pin straight through the top layer of your pattern, then match the bottom layer and push straight through. Leaving the positioning pin in place, pin on both sides.

Do not twist the positioning pin to pin; this will distort your points. Pin the rest of the seam like normal. Pull pins out of the seam line just before the needle reaches them, this will also help decrease distortion.

When the block is finished, do not remove the paper! It is best to join the blocks before you remove the paper. This gives you a line to follow when you sew the blocks together and the paper helps keep the integrity of the block because, when paper piecing; you are not placing your fabric on the straight of grain. Remove the paper after the blocks are sewn together. You might want to remove the really small pieces with a pair of tweezers.

A few suggestions

If you must remove your stitches and the paper foundation separates on the sewing line, use a piece of clear tape to repair the pattern.

Sometimes you will notice the stitches from the previously sewn fabric when you fold back the foundation. If this happens, just pull the foundation away from the fabric and trim using the ruler.

After you have sewn two units together and pressed, remove the paper from the back side of the seam allowance. This will reduce some of the bulk.

To help speed up your paper piecing, place all of your position 1 pieces on multiple units at the same time. Trim and sew multiple units at the same time. Some pieces you may even chain piece.

By placing your pattern face down on a white piece of paper, you will be able to see the outline of the design for placement of your first piece.

Pressing suggestions

Pressing is an important part of paper piecing and done correctly will help to insure a more satisfactory quilt. Here are some suggestions to follow:

Use hot dry iron. Steam will make the paper curl.

Place a piece of muslin on your ironing board to protect it from ink that may come off when pressing.

Always press with the paper side down on your ironing board. If you press on the paper side ink will be transferred to the iron and then onto your fabric leaving black smudges.

The traditional way to press is always to the dark side. With paper piecing you will not be able to always follow this rule. I always press the seams to one side. Pressing this way adds strength to your quilt and helps to distribute the bulk. This is very important especially when working with flannel. Keep this rule in mind when you are sewing units together. By creating this opposing seam it will be easier to match your points or corners and distribute the bulk of the fabric at the same time.