One Old Dog Learns Paper Piecing

In my continuing foul-weather quest to learn quilting techniques, I learned paper piecing. Paper piecing is what it sounds like – piecing fabrics together using paper. It’s especially useful for an intricate pattern such as this turtle shell. A dear friend sent me a quilt pattern with turtles (because, turtles!) and I decided to make a few turtles for another table topper. The completed turtles are in the first photo, on a computer-generated background as I choose what fabrics to use.

Say turtle table topper quickly three times if you can. Jeep, the other old dog, says I dare ya.

The original design called for 32 pieces per outer shell. I mangled one together, and though it turned out okay, I decided to simplify things a bit and reduce the number of pieces to 28. It made things a bit more manageable. So, here’s the pattern – please feel free to download and use it:

Start piecing at either corner.
This is a cool “jelly roll” I bought for this project.

To start, print out the pattern and cut it out just outside the trim lines. Flip it over and place the first fabric piece over the first triangle right face UP. Place the next triangle piece right side DOWN. Line the pieces up so that when they are sewn together, the second triangle fabric will land on top of its pattern triangle. Hold the pieces in place, turn it all over, and sew on the line. HINT: use a tiny stitch, about 1.4, to make removing the paper very easy. Now iron the second piece over so it looks like this:

Once ironed over, I use a light table or bright window and an iron-off fabric pen to mark 1/4″ from the next seam line then trim off the excess fabric.

That line is where the next piece goes, right side down. The red area shows where to put the next piece after you’ve trimmed off that excess, then flip everything over, sew, and iron down into place.

So that’s it, just keep adding a piece by lining up with the one before it, right side down, flip over and sew, flip back and iron. Trim and line up the next one. When you’re done, trim everything 1/4″ from the pattern.

Once both sides are done, line up the edges right sides together and sew’em up! Remove the paper, which if you used the tiny stitches, will be very easy.

My inner shells are just four pieces sewn together. No paper required! The next step is to add interfacing to both outer and inner shell, applique the inner shell to the outer, then make a head, tail, and feet. The entire thing will be sewn to the table topper. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but now YOU know how to paper piece!

Update! Here is the finished TTT which I decided was too nice for cat butts, so it’s now a wall hanging.

A friend recently suggested that I consider illustrating a picture book using fabric art. What a great idea! I’ve got two projects that could work, so am pondering as I practice. Meanwhile, my new picture book, Ee-Oh-Lay! What Do Birds Say? is at the printer now, and I hope to see galleys very soon. We’re still hoping for a spring release. Here’s the cover, which was also done using a form of paper piecing:

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Susan Jerde says:

    I’m impressed! From the title I thought maybe you were teaching Jeep to quilt. I look forward to seeing the turtles with their extremities, and also a book with fabric illustrations! I have been doing puzzles, for the first time in 60 years- it’s a pandemic thing- also Copic markers.

    1. Robin Koontz says:

      Thanks! And thanks for reminding me to put a photo of the other old dog on the post. Jeep is there now. Meanwhile, if you’ve learned to “step away from the puzzle,” let me know your secret.

  2. A very informative blog, and a BEAUTIFUL one, too, with those gorgeous turtle patterns.

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