How to paper piece quilt blocks – once and for all (3 expert tips + giveaway!)

We are SO excited to share the latest book from prolific author, celebrated teacher, talented designer, and all-around fabulous person Nancy Mahoney today. Why? Because we’ve tested her new how-to ourselves—and we can’t wait to reveal the results!

Learn to Paper Piece
Four Martingale staffers, ranging from complete beginner to occasional paper piecer, made blocks from Nancy’s new book, Learn to Paper Piece. See how we did below.


Katherine, Copywriter
In the past, I’ve had very bad luck with paper piecing. Then I decided to try it once more using Learn To Paper Piece. Success at last!
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Katherine’s Synergy block unit


Beth, Senior Editor
Before trying Nancy’s method, I’d only paper pieced one block and felt somewhat befuddled by the process. However, the first block I made following Nancy’s instructions turned out perfectly. I was so proud! Her tips for prepping your pieces and trimming as you go really do make it hard to make a mistake. If you follow her steps and techniques, you’ll end up with beautiful quilts.
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Beth’s Split Star block


Jenny, Content Editor
The last time I paper pieced a quilt was for my brother’s wedding in 2000. My sister and I worked on it together. During construction she sliced off the tip of her finger and I slashed my leg open—we thought paper piecing was cursed! I hadn’t revisited the technique until I found out Nancy Mahoney was writing a book about it. Learn to Paper Piece re-familiarized me with paper piecing and broke the curse for good. I absolutely LOVE how my block turned out, and it was fun and easy to do. So many perfect points…there’s just no other way to get them!
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Jenny’s Lobster Stew block


Jennifer, Publisher and Chief Visionary Officer
Over the years, I’ve tried more than once to get the knack of paper piecing. And more than once I’ve walked away saying, “That’s not for me. While I appreciate the results, my brain just doesn’t work that way.” Well, maybe I was just in need of a teacher like Nancy Mahoney. The step-by-step instructions in the front of the book that walk you through every pace of paper piecing are remarkable, easy to understand, and yes, I can say it, foolproof! This fool wasn’t able to goof it up, and believe me I’ve goofed up plenty of paper piecing in the past. So, if you want to not only learn to paper piece, but SUCCEED as well . . . you need a copy of this book!
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Jennifer’s Crazy Pinwheels block

Now that you’ve seen our paper-piecing success using Learn to Paper Piece, we hope you’ll be inspired to try too! Nancy is our guest writer today—below you’ll find just a few of her dos and don’ts for paper piecing. Whether it’s your first paper-piecing experience or your 101st, you’ll learn something new from Nancy. And from Learn to Paper Piece!


Nancy-MahoneyFoundation piecing is often described as “sewing by number” and is a wonderful method for creating accurate patchwork blocks, especially for beginners. With paper piecing, the pieces are sewn to a paper foundation that’s marked with numbered pieces. Often the finished block is a mirror image of the paper pattern. So, when paper piecing, you’ll sew upside down and backward—other than that, it’s easy! Don’t worry, Learn to Paper Piece will prepare you with visual how-tos and step-by-step guidance.
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Example of how-to photos from
Learn to Paper Piece

To get you started, here are my TOP THREE paper-piecing dos and don’ts:

1. Do use paper made specifically for foundation piecing, such as Papers for Foundation Piecing from Martingale. You can also use vellum, tracing paper, or blank newsprint. Don’t use regular copy paper.

Lobster-Stew-quilt
Lobster Stew from
Learn to Paper Piece

2. Do use a Microtex Sharp 80/12 needle. Don’t use a Universal 90/14 needle. A larger needle can make it hard to sew accurately, especially when stitching small sections and short lines. It’s the stitch length that’s important for tearing away the paper after stitching, not the size of the holes.

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Gaggling Geese from
Learn to Paper Piece

3. Do use a shorter-than-normal stitch length. Don’t make the stitches too small. Use a stitch length of about 16 stitches per inch or 1.7 mm for stitching through paper foundations. The shorter stitches perforate the paper and make it easy to remove.

Crazy-Pinwheels-quilt
Crazy Pinwheels
from Learn to Paper Piece

You’ll find LOTS more of my tips for paper piecing in Learn to Paper Piece—come learn with me!


QALBIG NEWS! This just in—Nancy will be hosting her first-ever quilt-along with Learn to Paper Piece as the guide! Pick up the book and a package of Papers for Foundation Piecing; then follow Nancy on Facebook to join her #learntopaperpiecequiltalong beginning in June. She’ll be revealing her a-ma-zing quilt-along design soon. (The quilt is under wraps for now, but she gave us a sneak peek. WOWZA!)


Thanks for those great tips, Nancy!

Rate your paper-piecing skills: tried it and love it, tried it and still learning, or ready to try for the first time? Tell us in the comments and you could win a copy of Learn to Paper Piece PLUS a package of Papers for Foundation Piecing! We’ll choose a random winner one week from today and let you know by email if you win.
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Buy-it-NowCan’t wait to start paper piecing with Nancy at your side? Buy Learn to Paper Piece for just $18.99 and instantly download the eBook for free. Or, buy only the eBook for just $13.99.

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The winner is Holly, who says:

“I have tried to do paper piecing more times then I care to admit. I have dubbed myself beyond hopeless. I am trying to convince myself to try one more time, and of course my husband (the most wonderful man in the world), tells me all the time, ‘If you want to try it again, go ahead.’ Maybe.”

Holly, we’ll email you about your prize. Congratulations!


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