Best paper for paper piecing? 3 choices to make before you sew

Paper-pieced block from Learn to Paper PieceWhat’s the best paper for paper piecing? There are several choices out there, and choices are great—it’s fun to experiment to see what works best for you. That’s exactly what Scott Hansen, owner of Blue Nickel Studios and one of the designers featured in The Splendid Sampler, was exploring when we met him at Spring Quilt Market. He was kind enough to sit with us for a minute and talk to us about the options.

Copy paper: Scott says, “Copy paper is okay to use, but it’s pretty thick and can be tough to tear through. It’s also kind of hard to see through copy paper to the other side, which is important because you want to see the numbers on the pattern when you’re sewing. And of course, copy paper is really easy to find.”

Copy paper printed with Scott’s block pattern from The Splendid Sampler

Newsprint (like our Papers for Foundation Piecing): Scott says, “Newsprint tears well, and you can also see through it more easily than copy paper. It’s also easy to find at your local quilt shop or online.”

From A Paper-Pieced Garden
A block paper pieced with our Papers for Foundation Piecing (find the squirrel pattern here)

Vellum: Scott says, “With Vellum, you can easily see through to the other side, which is important—you can see through to the numbers on the back of the pattern when sewing. Vellum tears better than copy paper, but not at easily as newsprint. It’s also harder to find than copy paper or newsprint.”

Seeing through to the back side of vellum

A final tip from Scott: “One of the most important things you can do when paper piecing is use a really tight, tight stitch—13 to 16 stitches per inch. I also backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam to make sure seams don’t pull apart when sewing.”

Bobbin Chase block by Scott HansenHere’s Scott’s fun Bobbin Chase block featured in The Splendid Sampler—and yes, it’s paper pieced! Of his block, Scott says, “I designed Bobbin Chase just after my mother’s death. I was in a very nostalgic mood, thinking back to the 1980s when I created counted cross-stitch projects. The four ‘bobbins’ in Bobbin Chase are a nod to the cardboard winders I used to wind floss onto when I was stitching (akin to winding thread onto bobbins).”

You’ll find 21 paper-pieced blocks in The Splendid Sampler, and a total of 100 blocks overall. Patchwork, appliqué, embroidery—so many choices! And when you’re done choosing and making your favorite blocks, you can feature them in a beautiful sampler quilt like this one:

100-Block Sampler quilt
100-Block Sampler, 80″ × 80″. Assembled by Melanie Barrett and quilted by Debby Brown.

Can you spot Scott’s Bobbin Chase block in the quilt above? It’s there with all 100 blocks from The Splendid Sampler!

If you make Scott’s block, be sure to tag him at #bluenickelstudios and #urbanfolkquilts so he can see and share. You can also download a coloring page of Scott’s block to play around with color placement before you sew.

Papers for Foundation PiecingWant to give Scott’s paper-pieced block a whirl? Pick up The Splendid Sampler and a pack of our Papers for Foundation Piecing. We offered our papers for the first time in 1998 and it’s still the go-to foundation-piecing paper for thousands of quilters. At only $14.99 for 100 sheets, it’ll keep you in paper-piecing mode for 100 blocks . . . or more!

Which kinds of paper have you tried for paper piecing: copy paper, newsprint, vellum, our Papers for Foundation Piecing? Tell us your experience in the comments!




59 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Paper piecing…..hmmmm, I need to try that! Thanks for the chance to win and give it a whirl!

    —DanyseF on September 27, 2017
  • newsprint type paper plus very short stitches works best for me

    Joyce on September 27, 2017
  • Vellum is my absolute favorite, but it does smear more easily when copying or printing and it is so expensive. Accordingly, I have learned to function with newspaper print – it is inexpensive, readily available and tears easily. If cost weren’t an issue, I would use the vellum, though.

    —Shelly S. on September 27, 2017
  • I have used copy paper and newsprint and not been happy with either. Now I use Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper and I love it. It is light weight, non coated, easy to see through. It goes through my ink jet printer wonderfully. The ink does not smear on the paper. Does not seem to shrink when I press. And only $10 for 100 sheets.

    —Lori Smanski on September 27, 2017
  • I use whatever is available. I think regular copy paper works well. I just printed up 30 blocks for my Thanksgiving project. I will use a tighter stitch tho.

    —Angelia Ulrich on September 27, 2017
  • I have used all of the above, large cash register rolls for small blocks (these are great for many sewing small applications) and even medical exam room paper. My favorite is yours of course! Fitting the copier makes everything faster and more accurate. Love it!

    Oh wow, those are new to us–cash register rolls and exam-room paper! What great ideas, thanks for sharing! –Jenny

    —Kati Savage on September 27, 2017
  • I’ve used copy paper; printed newspaper; & doctor’s table exam paper. Newspaper pages, best for crazy patch not requiring sewing lines, should be ‘aged’ a month or so to be more brittle plus less apt to ink smear.

    —Marianne on September 27, 2017
  • I buy cheap children’s newsprint-style drawing pads at the local dollar store. i simply take off the spine to release the pages. They are thin sheets, perfect for printing the designs, and for sewing and tearing away afterward.

    —Colleen on September 27, 2017
  • I use newsprint and love it. Tears out so easily.

    —Stephanie Woodward on September 27, 2017
  • I have used copy paper and agree its too thick and hard to tear. I do like the papers made specifically for foundation piecing but depending on how much PP you plan to do, it can be expensive.

    An extremely cheap, accessible and and equally effective alternative to newsprint is using blank drawing pads from the Dollar Store! The pads I have used come in 60 sheet pads and the paper can go through your printer to simplify copying out your templates. Only drawback: they come in 9″x12″ sheets so may have to be cut down to fit your printer. But for the price and paper weight, they can’t be beat!

    Vivian on September 27, 2017
  • I have tried vellum and although you can see through it, it is limp and hard to tear. I like paper specifically for paper piecing. It is lightweight and tears easily.

    —Frances Claassens on September 27, 2017
  • Used copy paper when first tried paper piecing years ago. Didn’t work too well. Then got a deal on vellum – better.. but think this is basically what turned me off to the process. Haven’t tried the newsprint. Is this the same as the gray packing paper?

    Hi Sonja, newsprint is a very lightweight paper, about the weight of actual newspaper paper. We have 8 1/2″ x 11″ newsprint-weight sheets in a pack, called Papers For Foundation Piecing, that you can find at your local quilt shop and online. Hope this helps! –Jenny

    sonja on September 27, 2017
  • I use Carol Doak’s paper which it I can get it at my local quilt shop. It worked well for a large throw I made.

    —Terry on September 27, 2017
  • i have used Carol Doak’s foundation paper and have had good results. I have also used printer paper and did find it harder to tear away when finished.

    —Lisa Zook on September 27, 2017
  • I have used copy paper, and also old telephone books.

    —Colette on September 27, 2017
  • I use copy paper, with tight stitches and back-stitching, but needed the nudge of your article to try newsprint, which should be easier to remove. It seems like there is a time and a place for paper piecing in my quilting projects. Sometimes I just want to do ordinary piecing, but I am in love with a little row quilt that I recently made with various paper piece patterns.

    —Carol Johnson on September 27, 2017
  • I used to buy 8.5 x 11 pieces of light weight interfacing. I loved it as I could use it in my printer and it was so light that I didn’t have to tear it out. Unfortunately, the site where I purchased it no longer stocks this.

    —Susan Miles on September 27, 2017
  • I have always used just plain copy paper. I find it easy to tear if you use a tight stitch. It’s easy to find. Vellum smears and is not easy to tear. No newsprint for me. Too flimsy. I must be tough on stuff like that.

    —Victoria M A Vaughn on September 27, 2017
  • I use tracing paper which I buy cheaply in pads of 40 sheets at the dollar store. This is similar to vellum. It works in my inkjet printer just fine with no smearing. I find that it rips away easily as long as I shorten my stitches. I’ve also tried regular computer paper but the tracing paper is thinner and I prefer it.

    —MoeWest on September 27, 2017
  • I have great sucess with the roll of paper that doctors use on the examinatio table. My local pharmacy will sell it by the roll or case. One roll lasts a very long time.

    —Nadine on September 27, 2017
  • I have found that if I use really light weight interfacing it prints well and I don’t have to remove it. It add a little body to my pieces when they are stitched together. I mostly only do small paper-pieced projects.

    —Vickie Keith on September 27, 2017
  • I have been paper piecing for about 8 years have only used copy paper. But now I think I’ll try newsprint.

    —Kathleen on September 27, 2017
  • I have only ever used Papers for Foundation Piecing for paper piecing. In my first paper piecing class my teacher (friend and favorite teacher!) recommended this product and reviewed the pros and cons of alternatives. After becoming comfortable with paper piecing techniques I tested other options, including newsprint weight paper used as packing with product orders, but found nothing to beat this product. I plan to keep Papers for Foundation Piecing with good thread and good fabric on my list of "buy the best you can afford and use it wisely."

    Thanks for letting us know how our papers worked for you, Jane! –Jenny

    —Jane on September 27, 2017
  • What do you recommend for hand piecing? The stitches are not so tight/strong as machine-pieced… :-/
    Thank you for your help!

    Hi Jane, I’m not sure whether you’re trying to foundation piece by hand or if you’re referring to regular hand piecing. We don’t have any experts on the subject here, but there are plenty of experts on the internet! If you do an internet search for "foundation piecing by hand" or "hand piecing quilts," you can find plenty of advice. Thanks for your question! –Cornelia

    —Jane on September 27, 2017
  • I found reams of newsprint at an art supply store and find it really good for paper piecing —- but not so good for feeding through my HP inkjet printer. Stupid printer jams up and tears so much that it’s easier to trace the pattern than try to print it.

    If I need to print a lot of patterns I go back to copier paper, but use the thinnest weight I can find.

    —Joan K on September 27, 2017
  • I’ve tried Vellum, Papers for Foundation Piecing, YLI Wash-Away, HTC Fun-Dation, tissue paper, copy paper and others that I no longer have remnants of. None of them really make me like paper piecing, but every once in a while I go back and give it another try.

    —Sandy May on September 27, 2017
  • If you cannot find an outlet for the foundation piecing close by, head to the customer service desk of your local newspaper. They very often will have end rolls of their newsprint for sale.

    It is perfect for custom sized paper piecing blocks, also for covering tables for kids to color on, for picnic tables in the park instead of a table cloth that you have to weigh down.
    Newspaper end rolls usually have a lot on them and can cost as little as $5, depending on how much paper is left on the roll.

    —Susan on September 27, 2017
  • Copier paper – easy to find but it is hard to tear!!!

    —Ali on September 27, 2017
  • I found a tablet of newsprint at the dollar store. I’ve also used phone book pages. Either way, the price is right and recycling phone books is always good!!

    Elle C on September 27, 2017
  • I have used medical exam paper with great success, thin enough to see through & tears away nicely. It can be purchased in a case of 12 rolls. (What you don’t use can be donated to a free clinic.) Also have used copy paper and newsprint. Copy paper will go thru the printer easily, but the exam table paper & newsprint, usually must be hand copied. Have not tried Vellum – would think it would be more difficult to remove and it is a little pricy.

    —Elba A on September 27, 2017
  • In my family we have a doctor, several nurses, an X-ray/ultrasound tech, a medical clinic computer person, etc, so I had access to rolls of exam table paper and found it to be very satisfactory for paper piecing projects.

    —B J Kinney on September 27, 2017
  • Paper piecing has always been a mystery to me; therefore, I’ve never had the courage to try it. I’m sure this book would help to alleviate my fears and give me the courage to do it!

    —Teri Gailey on September 27, 2017
  • I think I have tried them all. Not sure what I like best. Vellum is good but so expensive.

    —Christi on September 27, 2017
  • I have a pad of tracing paper (I called onion skin Yes I’m old)which I’ve been using I guess it is probably close to Vellum, but goes through the printer beautifully. Sadly I’m finally running out so must try something new.

    —elizajane on September 27, 2017
  • I use your foundation paper, and I’m really happy with it! 🙂

    —Inger Martinson on September 28, 2017
  • I only use newsprint. You can buy a case from for very little money. Since I started using it, I only lower my stitch length to 2.0 in case I have to "reverse sew" and it works just fine.

    —Janet Espeleta on September 28, 2017
  • I’ve used copy paper and newsprint. Never tried vellum. It would be nice to try on a pp’d design that needs to be reversed. My printer doesn’t have that option. I agree with Scott’s assessment.

    —Barb S on September 28, 2017
  • I have tried copy paper, newsprint and Papers for Foundation Piecing. It’s too hard to remove the copy paper, so I don’t use that anymore. My preference is Papers for Foundation Piecing because it’s so easy to remove.

    —Jan N. on September 29, 2017
  • I have used both newsprint & copy paper. Vellum is too expensive for paper piecing (for my budget at least). My next foray into paper piecing will be Papers for Foundation Piecing. I like the feel of the paper & with the smaller stitches should be readily available & useful.

    —Barbara Macey on September 29, 2017
  • Haven’t tried paper piecing yet. YET is a good word, one that I seem to use often.

    —bookboxer on September 29, 2017
  • I’ve used the cheapest paper I could find when I lived abroad. The cheaper ones worked the best. Now in the U.S. I use whatever I find in the quilt store that is for paper-piecing. But now I think I’ll consider trying paper out of children’s drawing pads. Thank you for that idea.

    —Linda N on September 29, 2017
  • The best paper I use is the thin yellow typing paper used back in the day when carbon copies were needed, before photocopiers. I found a ream while cleaning out my mom’s house.

    —Cheri on September 29, 2017
  • I have not heard of your paper before, nor the Carol Dolak. I will look for them. I use onion skin paper. It’s light weight and easy to tear. I was lucky enough to buy a whole case of it 20 years ago, and am still working thru it as well as sharing with all my friends.

    —Carina Z on September 29, 2017
  • I have found that newsprint works the best for me with very small stitching.

    —Lillian K on September 29, 2017
  • I don’t like paper piecing. I am making a Splendid Sampler quilt and the few paper piecing blocks I have done were great when finished but I did not enjoy making them.

    —Vicki Allen on September 29, 2017
  • I would like to try paper piecing , but it always seems intimadating. Some help would be great !

    —Lois Capper on September 29, 2017
  • I have never tried it, would love to try it. Thanks for letting everyone give it a try 🙂

    —Genevieve Caswell on September 29, 2017
  • I have only tried copy paper. Soul be interested in trying other methods.

    —Kim Mueller on September 29, 2017
  • Years ago my first paper piecing efforts were not fun because copy paper was the only recommended thing to use. I have a paper piecing quilt to make now and none of my 5 local quilt stores carry any type of paper. I don’t want to have to buy online so I am happy to read all the suggestions that I can now try. Thanks everybody!!

    —Carol Ann on September 29, 2017
  • I use thin Wt. copy paper since it is easy to copy the pattern. I have also used tissue paper if I have draw the pattern off from a book.

    —Linda Christianson on September 29, 2017
  • Still searching for the perfect paper. I don’t like when the paper leaves fibers under the stitches. I will have to try Scott’s paper next time around! Thank you.

    —Janette Velardi on September 30, 2017
  • I saved onion skin paper from my old office. If you can get your hands on that it is super!!!

    —Leslie Haggstrom on September 30, 2017
  • I have used copy paper when I don’t have other paper to use. However, I prefer Deb Karasik’s foundation paper for paper piecing.

    —Janet Sabol on September 30, 2017
  • I used copy paper for all the paper piecing blocks in the Splendid Sampler.

    —Kh Woon on October 1, 2017
  • My favorite for paper piecing is freezer paper! I fold the paper and stitch just outside the line. Press and trim. No tearing! And patterns are reusable.

    —Linda Towers on October 1, 2017
  • A friend of mine has suggested using the flimsy pages from investment information like prospectuses. I get those in the mail occasionally from the office of my financial advisor. The printer ink will be darker than the type on the pages, and it should be easy to rip away. I’m going to try it soon.

    Fran Gardner on October 1, 2017
  • Just learned about her today. What a treasure! Look forward to learning more about her work and techniques.

    —ADK Kate on October 2, 2017
  • I have used copy paper and foundation paper. I prefer foundation paper because it is easier to see thru

    —Karen on October 7, 2017
  • Thanks everyone, for all useful information. I’ve only paper pieced for a very little because of having to tear and sew through printed paper. Did not like it. Going to give it a try again. Only used copy paper before. I’m intrigued by the freezer paper and reusable ability. Will try that first since I have a great big roll I use for appliqueing.

    —Emma Carpenter on December 10, 2018

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