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BOOK REVIEW: Paper Foundation Piecing

A Survey of Books and Periodicals On Paper Foundation Piecing

By Addy Harkavy

Since foundation piecing has been around for a long time, and since it seemed like a good idea to offer a comprehensive review of books currently available or only recently out of print, this review begins with a book published in 1992 and its sequel, and continues in roughly chronological order.

Paper piecing is based on the notion that a paper foundation that can be removed gives quilters the accuracy of foundation piecing without the disadvantage of a cloth foundation that's an extra layer through which to quilt.

In 1992, Jane Hall and Dixie Haywood came out with PRECISION-PIECED QUILTS USING THE FOUNDATION METHOD. (Chilton, $17.95, 126 pages) This comprehensive book explores foundation piecing in a rigorous, logical way, beginning with a review of foundation materials and techniques. From permanent foundations that include utility fabrics such as muslin and batiste, to nonwoven interfacing to flannel to fleece or batting, the authors move on to temporary foundations such as paper, tracing paper, freezer paper, and removable interfacing. Each foundation's advantages and disadvantages are explored, as are ways to mark them.

This book is almost a handbook for paper piecing techniques, as it explores single foundation piecing (English piecing) in which a foundation is attached to fabric patches, after which the fabrics may be whip-stitched together. Grandmother's Flower Garden quilts are a wonderful example of this type of piecing. The authors quickly move on, however, to pressed piecing and clearly explain what became known as "flip and sew" piecing to paper foundations.

Topics include string piecing, crazy piecing, the log cabin family, other traditional patterns (including the Mariner's Compass), single foundation piecing, borders and strips, and innovative uses for foundations. Each technique is illustrated by a project one can use for practice. Four years after its initial publication, this book would still be a fine addition to any quilter's reference library.

(You can order this book, at a discount, from Planet Patchwork, in association with Amazon.com .)

Jane Hall and Dixie Haywood continued to explore foundations as a means of producing precise results and in 1996 published FIRM FOUNDATIONS: Techniques and Quilt Blocks for Precision Piecing (AQS, $18.95, 135 pages), a book that picks up where the previous one left off. Although in some ways duplicative of the first book, this book, too, is a "must have" for any quilter's reference library. In this book, the authors show how to tackle simple and difficult patterns to achieve impeccable accuracy and discuss ways to make borders and sashes that fit. They briefly discuss patchwork for garments and move on to distinguish between permanent and temporary foundations, cover marking techniques and then they discuss piecing techniques. For anyone who wants to learn and master top pressed piecing, under piecing, single foundation piecing, joining curves, and hybrid foundation techniques, this book has it all. Richly illustrated with finished quilts as well as block illustrations and schematics, this book is a wonderful source of curved and straight-line foundation-pieced traditional blocks and contemporary blocks. This book is also available from Planet Patchwork, in association with Amazon.com.

Moving right along, Lesly-Clair Greenberg in 1993 published SEWING ON THE LINE: Fast and Easy Foundation Piecing (That Patchwork Place, $15.95, 87 pages). Don't be fooled by the fact that this book has fewer pages; it's no lightweight. Though this book covers many of the same topics as those previously discussed, stamping patterns on fabric, paper, and tear-away stabilizer receive considerable attention, as do tracing, using transfer pens and pencils, and photocopying for pattern duplication. As implied b y its title, SEWING ON THE LINE focuses on what has come to be known as "flip and sew" paper piecing, in which the paper foundation is on top and the fabric to be sewn is on the bottom. Stitching is, quite literally, on the line on the foundation. Projects include rail fence, log cabin placemat and pincushion, miniature log cabin, collector's vest, pineapple, log cabin variations, square-within-square, and Virginia Reel. Color photographs of finished quilts provide inspiration; this book would be a nice addition to a paper piecing library.

By 1994, Carol Doak had come out with EASY MACHINE PAPER PIECING (That PatchWork Place, $19.95, 95 pages, order from Planet Patchwork, in association with Amazon.com ). Featuring sixty-five quilt blocks for foundation piecing as well as photographs of blocks and finished quilts, this book made Carol Doak's name synonymous with paper piecing. It's easy to see why. Introductory material provides tips on reproducing, enlarging, and reducing block designs. Fabric grain is discussed, as is appropriately cutting fabric pieces. Further information tells readers everything they should know or have on hand before sewing and reviews the sewing procedure step by step. Sewing tips are provided just to ensure success. Readers are really ready to go by the time they reach the block designs! Traditional, pictorial, and block designs are included; hearts and cats are well represented! Last but not least, Ms. Doak tells how to turn collections of blocks into finished quilts. Subsequent books such as EASY MIX AND MATCH PAPER PIECING (order from Planet Patchwork, in association with Amazon.com) and EASY REVERSIBLE VESTS (order from Planet Patchwork, in association with Amazon.com) have been equally good and offer sufficient new information to be worthwhile acquisitions.

Shirley Liby has been prolific in publishing books about foundation piecing. These are published by Graphics Unlimited and include PAPER PIECING PATTERNS, MORE PAPER PIECING PATTERNS, EVEN MORE PAPER PIECING PATTERNS, LITTLE LANDSCAPES, PAPER PIECED A,B,C' S AND 1,2.3'S. Priced in the neighborhood of $15.00, each book begins with basic instructions and continues with schematics. Although the books presuppose that readers have a general idea of how to go about paper piecing and though the books lack color photography, the practical spiral binding makes these books easy to use, and the variety of patterns should satisfy the most avid paper piecer.

Although not specifically about paper piecing and the topic of a previous review, Judy Mathieson's MARINER'S COMPASS QUILTS, New Directions (1995, C&T Publishing $21.95, 96 pages. Order from Planet Patchwork, in association with Amazon.com) provides instructions for drafting Mariner's Compasses as well as tips for making paper foundations. I have made Mariner's Compasses according to Ms. Mathieson's instructions and from them have made paper foundations and have been pleased with the results.

Most quilting design programs such as EQ enable quilters to print paper foundations and to design and color quilts made from them.

Last in this review, but by no means least, a new publication for foundation piecers has surfaced. "The Foundation Piecer: The Pattern Journal for Quilters Who Love Foundation Piecing" is an exciting 28-page publication that provides blocks, quilt ideas, good copy, and general wisdom on foundation piecing. Each project lists materials and foundations needed, followed by assembly advice. Blocks' piecing sequence is numbered. For subscription information, contact Zippy Designs: The Foundation Piecer, RFD 1, Box 187M, Newport VA 24128 or phone 540 544-7153. ($30/year for six issues.) More information can be found at their website at http://www.zippydesigns.com

In closing, paper piecing is fun and addictive, and there are plenty of ways to explore it. Though outside the scope of this article, commercially produced paper piecing patterns for Mariner's Compasses and other designs are available from a variety of suppliers.


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