achievement unlocked: “paper-pieced home” blocks, part one

after sewing all the things & writing a million posts about it last month, i’ve been pretty checked out in june. i haven’t even been sewing much, even though i still have a few projects cut out & ready to be stitched left over from may.

a couple of weeks ago, i came across a new book called the paper-pieced home, by penny layman. i rather enjoy paper-piecing, though i’ve only done a couple of projects, & none since last summer. i kind of oscillate between garment-sewing & craft sewing. i go all in on one type for a while & then i need a break & switch to the other. i sewed so many new garments last month, i needed to turn to some crafty sewing as a palate cleanser, & penny’s book really intrigued me.


there are so many great blocks in this book (forty in all) that i didn’t really know where to start, so i just started at the beginning & made block #1: a take-out container. i don’t have many low-volume prints in my stash, but i had this cream fabric printed with little red scissors that my friend rebecca gave to me for my birthday last year. (she used to dabble in quilting before she decided that the precision required was just not her thing.)

as you can see, my block did not come out perfectly. one of the brilliant things about penny’s patterns is that she includes little notches to show you exactly how one section is supposed to meet up with another, & i didn’t really catch on to that at first & ignored them. i also trimmed all my seam allowances as i sewed, which resulted in slightly imperfect seam allowances. that little jog along the left-hand side of the take-out container image is maybe about 1/8″, but you know. it makes a difference. i tend to use a really tiny stitch length when paper-piecing, because it perforates the paper more & makes it easier to tear the paper off after without ripping out any stitches. but obviously that makes ripping out seams a giant pain in the ass.

ultimately, i decided that i didn’t love the way my background fabric was all over the place directionally, & i made the block again from scratch.


yay! this one turned out much better.


next up was “espresso mug”. i thought the cup design looked more like an old-fashioned milkshake glass, & i have also been interested in working more pink into my sewing, so i turned it into a strawberry milkshake. i fussy cut the fabric for the striped straw to make sure the stripes were angled the way i wanted.


this is the oven mitt block. i really tried to more or less keep the plus signs on the background fabric even across sections. i probably could have been a little more painstaking about print-matching, but you know. it’s a learning process. the cuff on the mitt was supposed to be paper-pieced to look like lace, but i decided to use a bit of actual lace from my stash. even though i have never seen a lace-trimmed oven mitt in my life.

side note: jared calls oven mitts “hot mitts”. is that a regionalism? he’s from boston, i’m from ohio. he even has ramona saying “hot mitt” now.


layer cake block. i guess it’s kind of hard to see here, but the yellow print i used for the frosting has little pink flowers in it, which pick up the pink of the cakestand. the flowers’ leaves are a gray-green that coordinates well with the gray background fabric. when i made this block, i accidentally sewed one section with the wrong fabric & didn’t notice until the whole thing was constructed, pressed, & trimmed. so i appliqued the correct fabric in place & trimmed away the wrong fabric underneath. i’m not a huge fan of cake in reality, but this block makes me wish i actually owned a pink cakestand. also, the fabric i used for the plate part of the stand is the same as the fabric i used for the strawberry milkshake in the espresso mug block!


this is fun: a cast iron pan containing a fried egg! i had plain white fabric i could have used for the white of the egg, but since i was using solid black for the pan, i decided to use a print. i have a little charm pack of mini pearl bracelets & used the white-on-white print. the egg is appliqued. i tried using the freezer paper method, but it just didn’t really work out for me. it looked a little messy. so i used my usual sew-to-interfacing-&-flip-right-side-out method, which was much easier. they are hand-stitched to the block.

the background fabric is the strawberry print from tasha noel’s newest fabric line, vintage market. i am OBSESSED with this fabric. i thought it would work well as a background print here because the rest of the block is pretty solid, & it helps underline the retro kitchen vibe. i bought a couple of yards of all three colorways (it also comes in aqua & yellow) from an etsy shop having a sale & am planning to make curtains for every room in our new house. kitchen, bathroom, dining room, bedrooms–there’s nowhere that wouldn’t look great with this fabric!

paper-piecing is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it technique. i can understand why some people loathe it. it’s time-consuming & fiddly. even though the point of paper-piecing is that it “allows for the kind of precision that guarantees perfect results every time,” it REQUIRES a degree of precision that is easy to fuck up. it also eats up a fair amount of fabric & generates a lot of tiny, useless scraps. i think the fastest i sewed one of these blocks was maybe two hours, & most took considerably longer.

BUT! i really love paper-piecing. the attention to detail that is required is really enjoyable for me, i like trying to choose the right fabrics, i like fussy-cutting little details (like the striped straw in the milkshake), & i like watching my technique get a little better with every block. i figure that if i sew up one block per day, i can sew all forty blocks in the book by the time we move, & then i can stitch them together into a lovely quilt as a housewarming gift for myself. which is ridiculous because sewing for a couple of hours everyday is probably not the best use of my time when i have an entire house to pack up (on top of all the usual daily living things: taking care of ramona, paying bills, showering, eating, etc). & we’re moving in july. we’re not going to be using quilts then. but i guess if i get the quilt top done in the next month or two, i can take my time hand-quilting it & have something really nice ready to roll once the weather gets cold again.

so! watch this space for more paper-pieced blocks…& other things–i do have a few more garment projects planned. i’ve also been asked to make custom aprons for a local business, so we’ll see if that goes anywhere.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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