Clues to Paper-Pieced Design
process is too intensive to do any justice to in one page, but I do get asked
from time to time how to get started. I will cover the gist of the process for
me, which is 95% on the computer. Someday, I would like to present an informative
online class, but until then...
If you haven't
already, study several paper-pieced patterns to get a fairly good idea how they're
constructed. All straight lines...easy, no?
At the idea stage, I might sit in front of the TV with scratch paper and a pencil, and I sketch/doodle whatever comes
into my head. If I have a subject, I try to think of lots of different ways to
present it. Nothing formal...draw in as relaxed a state as possible. Doesn't matter
the size at this point, because I am going to scan it into the computer.
If you can't draw, practice by using simple clip art (for your personal use only).
I get a little picture I like (or parts of several pictures), I scan the drawings
into my computer and save them as .gifs. Then I open a new file in Illustrator,
and bring the .gif(s) in. (If you're doing this by hand, you can enlarge your
pictures on a copy machine. You'll also need lots of tracing paper for the rest
of the steps.)
enlarge the .gif to a working size in Illustrator. I draw a square around it to
represent the block size. I trace over my .gif, which I have dimmed to gray so
I can see the new lines I am drawing. Drawing straight lines only, I follow the outline of the object and its most prominent
details. I may have to sacrifice some details to piecing later, but the idea is
to choose the details that are key to identifying the object.
this point I may add color to my pattern so I can see where the major color areas
are. I put the color on a different layer so I can "turn off" all the
distracting black lines and see how things look without them.
Up Drawing into Major Sections
Look over your
pattern and "find" the most natural seam line that will cut the block
into two. This is the last seam actually sewn, and every block has one. It could
be vertical or horizontal. I make that line heavier. Now work to break up each
side into sections using more heavy lines. I like my section lines to follow the
large shapes in the drawing, but some designers prefer to make squares (study
Foundation Piecer patterns) and break those into smaller pieces.
Up Sections into Pieces
pictures my description gets even fuzzier from here. Look at the sections of your
sample patterns and see how the piecing lines often radiate out from some
detail, or an inside curve. I will add piecing lines and move them around until
I get the the smallest number of pieces, and I often need to move, change, add,
or delete the heavier section lines as I go. Sometimes I need to sacrifice
detail in order to make the piecing less fussy.
you are breaking up each section, you have to make sure there is a workable order
of piecing. When numbering pieces you must be able to lay down your fabrics one
after another. Previous pieces cannot overlap later pieces.
and Color Abbreviations
When I get workable sections,
I add the numbers. Because there is color in my pattern at this stage, I label
the colors in each piece (seeing the color helps me make fewer mistakes). I print
my test patterns in color, but I remove the color in the final stage and add a
gray grid to the background area.
I usually discover a few things when I sew the pattern,
and I go back to fix things in Illustrator.
A little view of the process
A little view of