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Clues to Paper-Pieced Design

   The 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).

    When 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.)

    I 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.
    At 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.

    Break 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.

    Break Up Sections into Pieces
    Unfortunately, without 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.
    While 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.

    Numbers 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.

    Test Sew
    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
the process



Paper Panache Quilt Patterns, Images & Ideas for Paper Piecing ©1997-2018 by Linda Worland