Create Your Own Paper Piecing Pattern | Sophie Schmidt | Skillshare

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Create Your Own Paper Piecing Pattern

teacher avatar Sophie Schmidt, @mouseweasel

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (17m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. Background Knowledge about Foundation Paper Piecing

    • 4. Finding a Motive

    • 5. Basic Rules

    • 6. Simplifying

    • 7. Make It Even Smaller

    • 8. Finishing Your Pattern

    • 9. Bonus: Try Your Pattern Out

    • 10. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Hello there, I'm Sophie from mouseweasel and this is my first Skillshare class.

Are you interested in patchwork and quilting, but find traditional patterns rather boring?
Are you looking for a new creative outlet?

With foundation paper piecing you can create pictures with fabric and I'll show you how to make your own patterns!

What you'll need:

  • a simple motive or picture
  • paper, pencil and a ruler
  • optional: if you want to sew your pattern you’ll also need thin cotton fabric in different colors as well as a sewing machine (or tools for hand sewing)

And that's all!

The class will cover:

  • a crash course about foundation paper piecing
  • how to decide on a motive that works
  • how to break down the picture in simple parts and then in even smaller parts
  • what to take care of to make the pattern usable for sewing

Meet Your Teacher

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Sophie Schmidt



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1. Introduction: Hello everyone, welcome to this class. My name is Sophie. I'm an artist who works with textiles. Are you're interested in patchwork and quilting, but find traditional patterns rather boring? Are you an illustrator looking for a new creative outlet? Two years ago I learned a patchwork technique called foundation paper piecing, and in this class I will teach you how to create your own paper piecing patterns. With paper piecing you can transfer any picture idea into a work of fabric art. You can either frame it and hang it on your wall, sew something with it or just patch it on to your clothes. Don't worry if you don't know how to paper piece yet, I will give you a crash course about it. This class as suitable for students of all levels. All you need is a pen, paper, and a ruler to draw your pattern. I will teach you which motives work and walk you through all the steps. You will divide your motif into geometrical shapes with all straight lines, which will become the pattern that you will follow in sewing. At the end of the course you will have a finished foundation paper piecing pattern. If you want to sew your finished pattern in the end, you will also need thin cotton fabric and a sewing machine, or hand sewing tools, although this is not mandatory. Once you've finished this course you will have the ability to make your own paper piecing patterns from simple motifs. And if you continue practicing, one day you may even make complex artworks like that one. See you in class. 2. Class Project: As a class project you will draw your own pattern. In the end you will have one similar to that one. Share your works-in-progress in the project gallery. Which subject did you choose? Did you need to make any adjustments to it to make it fit. How did the process of dividing it into smaller pieces worked out? Show your finished pattern and all the steps before, so that me and your fellow classmates can look at it and support you. If you also sewed your pattern, we would be happy to see it, although this is not mandatory. Before we continue, make sure you have pen, paper, and a ruler at the ready. 3. Background Knowledge about Foundation Paper Piecing: If you never did foundation paper piecing before, this is your lesson. But if you already know how to do it, you're free to skip this lesson and I will see you in the next video. Foundation paper piecing is a patchwork technique. Basically, you sew a picture out of different fabrics, with the help of paper patterns. I will show you now a quick roundup of the technique. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me or look at other resources online. You can find the pattern that I'm using in the Resources tab. Most patterns are divided in bigger parts named with letters, which each divide into smaller parts with numbers. This marks the order of sewing. Furthermore, there should be some markings to show you which color of fabric you need. In this one, we have black for the nose marked with a square, red for the fur, marked with a circle. And the other pieces are all for the background in green. Most patterns will also tell you which pieces go first. Here in this example, we have three pieces. First, we sew A, then B, then C, and then we sew A to B, and finally C to the AB part. So let's start with A. A1 is a green piece. A2 a red one. Take your green fabric and cut out a part that is slightly bigger than A1. And then take your red fabric and cut out a part that is bigger than A1. It doesn't have to be accurate. Fold your pattern at the line between A1 and A2. This is easier if you trace your lines before hands with a tracing wheel. With paper piecing you work from the backside of your artwork, which also means that your pattern will be mirrored in the end. Lay your A1 fabric under your pattern, aligning with the fold, with the right side of the fabrics showing down. Leave around five millimeter sewing allowance. Underneath these lay the A2 fabric, this time with the right side showing up. Fold out the pattern, but leave the fabric as it is. Sew along the line with a straight stitch through the paper and both layers of fabric. Fold A2 out. Cut out a piece of red fabric bigger than A3. Fold the line between A12 and A3. Make sure your A2 piece lays smooth under the pattern. The lay the A3 fabric piece under it with the right side of the fabric showing up. Align with the fold, fold the pattern out and sew along the line. Do so for the other pieces of A too. Then continue with B, then with C. In the end, you will have these three pieces which you will need to align. You may want to remove some of the paper parts at the border to make it easier, but just make sure that you still know exactly where to sew. Sew A to B, right sizes facing each other, then fold it apart. After that sew C to the new piece AB. After that you can remove the paper with tweezers and have your finished artwork. If you're still unsure how it works, maybe watch that lesson again. Or, if you have fabric and a sewing machine, then you can also try out the pattern I've used right now. It's in the resources tab. It's easier to understand when trying it out by oneself. If you feel confident about the technique, please join me in the next lesson, where I talk about finding a motif. 4. Finding a Motive: For the sake of keeping things simple, in this class, we will focus on simple motives. This can be animals or flowers, or simple shapes like houses. You can take photographs or graphics as inspiration, or draw something by yourself. Don't focus too much on colors, rather focus on shapes. Choose motifs which already seem to be divided in different parts. Or that have strong lines. Don't use motives that include many curves or round shapes. With this technique, you can only sew straight lines. Here are few motives that could work. You're free to choose one of these or think something up for yourself. This is my choice. It is simple dog design. The background is as simple as possible with only one color. And I recommend you do the same with your design. Keep in mind: When using your pattern for sewing, you could always use a patterned fabric for the background to spice things up. I suggest that your final pattern should be around five inches or 12.7 centimeters tall, although you could make any size that you want. If you are unsure if your motif would work, tell us about it in the project gallery or in the comments, and I will gladly help you out. Found your motive? Great. Then we can continue. Following is a quick lesson about some basic rules that are necessary to make the pattern sewable. 5. Basic Rules: The first basic rule with the kind of paper piecing I teach you, is: Use only straight lines. It won't work otherwise because anything curved would need to be bent or twisted. The second rule is: Always consider the sewing order. For example, you sew A1 to A2, then A3 to A12, after that, A4 to A123. For pattern design this means you should work from biggest to smallest number, meaning: Start with A4. Separate it with a straight line from all other A parts. After that, separate A3 from the leftover A piece. And after that, do the same with A2. Which means the last one remaining will be A1. Don't worry. We'll talk more about separating soon. The third rule is a more practical one. Don't make the parts to small. Depending on the desired size of the finished pattern, you should take care that parts won't get too small because that would be really really hard to sew for beginners and I recommend that the smallest parts should be at least one to one centimeter tall. Last advice: Because you work from the backside of your artwork, please keep in mind that your pattern will be mirrored. Keep these rules in mind as we walk on. In the next step, I will show you how to simplify your motif. 6. Simplifying: Now take a good look at your motif. Do you already see lines that could work? I mostly start with one line that parts the picture into big parts. Remember: You can always add lines to divide existing parts further. You are not limited to the lines that your motive offers. And again: Don't focus too much on the colors. It's rather common in paper piecing to sew the same fabric side-by-side. In my example, I see a big line that goes between the ears down to the chest. I will draw that one first. I recommend that you divide your motive into 2 to 4 big parts. Feel free to alter your motive when it's needed. For example: You want to make a bird, but can't find a line which goes straight through the picture? What if the bird tilts it head a little or you change the position of the wings? In my pattern, I will use another line above the snout. Now I have two parts at the right side. One with an ear and background, and one with the snout and the background. The left part wouldn't work like that and needs another division. Always keep the basic rules in mind and check the sewing order of your parts. Would it work? Remember: The last part should have a line that separates it from the other parts and so on. In that case, it wouldn't work because there's no final line. Or at least I couldn't think of one. Therefore, I decided to draw another line right here. Now I have four different pieces. When you divided your pattern into two to four pieces, the join me in the next lesson, where we will go into details and make the parts even smaller. 7. Make It Even Smaller: Chances are that your bigger parts alone won't make the picture that you have imagined, right? Don't worry. Now we divide the single parts even further. In my case, I will start with the easiest parts. For example. On that upper part, I only need the division between the ear and the background. Always keep your sewing order in mind. Remember: Work from the last to the first part. I take this big part as my last part and divide it with a line from the others. Then I will only need one other line to divide part two and one. The triangle at the bottom is super-simple. I only need to separate the eye from everything else. With the piece on the right, I will show you how to make kinda curved pieces. This is the snout which I want to separate. First, I draw a line between the snout and a big piece of background. Then I move my pattern a bit and draw another line, and so on. In the end, I only need to add another line for the nose. My last piece is similar to the one I did at first. Another important thing is: Watch out where your lines meet. Take the ears of my dog for example. When you sew something from that pattern, you will have to take care that you align the left and the right pieces correctly, so that everything meets in the right position. This is sometimes a bit complicated. So you may avoid pieces or meeting points where you have to sew very accurately. Sometimes it's helpful to color in the shapes to see how your finished pattern would look like. Do that if you'd like to. You made a pattern, this is awesome. There will be a few finishing steps in the next lesson, but feel free to share your pattern already in the project gallery so that we can cheer with you. 8. Finishing Your Pattern: Now, what's left to do? To finish your pattern, you will need to make a reproduceable version of it that you can copy for sewing. You can either use tracing paper or just normal paper and some kind of light source behind it. You will have to draw all the bigger parts separate, and add a bit of a border for the seam allowance. Don't leave any lines behind. You also need to name all the parts correctly. This the last time to check if your sewing order would work. Use letters for the bigger parts, and then add numbers according to the sewing order. Furthermore you will also have to add marking for the colors. There are different ways to do that. You can color the pieces in. Or you can write the color names on the pieces. Although that may be a bit difficult for smaller parts. or which is my favorite method for patterns with less than five colors, use a symbol for each color, like: a square, a triangle, or a circle. This way you don't run out of space at the smaller parts. Alternatively, you can make this final steps on a computer in programs like Illustrator. Just make sure that everything aligns in the end. Your finished pattern should look similar to that one. Now you have finished your pattern and can either get someone to sew it for you or try it out by yourself. Join me in the next lesson while I sew my dog pattern, and share some insights. 9. Bonus: Try Your Pattern Out: Always use thin non-stretchable fabric, like plain cotton fabric. You can play around with color combinations. Maybe use single colors for the motive and a patterned fabric for the background. I would recommend fabric with small patterns, so they don't distract from your motif. Don't worry if you find out that you need to make adjustments to the pattern after sewing it. This is totally normal and happens all the time. 10. Final Thoughts: You made it. You have created your first paper piecing pattern. Maybe you also sewed something from it or had someone sew it for you. You can make small zipper pouches or just frame it and hang it on the wall like the artwork that it is. You could also sew your pattern four times with slightly different colors, sew them together and make them into a pillow case. So what's coming next? I recommend you continue practicing with some simple motives before you head dive into something big like that one. This one took me quite some time to finish. It consists of 19 bigger parts. And I won't even count how many of the smaller parts there are. You could also make a simple pattern, but spice it up with some embroidery or some fabric paint. Don't limit yourself. For your next project remember these simple rules. Use only straight lines. Consider the sewing order. Don't make pieces to small. Otherwise, consider making the whole pattern bigger. Have fun and explore what you can make with this technique. Please share your projects in the gallery. And if you have any more questions, you can ask me here on Skillshare or on my Instagram. Happy creating.