Paper Pieced Quilt Along #3 – Sewing the First Block

A Note About the Blocks


8″ Finished Deco Dresden Block

Each block has quite a few pieces so they take a long time to assemble. However,  the actual sewing is relatively easy. I have scheduled the quilt along so that you basically have three weeks to complete the blocks (but of course I encourage you to work at your own pace). Today’s tutorial will go over construction for one block. Next week will be a continuation of block making with examples from many of you! The following week we will spend some time on alternate layouts. So don’t stress and enjoy the meditative piecing process. 🙂

Setting Up Your Workstation

Before we begin sewing our paper foundation pieced blocks (click here for the QAL schedule), we need to set up an efficient work space. You will be sewing, pressing and trimming for each piece on each block, so you want to have each work station close at hand for efficiency.

sewing_stationI sew in front of me with my ironing board and portable pressing mat to my left, with a cutting table behind me, forming a U shape. I can move between all three effortlessly while I construct my blocks.

Trimming the Foundations

After you have printed off 48 copies (or however many blocks’ worth you need) of the paper foundation pattern  shared last in the last post, roughly trim around both sections of the block pattern. Trim close to the outer edges to help with better fabric placement.

foundation_trimmingRoughly trim the excess paper around each foundation template.

Making One Block

Make one complete block first to get the hang of how the process works. When you are comfortable, sew multiple blocks at the same time, chain piecing all of the same units as you go. For my quilt, I am making approximately 4-8 blocks at once. For the one block version, you can chain piece the A units and the B units for efficiency.

Step 1

Glue or pin a background rectangle to your foundation paper covering piece A1 with 1/4″ of fabric extending past the seam lines on all sides. The wrong side of the fabric should be glued or pined to the wrong side of the paper. Repeat for section B1. If the paper is thin enough, you should be able to see through it. If not, hold it up to a light source or window.

first_pieceThe photo above shows two black background rectangles glued to A1 and B1. One is face up, one is face down so you can see roughly what it should look like on both sides.

Place the paper print side up. Place the thin straight edge along the seam line between A1 and A2 or B1 and B2. Fold the paper over the straight edge. Leave the background piece where it is. Repeat for section A & B.

first_foldCrease the sewing line between 1 and 2, then fold the paper template over the straight edge.

Place the add-a-quarter ruler on top of the paper, fabric and straight edge and rotary cut along the edge, trimming off the excess background fabric. You are now ready to sew the first piece.

first_trimYou can use a small ruler and slide it up and down as needed, or use a longer one.

Step 2

Flip the paper to the wrong side and place your A2 fabric piece (color 1) lining up the edges of the background rectangle. My A2 piece is dark red. Lift up the paper if needed and check the front side ensure your fabric is overlapping the seam line by at least 1/4″ all around.

add_a_colorRepeat for your B2 piece, or color 2. For my quilt, this is the yellow rectangle.

Flip the paper to the print side and sew on the line between A1 and A2 or B1 and B2. Be sure to start sewing 1/4″ before and after the seam line for seam allowances. For extra security, back stitch the beginning and ending few stitches if desired. Shorten your stitch length to perforate the paper, making it easier to tear away later.

first_sewRemember – always sew on the printed side so you can follow the lines!

You will sew each line in numerical order. The first seam line to stitch is in between A1 and A2 or B1 and B2. The next line to stitch is in between A2 and A3 or B2 and B3, and so on.

Once you have sewn the A first line and B line, remove the pieces from your machine, flip the newly sewn pieces open and press from the front of the block. You are now ready to trim again and add the next piece.

first_redyellow_pieceSew on the printed side. Then flip the paper over and press from the non-printed side.

Step 3

Repeat the trimming process by creasing the paper along the next seam line between A2 and A3 or B2 and B3. Fold the paper template toward your left, covering the straight edge. Add your quarter inch seam allowance with the ruler, and trim the excess. The pictures below are in order from left to right, top to bottom.

second_trimCrease the seam line, fold the template, add a quarter inch seam allowance, and trim.

It’s time to add a background rectangle: place it against the A2 or B2 color, sew on the paper side, flip the paper over, open the piece and press. Be sure the background rectangle completely covers the area of A3 or B3 with 1/4″ extra on all sides.

black_cornerAfter this step it will be time to trim up the yellow strip and add another yellow strip.

Step 4

Repeat this process until you have sewn all of the pieces on the A template and all of the pieces on the B template. When pressed your pieces should look roughly like this:

messy_blockFor my block, three reds and one orange are sewn onto the A section; three yellows and 2 oranges are sewn onto the B section. I cut a lot of scraps so my blocks will vary slightly in color placement.

Step 5

Flip the two halves of the block over so the paper side is up. Very carefully, trim the units along the seam allowances. Be sure to trim 1/4″ away from all of the points. Now they should look much nicer like this:


Pin the two units together between B10 and A8 and sew along the seam to join them. For easier matching, sew from the straight side toward the triangle tips. Match them so they look like this:

join_templatesSew on the seam line at the top of the units to join the paper pieced templates together.

Step 6

Carefully remove all of the paper template in between the sewn pieces, starting on the outer edge of the block and working your way across the block.

paper_tearingPaper templates partially removed.

Once the paper has been removed, press the block so that it is nice and flat. Add the half-square background triangle to complete the block. Trim if needed so the block measures 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″.

finished_blockDeco Dresden Block 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″

Hint: use a square acrylic ruler as you trim and remember to leave 1/4″ of background beyond your colored points so that they don’t get cut off.

Goal for Next Time:

Sew 3-4 more blocks and share your progress on instagram #paperpiecedqal and on Facebook at Quilt With Christa.

Copyright and Permission Granted

I am very happy to share my knowledge with you free of charge during this quilt along. However, this information is for your personal use as a loyal reader of my blog. Please do not make copies of any part of this quilt along to distribute it to your friends. If you’d like to tell them about it, simply share my QAL site link with them and encourage them to come on over and join us:

If you’d like to share links to my site on Facebook or on your own blog, that is great, too!

At the conclusion of the quilt along, I will be happy to edit down all of the content and turn it into a pattern for sale, so that others can use my pattern as a teaching aid in the future. 🙂


6 thoughts on “Paper Pieced Quilt Along #3 – Sewing the First Block

  1. Sharon says:

    Where have I been? I can hardly wait to start this adventure! I probably have enough fabric in my stash, so all I need is time.

  2. Katie says:

    Hi Christa, I am having so much fun with your quilt a long, but am wondering if blocks should measure 8 1/2″ squared or 8″ squared? I see both numbers listed by photos on this post and it doesn’t take much to confuse me:) thanks! Katie

  3. sewstitchingcute says:

    Eeek! I just finished printing out 50 sheets (a few extra just in case to start) as I intend to at least get started this weekend on it with at least the first block (few more if I’m lucky). I’m heading to The Lake of the Ozarks here in MO and since the weather is to be raining all weekend, I plan on sewing as much as I can when not spending it with my Aunt and Uncle! Thank you for hosting this… super exciting!

  4. Cynthia says:

    Great tutorial, it seems to make sense so I can’t wait to start this on the weekend, may be Friday night if I can. Just need to do some cutting for it.

  5. Michele. says:

    Great instructions. One thing I find helps me is I either fold along the lines ahead of time or use a pattern tracing wheel & go over the lines. Still trying to decide on fabric.

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