Decoding the Piecing Patterns for the Dreamcatcher Round the Year Quilt

The A,B,C… and 1,2,3…of Foundation Paper Piecing For Beginner Quilters

I love foundation paper piecing! In fact, it is my favourite method of making quilt blocks – it gives such fabulous, accurate results and is so, so very easy. To let you into a secret, I feel like such a cheat every time someone goes gaga over my paper –pieced blocks! There are certain patterns which contain odd shaped pieces or are so complicated that you could possibly not piece them by any other method. Miniature blocks are also much easier to handle if paper pieced.

But I do know there are some of you quilters who have never ventured into the mysterious world of templates, codes, mirror images, the flip and sew method , yet excited about my Block of the Month quilt `Dreamcatcher Round the Year’. So, what is paper foundation piecing? It is like ‘quilting by number’. In a paper piecing pattern, you sew fabric pieces on to paper which is printed with an exact replica of a quilt block or portion of a block.  The pieces are numbered in the order in which you should sew the pieces.

There are several tutorials on the subject for beginners, out there on the big world wide web. Here are some great ones I found – I don’t think I can better these.


” In order to learn to swim, you have to jump into the water. You can’t learn to swim by paddling on the floor of your room, no matter how long you practise. You need the courage to actually try it out.”

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi

As one of those tutorials mentioned, paper foundation piecing is one of those things which are much easier done than explained!


By now,  you would know there are several ways to ‘foundation piece”.

  • We will be sewing directly on to a pattern printed on to paper – the most popular method.
  •  I will also show you how to use freezer paper for piecing,  in one of the later blocks. Here, instead of sewing on paper, you fold the seam line on the freezer paper and sew along the fold. The template is reusable. As freezer paper is not easily available to all quilters in India, this will be demonstrated as an alternative to the regular paper piecing.
  • There is great method to foundation piece using strips, which I picked up from tutorials available online. We will use this method, piecing much faster than you would think possible.

Know your templates

This post is also an introduction to help you `decode’ patterns for paper pieced blocks from the Round the Year Quilt.

  1. The paper foundation piecing patterns for the blocks will in the form of downloadable, printable files (PDF). You need Adobe Reader on your PC/ laptop to be able to view them; this is available free online.
  2. Each file contains 6-12 pages. Set your printer settings to 100% ( sometimes referred to as “No Scaling”.
  3. Some patterns are in `portrait’ mode and others in ‘landscape’ mode. Please ensure that your printer settings are adjusted accordingly. No, this has not been done to confuse you, but to minimize paper usage. Don’t forget to view the tip for saving on printing at the end of this post !
  4. Do you remember the colouring books you loved as a child?

    The piecing patterns are something like that!

    Each file contains a number of figures coded A, B, C etc, These are templates. Each template is pieced separately; the pieces are colour coded and numbered A1, A2, A3…, B1, B2, B3… and so on.

    In the picture below you can see templates G (flying geese in an arc formation) and templates L and M in the form of wedges. You can see that each section is marked with a small coloured square, with a number inside – this is the code number for that colour.

  5. If you look carefully, you will observe that  only the outermost seam allowance is shown on each template, marked with a dotted line. Cut out each template outside the dotted line. You need not be accurate at this stage; in fact, I always cut slightly outside the seam outline!

Instructions File

I would also suggest that you download the Instructions file provided with each Block pattern. This contains:

  • The Block design in full colour. Each colour is given a code number and usage is given for each fabric code. For example, in the design given below, the blues are coded 2, 4 and 5, yellow is coded 3, orange is coded 6.

    Fabric requirement of each fabric is provided with code for your convenience. So if in place of yellow you want green, just look up requirement for Code 3.

  • The “Master Template” which shows you how all the templates A, B, C… will be finally assembled to make up the block. Here is an example of a Master Template of a block that I designed and then scrapped because it was `too difficult’ for beginners!.

    It shows you how the pieced templates A to P provided in the Templates file will finally be assembled! If you are not doing the quilt in my colours, you need only a print out of the Master Template and a box of colour pencils to see how your final block will look!

    One thing can confuse you – the templates are all mirror images of your original pattern! In this block, the geese are flying clockwise, but in the in this Master Template, they travel anti-clockwise!

I did mention that I am using Quilt Assistant a great free quilt design software for these blocks, didn’t I?


I hate wasting paper! This is what I was left with after cutting the 16 identical looking templates for Block One.

So, when I was making my next block, I used a method I learnt from a BHG quilting book.

I took only one print out of a template I was going to need eight of, two sets of 4 wedges – mirror images of each other.

I stapled it securely to seven sheets of waste printer paper (a good alternative is leaflets, old directory pages, tracing paper ) and took it to the sewing machine.

Unthreaded the needle and started sewing on the pattern lines! ( Good idea to keep aside an old needle for the purpose if you are going to be making several templates.)

In no time, the 8 identical templates are ready. All that remains is to code them with the template number, piece number and colour code on the correct side. That is 4 wedges on one side, the others flipped over and marked on the other side. Here, be very, very careful or you will be lost!!

One drawback of this method is that you miss out on the alignment markers ( the crosses and the small lines on the seam line) that help you when assembling the block, unless you take the trouble to mark these.

However, when needing several identical templates for simple blocks– eg when making a quilt with several rows of pieced flying geese, this is a very useful trick to save on your printer ink!

Tuesday, 15th July is when the pattern for the first block will be posted – in less than 48 hours from now! I do hope you have your stash sorted and are ready with fabric for the quilt? I would love to see your selection!

Meanwhile, if you are not following my blog, you just might miss out on some quilting tips and tricks I shall be sharing with you all…

Author: Mads

In alphabetical order: daughter, mother, painter, philosopher, poet, quilter, seeker, wife...

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