A (new) piece of my heart – I’m really piecing!

One of the reasons that I tell people that I “don’t piece” is because I just find that I can’t seem to get the accuracy that I want. Yes, I know that it takes practice and patience, “nothing comes overnight”, and all that. Sometimes though, it would be nice if my own tops weren’t the most character building tops I ever quilt. Parachutes are just not my favorite shape of top to quilt! I do however like to quilt, so sometimes I have to piece – especially if I want to keep what I’ve quilted. šŸ˜‰

Two nights a week several weeks of the year, I have a girls’ night out. Two separate groups of us get together and sew. Since Lucey’s not especially portable – and Ryan says getting out of the house and spending time with friends is good for me – I grab a sewing machine (usually a featherweight) and do a little sewing with the girls.

Enter Judy Niemeyer’s paper piecing patterns.

After all, why start with something easy when you can out and out challenge the heck out of yourself, right?

Jumping into “the hardest thing” isn’t a new trend for me. Back when I was in “computer school” – learning to be a software developer – I found often I struggled with the simple concepts but had no trouble with the more advanced concepts. That made for a very frustrating experience sometimes , I’ll tell ya!

And quilting? One of the first things I had to learn was feathers and ruler work. Nothing like jumping off the end of a boat in the middle of the ocean to find out if you can swim. šŸ˜‰

There are benefits though.

  • It’s not as difficult as it looks. Really.
  • This isn’t like the 90’s when we were largely learning things without the help of YouTube and blogs and such. Heck, I even learned to shingle the valley of our roof on YouTube! There are tons of great videos on YouTube of people demonstrating how to paper piece Judy Niemeyer style.
  • The quilting community is huge – online and offline -and there’s always someone to ask and who’s willing to mentor.
  • You don’t even need an accurate 1/4″ – scant or otherwise!! šŸ˜‰ This also removes another problem that some of us multiple machine owners have – starting a project on one machine then moving to another only to have your 1/4″ seam change,… not an issue with paper piecing! Yay! That means I can piece in the studio during the day and in front of the TV with Ryan in the evening and not have to drag a specific machine upstairs. No studio hermit for the time being – which is really great since the seasons are changing right now and I’m not acclimating well so a fire in the wood stove in the living room at night is very welcome.


I’m working on my first right now. It’s called “Paddlewheel” and was in American Patchwork and Quilting in April of this year. I also have Celtic Wave waiting in the wings for when I finish this one. If these go well, I’d love to try a Bali Wedding Star or a Mariner’s Compass, .. or… well you know how it goes. šŸ˜‰ Hey! Maybe I’ll even tackle that New York Beauty kit I’ve had in the studio forever!

A few things I’ve noted being very new to paper piecing in general and to her process in particular:

  • Her method uses a lot of fabric. I mean A LOT a lot. I was warned about this by a friend, so it didn’t shock me but the Celtic Wave is a 70″x70″ quilt (so finished is about 4 sq yards) and uses more than 17 yards of fabric according to the requirements on the back page. That said, I’m reasonably sure that without a couple of miscuts right at the beginning that the yardage requirements for the Paddlewheel were very generous as well. I didn’t start with measured yardage – I just pulled from stash. I’ve also been told by the same friend that you can minimize the yardage by cutting differently than the templates suggest. I plan to try it JN’s way a few times first before I mess with what I know works. After all, I’m still the one who mirror images my pieces then has to rip.
  • ALWAYS go to quiltworx.com and look for corrections. That same Celtic Wave pattern I mention above has 10 pages of corrections for a 16 page pattern. My cousin suggests cutting and pasting (old school style – as in with scissors and tape) the new sections right over the old so you don’t even see the old wrong instructions.
  • If it feel backwards, it’s right. This is my hardest hurdle. I seem to want to sandwich the paper between layers. Oh well – if I did it right every time, what would I have to pick out in front of the TV? šŸ˜›
  • For those of us who are very (overly?) organized and enjoy “picky work” – a friend’s words to describe my preferred style of quilting (?!?) – Judy Niemeyer’s method may feel very comfortable. At least as compared to what I found felt “haphazard” with guessing and often cutting the wrong side of the fabric then having to rip it out and use another piece. Her method of stacking, using a template sheet for pre-cutting the pieces and swapping and then chain piecing sets you up so you practically can’t fail – which is where a lot of the massive use of fabric comes from – even without a certified instructor but I’d say they’re worth their weight in gold with her curves and such. We shall see. I may yet be calling on Roger from Quilting from the Heart in Camrose, AB, Canada. He’s our closest Certified shop/instructor. Of course, the last time I saw him I told him no way I could do one of JN’s tops. He told me that if I could sew a straight line, I could do one of them. I replied, “I can’t sew a straight line! That’s why I free motion!” (on Lucey who was due to arrive later that month.) I may have to eat crow if I go take a class from him. šŸ˜‰

How about you? What was your favorite/biggest challenge? How did it work out?

Is anyone else out there trying the Paddlewheel pattern? It seems like a great way to try out this method to see if you like it and JN’s designs and process. So far, I do.

Today’s Post title – as if I had to even say it! Janis Joplin – Piece of my Heart

2 thoughts on “A (new) piece of my heart – I’m really piecing!”

  1. I LOVE foundation paper piecing. It took me a while to get the hang of it but I love it for the same reasons you do. šŸ™‚ I’m horrible at regular piecing but foundation piecing is so much easier for me. My current project is Violet Craft’s Jungle Abstractions Lion. Check it out. You’d love it.

    1. I love that Lion! I think it’s more ambitious than I feel at the moment but I’d sure love to see what yours looks like when you’re finished! I did finish the Paddlewheel top – this is it before a final press.


      I’ve started preparing the papers for the Celtic Wave and am in the process of picking colors too. I’m a little slowed down though because I have project that has jumped in front of it priority-wise. Hopefully that will be done early this week and I can start quilting and piecing again.

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