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Blue, red and white log cabin paper piecing on white background

What is Foundation Paper Piecing?

Foundation paper piecing is patchwork technique which gives you very accurate results. It’s especially useful for getting neat piecing results when working with unusual or difficult shapes.

Foundation piecing is completely different from ‘English paper piecing.’ Both techniques use paper guides to build quilt blocks, however foundation piecing is done on a sewing machine and the paper guide can’t be used again afterwards.

English paper piecing (often referred to as EPP) is done by hand. The fabric is wrapped over the paper template, secured with glue or basting stitches and then sewn together with tiny hand stitches.

How do you construct foundation paper piecing?

Foundation paper piecing uses printed paper or fabric as both a pattern and stabiliser. In this technique you piece your quilt blocks with the paper facing up, and the fabric below. Your blocks form on the ‘wrong side.’ This can be a bit confusing for beginners but once you pick it up, you’ll see how straightforward it is.

In this guide we’ve included a quick project, so you can see how the process works in real life. We include two variations of a log cabin block, and a picture of how you could place them once you’ve completed your blocks.

Colourful log cabin quilt sketch

Let’s make a log cabin block!

Materials and equipment

  • Downloadable patterns*
  • Paper**
  • Fabric***
  • Sharp scissors
  • Flat head pins
  • Glue stick
  • Finger presser (optional)
  • Iron and ironing surface - set this up next to your sewing station
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing thread
paper piecing pattern, scissors and pen on sewing machine


This is a simple ‘log cabin’ block. However, there are loads of block patterns available online. Some are free and some you will need to pay for. Search for ‘paper piecing’ or ‘foundation piecing’ patterns and you will find loads of blocks.

No matter what block pattern you use, the method is always the same. Download the file and print it in the size that you would like.


**Paper (and alternatives)

To print this pattern (and any foundation piecing pattern) you can use normal printer paper, or one of the many special papers for sale, including:
•    Thin ones that will still go through your printer but are easier to remove.
•    Non-woven fabric sheets, which do not need any removal.
•    Water-soluble sheets, which will dissolve in water when you wash your finished piece.

No matter which one you choose, the method of construction is still the same.



Fabrics that will form a crisp fold are easiest to work with, but pretty much any fabric can be used, as long as it can fold over on itself without getting too bulky to go in your sewing machine. Prepare your fabrics by cutting them into strips about ¾ inch bigger than the widest part of the pieces they will go onto. Paper piecing is great for using up scraps.

Before you start

To help you with fabric placement, sort your fabric into the groups your design demands – like lights, darks etc.
Our log cabin design needs a centre (A), blues (B) and whites (C). On the pattern, write next to each section number the group you need to take the fabric from – A, B or C.

Tip: you don’t have to use the same colours as us, but to get the same effect you need to make sure that you have enough contrast between group B and C.

Paper piecing pattern on wooden background

Step 1

On the wrong side of the pattern (the side that isn’t printed), on the square marked 1, apply a dab of glue. Place the centre fabric over the area, wrong side down. The fabric should extend at least a ¼ inch over all four lines. Pat down to keep in place.
Glue being applied to a white fabric pattern
fabric piece being laid over pattern

Step 2

Hold the pattern up against the light to check it is in the right place.

Fabric showing through pattern

Step 3

Lay the paper with printed side up, and fold on the line between section 1 and section 2.

Fabric being folded

Step 4

Trim the fabric to extend ¼ inch from the folded line. You can cut this with scissors or a ruler and rotary cutter. Don’t cut through the paper.

Cutting red fabric square

Step 5

Place the fabric you want to use for section 2 on top of the first – right sides facing and edges matching on the edge you just trimmed. You can pin this in place from the printed side.

Turn the printed side up and sew on the line between section 1 and section 2. Stop and start with a few tie-off stitches.

Sewing stitches on numbered pattern
Tip: Use the tie off button on your sewing machine to start and stop. It is more accurate than sewing forward and backwards as a tie off. If your machine does not have a lockstitch function, then simply do a few reverse stitches, taking care to stay on a straight line.
Tie off button on sewing machine

Step 6

Press second fabric over so it covers section 2.

Red and blue fabric on white foundation piecing pattern

Step 7

Fold on the line between the completed area (section 1 and 2) and trim the fabric to ¼ inch from the fold.

Fabric being folded
Red and blue fabric being trimmed with scissors

Step 8

Place the fabric for section 3, right sides facing and edges aligning.
White fabric being placed on pattern

Step 9

Sew on the line between section 1 and 3.
paper pattern with sewing on the line

Step 10

Fold the white fabric over to cover section 3. Press or finger press.
Red, blue fabric, with finger holding open white fabric

Step 11

Continue in this way until all the sections are covered with fabric.
Fabric pieces place on paper piecing pattern
Fabric pieces place on paper piecing pattern
Fabric pieces place on paper piecing pattern

Step 12

Press and sew a stay stitch halfway between the outer two lines.
Sewing machine sewing on printed pattern

Step 13

Trim on the outer line.
hand holding scissors trimming fabric
Voila! Your block is complete! Now you can make multiple blocks to form a quilt. These can be used for a traditional bedspread, a wall hanging, quilted cushions or even quilted clothes. What will you make?
Completed log cabin block on a wooden background.
We can’t wait to see what you make! Remember to tag in Brother on Instagram and Facebook so we can share your makes and inspire others.

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