Quilting Techniques

Confessions of a former FPP Hater

Newly arrived in a bee in 2013, this was my first attempt at foundation paper-piecing, or FPP for short.

The Queen Bee had sent the fabric in graduated-sizes of strips; the cloth was finite which made me stress even more. This is what I wrote that day:

“Seventy-two pieces per block (4 quadrants).  It took me over 7 hours, closer to eight hours, to finish the two blocks.  I began wondering about this quilter–who would send out such a complicated block to the bee and expect us to do not only ONE, but TWO blocks? I began wondering about what a sheep I was to follow along, when I should have just sent back the unused fabric after the first block and the scraps for the little triangles, and kept it to one.”

I was pretty grumpy, and no, I don’t hate that quilter (she’s amazing). But I decided right then to hate all FPP and avoid those blocks whenever I could. In the double flying geese block, it was the figuring out how to gauge the size of what you needed to cut and how to arrange it so it covered the piece, all without running out of fabric. Whenever someone in one of my bees would bring up FPP, I shuddered and knew I would pretty much fail at this technique.

So why did I sign up for not one, but TWO, FPP classes at QuiltCon? Because I had because I’d seen this on Instagram:

This quilt won First in Piecing and Viewer’s Choice. Before going to Phoenix, I had even tried to give away this class; it was right after my finger injury and I couldn’t even write, let alone handle the mess that was FPP. To compensate, I swapped out her pattern for a smaller one of my choosing, the Lizabeth from Karen Ackva. I also knew that if your project is smaller, you’ll get more done. Instead of being out of sorts about my swap, the teacher at QuiltCon, Verushka Zarate of Pride and Joy Quilting, was always kind, polite, cheerful and called us “friends” throughout the class. She even started the class with us telling a joke–not everyone had one–so the day was off to a great start. Her demos were helpful, and she explained everything really well, and constantly walked around to make sure we were not drowning in FPP.

At one point, she mentioned her Online Class, and I perked up. It would be great to be able to follow up and have that resource. More about that in a minute.

I finished the head, the skirt, the neck in class. Here’s the rest:

I chose this pattern for its size (5″ wide) and because of the name (Lizabeth).

I also took Cassandra Beaver’s class at night, where she demo-ed on a light table. She went step by step and these two classes together really made a difference. (Plus I’ve been Cassandra’s fangirl for a while.)
This was her pattern:

I fixed the eye with a little reverse appliqué this week, changing from white (oops) to black.

I had ordered a different kind of roller, one made of hard rubber, and I liked it because it was flat and really set the creases. Cassandra gave everyone in her class pair of flowered tweezers, and I already had the fine tipped tweezers. Both work well for extracting the paper, which I’m still not so fond of, but I’ve gotten better.

Normal life after FPP. I use vellum paper when printing out my patterns, and it’s crisp and tears off really easily. It’s sturdy and slightly transparent, which also helps.

Today I found some time and watched portions of her online class. It sells for $45 and it is so helpful! (This is Verushka.)

She has the segments well-labeled and you work with the pattern we did at QuiltCon, which covers a wide range of FPP challenges. She has the BEST TIPS EVER for figuring out how to cut the correct shape of fabric to cut for the piece you are working on, and how to position your FPP so you’ll never get turned around. (I didn’t share them here, because they are her tips.)

I have seen the light.

I no longer hate FPP. I’m not like some people who Absolutely Love It, but I’m making progress. I even designed a leaf signature block for my Gridster Bee month:

I feel like I’m getting the hang of this, and have become a new woman quilter.

Last week I had a giveaway, and it took me too long to get responses to you–but they were all so lovely and so like poetry, I was determined to write you back. Susan won the pattern and it will be on the way to her soon. Thank you all for sharing with me your idea of “poems” to help smooth away the weariness.

A long time ago–showing me her first sewing project (a doll)

This next little while I’ll be assisting my grown daughter with her surgery in another state — my husband and I picking her up in a third state, driving her to surgery, helping with convalescence and then after a few days, driving her back home again. (All the details for that have kept me a bit preoccupied in the correspondence department.) I’ve got some EPP for the long road trip, and even a stitchery that is about 25 years old.

Happy Quilting FPP-ing–

16 thoughts on “Confessions of a former FPP Hater

  1. Atta girl!!!!! Your work turned out great and I love the leaf signature block. You know I was an early adopter of FPP and still have no idea why. What I do know is that it, like most things, just takes practice and once fully ingrained, you don’t seem to forget it (maybe akin to touching a hot stove). Hope your time as nursemaid goes well – will be saying prayers!

  2. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing what you have learned. I have enjoyed FPP for many years and have used a seam roller for most of that time. I will tell anyone who is interested about the value of using the roller, but I had never seen one like the one you showed. It looks better than my old wooden wallpaper seam roller and I am going to give it a try!

  3. Ha! I was so confounded with FPP on my farmers wife, but it is now my go to method! I do find I have to retrain myself each time though! I love the exactness of it. Safe travels and all the best to Barb.

  4. What a surprise to learn you haven’t been a FPPer all along! I thought you would long ago have embraced it as another form of quiltmaking expression. But I’m glad you’ve seen the light! While I’m not an enormous fan of it, I like that it’s in my arsenal of techniques. Just yesterday I took Amy Friend’s “Improv Paper Piecing” workshop (virtually), and thoroughly enjoyed that, though Amy employs a different methodology than I’m accustomed to – without the use of an add-a-quarter ruler. I learned FPP back in the 1990s from Carol Doak, the “guru” of FPP, and haven’t changed my methods since learning from her. It’s great that you learned in person at QC – Lizabeth is very cute! – and through Veruska’s video workshop. I hope you keep enjoying it.

  5. Sending your daughter, you and your husband thoughts and prayers. I’ve always found its harder for me when my kids have to go through things than it would be for myself, love is funny that way. I bet the sewing that you take along will help keep your mind busy and calm.
    I love your Lizabeth block! I am one of those that loved FPP from my first try, My brain just seems to be happy working backwards.

  6. I have always resisted FPP thinking I could not do it. But after reading your post – I’m giving it a whirl. I purchased the paperdoll patterns from your etsy link. So excited and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post! Thank you for sharing!

  7. You go girl! and so glad you beat that beast and gained your talents. You’re resilient. My new favorite adjective and word btw. Lol.
    Sorry to hear of your daughters health issues. Safe travels and wishing for the best possible outcome to this next life chapter challenges you’re presented with. Gods love and blessings

  8. Wishing your daughter a quick recovery…so very glad for you both that will be able to be there with her.

  9. I don’t do FPP frequently enough to stay proficient in it, but it is definitely one of those skills that grows on you over time. I remember being so utterly frustrated on my first attempts as well. I’m glad you had great courses and instructors. I hope your daughter’s surgery and recovery go smoothly this week.

  10. I am so pleased to know you have ‘seen the light’ when it comes to FPP! And I am genuinely envious of your access to the online classes. (I saw one advertised that I was interested in but sadly I would have had to get up at 5am to attend) I am also happy that you have learned some tricks that has made it more ‘doable’ for you! I am a fan of it from way back for its accuracy, but could never see myself attempting something so intricate that Verushka produces. I do love your Lizabeth as others have said! Best wishes to your daughter for a speedy recovery and to you in your travels!

  11. Your FPP looks great! I have always loved the technique, but I know some people really hate it. I wish your daughter all the best for her surgery. I know she will be comforted having you there with her. Safe travels.

  12. I’m so glad you and FPP are now friends. 🙂 I might get that online class just to see what her tips and tricks are. Over the years I have figured out how to cut the fabric for those weird angles (tutorial on my blog) and Lee Heinrich also has a great (and easy) technique for making sure that the fabric you have cut will completely cover what it needs to cover. Your Lizabeth FPP is adorable. And I am also a fan of Cassandra Beaver–I want to make her larger animal quilt.

  13. Good for you at your willingness to work through your FPP angst. I’ve done some paper piecing but have never been a big fan. Hate may not even be a strong enough word for times when I’ve been attempting it. I prefer big pieces and easy blocks I can get done quickly. Haha. You’d think I’d get tons of quilts finished with that approach. Hmmm. What am I doing wrong?

  14. FPP is a perfectionist’s dream…such perfect points! I haven’t done much myself, but I sure do appreciate the finished product. I have a stack of FPP patterns that need my attention…so many things to do and so little time! Sending healing thoughts for your daughter and so glad you are able to support her this way…that’s what families do! Blessings to you!

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