12 Step Square-in-a-Square Block Paper Piecing Tutorial
**This tutorial is for the block only, and doesn’t include full instructions for turning the block into a quilt. It also assumes you know basic sewing terms**
Step 1: Put on some bitchin’ music. Seriously. Something you can groove to, but can go on autopilot with. I usually listen to some Sister Hazel, Carbon Leaf, Symphony of Science, or throw on Penn & Teller: Bullshit (because libertarian ranting is awesome) when I sew, because listening to other people’s artistic expression helps me express. ^_^
Step 2: Gather your supplies. To make four blocks, you will need:
- four sheets of regular computer paper
- a cutting surface and cutting implement (I use a self-healing quilting mat and a Fiskars rotary cutter)
- scissors to cut paper. These will dull, so keep them separate from scissors used to cut fabric.
- an iron
- your fabric (less than 1 yard for 4 blocks) and coordinating thread – at least two colors, but up to three
- straight pins
- a sewing machine
Step 3: Prepare your paper. On one sheet, draw a 3″ x 3″ square. Then, draw another square around it, 4 1/4″ x 4 1/4″. This square will be tilted, with the corners touching the middle of the outside square. Finally, a 6″ x 6″ square should enclose them. Draw a dotted line 1/4″ around the edge of the biggest square; this will be the seam allowance later. Label the center square “1”, the triangles on top and bottom “2”, the triangles left and right “3”, the triangle in the top right corner and bottom left corner “4”, and the triangle in the top left corner and bottom right corner “5”. Stack all of four sheets of paper together and staple the corners. Here’s a picture of the what this should all look like when you’re done:
(When you’ve finished this step, remove the staples and peel your four sheets of paper apart. Make sure to label each one with the same numbers as your top sheet of paper)
Step 5: Wash (wash wash wash!) your fabric first, and then press it on high heat (no steam!). Once it’s been pressed, do a rough cut of your fabric for each block. For each block, you will need:
- One 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ square (dark)
- Two 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ squares (light), cut in half diagonally (so, four triangles)
- Two 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ squares (dark), cut in half diagonally (four triangles)
This is where you can play with fabric – do you want two colors (light/dark), or three (color 1 – square, color 2 – small triangles, color 3 – large triangles)?
Step 6: Okay! Here comes the part where you start assembling the block. Ready? Watch closely! Place your paper pattern face down on the table, like so:
Step 7: Take two of your small triangles and place them, points towards the center, right sides together, and raw edges even, along the line between 1 (your center square) and 2 (the top and bottom triangles) and pin them:
Flip the paper over and stitch on the lines between 1 and 2, being careful to avoid the pins:
Step 8: Take two more of the small triangles and place them, points towards the center, right sides together, and raw edges even, along the line between 1 (your center square) and 3 (the right and left triangles) and pin them:
Flip the paper over and stitch on the lines between 1 and 3. Make sure when you start to sew that the fabric underneath the paper is straight. If it gets caught or is folded onto itself you will have to rip out the seam:
Step 9: Now comes the fun stuff! Turn the paper over so that you’re looking at the side without the fabric, and fold the paper along the number 4 lines. Trim the fabric that pokes out to 1/4″ seam allowance:
Repeat this process for the number 5 lines as well.
Step 10: Make sure your block is back to being fabric side up. Take two of your larger triangles and place them, points towards the center, right sides together, and raw edges even, along the number 4 lines and pin them:
Step 12: Almost done! Remember that dotted line around the outside of the block pattern? Now you’re going to flip to that side and, using your paper-friendly scissors (not your fabric scissors!), cut along the dotted line, paper and fabric. This is what the back of the pattern looks like once you’ve cut:
Congratulations! You’ve completed a square-in-a-square block. Repeat this process for the other blocks you cut out to finish your four paper-pieced beauties! if you plan to attach these blocks, leave the paper backing in place. Otherwise (if you’re planning on coasters/decorations), remove the paper backing carefully (I find it helps to fold the paper against the stitches and then pull away from the stitches).
Keep an eye out for tutorials dealing with attaching multiple blocks and binding – coming soon!
Questions? Leave a comment!