Heather Seminelli from Quilts Actually is a longarm quilter, and she designs and sells paper pieced patterns. You can download Heather’s latest pattern here, and follow along with the corresponding tutorial below. Learn more about Heather in her introduction and have fun with the new design!
This block is a variation of the traditional Shoemaker’s Puzzle. I was inspired by the southwest vibe that is trending right now to use this block as the base. I was also camping in the New River valley of western Virginia as I designed it, so I really wanted to emphasize the mountains and valleys created by the triangles in the middle of the design.
Supplies: Sewing machine, Cutting Mat + Rotary Cutter, Quilting Ruler, Pins, Pattern, Washable Glue Stick, Thread, Fabric, Iron + Ironing Board
Four copies of the template are required to create one 12.5” unfinished block.
I will reference both the color of the fabric I used to demonstrate this block, and the numbering from the template.
- 1/3/5 (Aqua) – 3” x 2.5” – cut 12 total
- 2/4 (Turquoise solid) – 3” x 2.5” – cut 8 total
- 6/7 (Black with white text) – 1.5” x 11” – cut 4 total (once the 11” strip is cut, sub cut into 2 pieces – one 6.5” long and one 4.5” long
- 8 (Pink) – 4” x 3.5” – cut 4 total
- 9 (White with Black Leaves) – 8.5” x 3” – cut 2 rectangles and cut with right side facing up from the top right corner to the bottom left corner
- 10 (White with Black Leaves) – 8.5” x 3” – cut 2 rectangles and cut with right side facing up from the top left corner to the bottom right corner
- 11 (Purple) – 5.5” x 3” – cut 4 total
I like to label at least one of my templates with the fabrics I plan to use so that I don’t grab the wrong piece. In the case of this block, since there are four identical pattern pieces, I only labeled the first one and chain pieced them so that I did each step four times in a row. On a more complicated pattern with multiple different pattern pieces, I will label all of the templates.
On to the paper piecing! Step one is to place and glue the first aqua square into place. I use Elmer’s washable school glue, but use whatever you are familiar with. The first piece will be glued to the back of the template (the side without lines) with the printed side of the fabric facing up. I like to hold the paper up to a window or light to help see through it; I use regular printer paper for paper piecing. There are products sold that you can see through that will make this step easier.
Once the first piece is glued, line up the second piece (right sides facing) about ¼” over the line you will sew. Always remember that after the first piece, every other piece needs to have the printed side of the fabric facing down. If you can see the printed side before you sew, it will be seam ripper time! The photo below shows what it will look like when lined up correctly.
Once the second piece is lined up, fold it over along the sewing line. When it is folded over, it should cover the entire space that piece of fabric is destined to fill on the template, with some overlap for seam allowance. If there is some area not covered, move the piece until it fills the area it needs to.
Always reduce your stitch length when paper piecing. The additional perforations in the paper will make removing the paper much easier when the time comes. On my old Featherweight I set it in the range of 15-20 stitches per inch.
Start sewing on the line between 1 and 2, beginning at whichever end is easier for you. I started at the top as you can see below. Be sure to sew only on the line, extra stitches either above or below that line will make future steps not come out properly. Some people like to do a few extra stay stitches at the start and end of their sewing lines. I personally don’t because the smaller stitch length doesn’t tend to pull out as easily, and if you do have to rip anything out those stay stitches will make it very difficult to do so.
This is what the first seam will look like after sewing. Fold the paper back along the line you just sewed, and trim ¼” from the seam.
Once the seam is trimmed, unfold the paper, and iron the second piece open. I like to use a little bit of starch to keep those pieces open better. If you use starch, use a small amount so that the paper doesn’t get soaked.
Line up the next piece just like the last piece. In the photo below, the third piece is outlined so that you can see how it overlaps the seam line between Pieces 2 and 3. Once again, fold the pieces over to double check that it fills up the area it needs to. Once verified, sew in place along the black line between 2 and 3. Trim and press with iron.
Continue with the same technique for Pieces 4 and 5. Once Pieces 1-5 are complete, this is what your block should look like.
Next, line up Piece 6 about ¼” beyond the black seam line. The photo below shows how it should look lined up.
Pieces 6, 7 and 8 are all horizontal to each other and are added to the block in the same manner. Line up ¼” beyond the black seam line, double check that they fill the area they are supposed to fill, sew, trim and press with the iron. Once these pieces are added, your block will look like mine shown below.
Add Pieces 9, 10 and 11 in the same manner as before. Pieces 9 and 10 can be a little tricky because they are long and go over so many seam intersections. If you are having trouble keeping these pieces lined up, it may help to add some washable school glue within what will become the seam allowance in the places circled below.
Once all the pieces are sewn onto the paper template, they will look like the section below.
The next step is to trim the blocks. Trim them on the light gray line, ¼” from the black outline of the block. Each quadrant should be exactly 6.5″ square. The more accurately you trim these quadrants, the easier it will be to sew them together so that they line up.
Pin two of the halves together. Use older pins because they can bend during this step. This block doesn’t get too thick, but other paper piecing patterns can get very thick. Once you are happy with how they are lined up and pinned, start sewing along the black line.
Once the two halves are sewn together, pin them together to finish the piece. I like to pin from the center outward. On paper pieced patterns with a lot of intersections, I even sew from the center outward. It takes a little bit more time, but I have better luck lining up those intersections by sewing it together in two parts. On the example I’ve been showing you throughout this tutorial I sewed the final seam together from the center. I sewed the red and brown example shown below in one step from top to bottom, and I don’t think it lined up quite as nicely as this block.
Once the block is assembled, this is what it looks like! I will be turning this block into a pillow for my daughter’s new big girl room. If you would like to see the final project, come over to my QA Creations blog.
This block would also look great as a quilt, as the mockup below demonstrates.
I also made a second one in red and brown for my Real World Red & White quilt. This block looks so different depending on what type of fabric you use, and how you place the fabric.
If you make this block, I would love to see it! I’m on Instagram as @QACreations and you can use #jewelpuzzleblock to share your own creations!