We’ve caught the Paper Piecing Bug! Like so many of you, we can’t get enough foundation piecing and template freezer paper piecing. We know our fascination started in 2011 when we first noticed the creative, gorgeous piecing in Ringo Pie, a Patchwork Sewing Bee. Ayumi of Pink Penguin and Penny from sewtakeahike dreamed up the bee with a paper piecing focus and they invited a group of super-talented sewists to join them. Penny writes, “Each month, one bee member chooses a theme. The other members pick fabrics from their stash and patchwork together something that fits the theme. I love that each member has total creative license to use whatever fabrics they wish, and design to their hearts content. No limits!”

Ringo Pie Round One was such a success that this year they started up again with a new group of sewists. We’ve followed both Ayumi and Penny’s blogs for many years, and we’re always in awe of their work. They’re both exceptional sewists, talented artists and positive, enthusiastic members of the sewing community. This week we’re devoting the week to paper piecing. We have some amazing projects lined up for you, and we’re excited to be kicking it all off with an interview with Ayumi and Penny.

Sew,Mama,Sew!: First of all, congratulations on the popularity of the Ringo Pie bee. It seemed to have a big impact in the sewing community. I saw the blocks Pinned like crazy and it came up more than once in our Sewing Industry Reflections and Predictions series as something that really impressed people about 2011. What do you think it was about it that caught everyone’s attention?
Ayumi: We had no idea that paper-piecing would be this popular in this community, and we are so pleased to see that everyone is discovering the joy of paper-piecing now. It’s absolutely fun and addictive! Probably what caught everyone’s attention was the uniqueness of paper-pieced blocks. This technique allows us to make blocks that are completely original and different from traditional blocks.

Ringo Pie Block by Corey, Little Miss Shabby

Sew,Mama,Sew!: Had you two collaborated before?
Penny: No, we hadn’t. I had long been an admirer of Ayumi’s work and once I started becoming interested in paper piecing, I contacted Ayumi about starting a patchwork bee and that’s how Ringo Pie was born.

Ayumi: You have no idea how excited I was when Penny contacted me. I had been a huge fan of her works for years! Truth be told, I actually didn’t know about how a patchwork bee works when she brought it up. It just sounded so fun, so I immediately said “Yay, Let’s do that!” and then went to google “quilting bee.” I found this post by Elizabeth of Oh, Fransson! and was even more excited that I just became a part of a bee!

Sew,Mama,Sew!: “Ringo Pie!” Such a great name!– Fun and attention-grabbing, and so perfect for the whimsical blocks. Where did the name come from?
Penny: When we started emailing back and forth about what to call our patchwork bee, we both mentioned we love food! And since the Japanese are the shining stars of patchwork, we wanted to include a Japanese word. Ringo in Japanese means “apple,” so “pie” just kind of fit right in!

Ringo Pie Block by Kerry, verykerryberry

Sew,Mama,Sew!: Did you invite the members to join the bee, or did people request to join? What about for Round 2?
Penny: We selected and invited each member so we had a group of quilters who were friends and also did work we admired! For Round 2 a few people opted out, so we went through the same process of emailing each other and deciding who to replace those members with.

Sew,Mama,Sew!: How did you structure the bee? Were there guidelines for choosing a theme? What about guidelines for the blocks?
Penny: That’s one thing I love about Ringo Pie: the freedom. The participants choose whatever theme they would like for their block month, and the other members can interpret it however they like. For their month, the members can ask for certain colors or ask to omit certain colors, can ask for a size range for their block… But other than that, it is up to the block maker to make all other decisions. This type of bee certainly isn’t for everyone, but when you have surrounded yourself with other quilters you admire and trust, it is a very exciting and fun way to go!

Ringo Pie Block by Amy, Badskirt

Sew,Mama,Sew!: Let’s talk about the technique. Most of the blocks I’ve seen seem to be constructed in a similar manner.  It’s…what? Just “paper piecing?” “Freezer paper piecing?” What do you call it and how do you define it?
Penny: Most of the blocks I designed or paper pieced, but some have been improv pieced by adding bits of fabric here and there to get the desired effect.

Ayumi: It seems that everyone has her way of constructing blocks. My blocks are mostly foundation paper pieced, but when I want to be sure about using a particular part of fabric, I use freezer paper to fussy cut pieces, which I paper-piece later. It’s like a combination of freezer paper piecing (I have a tute here) and standard paper foundation piecing. Some of us like to do everything using freezer paper piecing technique only, and some of us always go with improv-piecing. Many of us, including myself, were quite new to paper piecing when the first round of Ringo Pie started. During the first year in this bee we all learned a lot from each other and from experience, and have come up with the way of constructing blocks that works best for us.

Sew,Mama,Sew!: How did you learn paper piecing?
Penny: For me, I just started researching it online, trying some easy patterns, and playing around with the process.

Ayumi: Same here. There are so many great paper piecing tutorials online. What I found most helpful was videos on YouTube. Search for “paper piecing” on YouTube if you are a visual learner; some are really easy to follow! (Note from SMS: We’ll have a resource round-up later this week.)

Penny’s KitchenAid Ringo Pie Block

Sew,Mama,Sew!: Which was the hardest theme block for each of you? Which one are you most proud of?
Penny: I think the hardest month for me in Round 1 was for the theme of “beginnings and baby green things” that Lucinda asked for. I came up with a brilliant idea of piecing an iris that hadn’t opened yet but once I finished, it looked more like an alien to me than an iris and I had already put so much into the block that I decided to leave it as it and chock it up to a bad month. I still have people favorite that block on Flickr though, and I’m amazed each and every time that happens!

The block I’m most proud of… Hmm, I have a hard time choosing! It would have to be either my KitchenAid or Camera Man!

Ayumi: I remember having a really hard time coming up with an idea for the theme of “Quilts on the Line” that Corey asked for. This is an amazing theme, but I just found myself completely stuck for a month or so because I just didn’t know what I would make! I ended up with this. This was one of those projects that I didn’t like at first but started liking because people seemed to like it.

The blocks I’m most proud of are Popsicles and Envelopes and Mailbox.

Ayumi’s Popsicles Ringo Pie Block

Sew,Mama,Sew!: What did you do with the blocks from your theme month?
Penny: I have all my blocks on my design board right now, hoping to piece them together soon! I will treasure that quilt for years to come!

Ayumi: I am planning to piece my blocks together sometime this year. It will be a very special quilt for me!

Sew,Mama,Sew!: Are you currently participating in any other bees or sew-alongs?
Penny: I am! I’m currently in a bee called the “Traveling Quilts” with some really awesome quilters. The way the bee works is we all start our own quilt, however we like, with whatever kind of blocks we like. We then in turn mail the start to the next person on the list who will add to it. Then they mail it to the next person on the list and so on. So each month, we will each be adding some to one of the other member’s quilts. During the last month, not only will we add to the last quilt we receive, but we will quilt, back, and bind it and then return it to the original person who started the quilt, so in the end, we all end up with a finished quilt. None of us know how our quilts will end up and we are forbidden from posting more than sneak peeks as we sew on everyone’s quilts. But that’s the beauty of it all. In the end, we’ll all have a surprise of a lovely quilt sewn by friends. I can hardly wait!

Ayumi: I was participating in Patchwork 318: The Bee which I enjoyed as much as Ringo Pie Bee. There is this Japanese book called Patchwork Patterns 318 by Kumiko Fujita. It has been out of print for years so it is not easy to spot unfortunately. (I have had many people asking me to hunt down the book in Japan. I have been on the hunt for six months with no luck. The only ones available are used copies on Amazon Japan whose prices are crazy due to its rarity value. I’ve even contacted the author of the book about this. While she was really pleased about its popularity overseas, she was sad to tell me that it is just completely out of stock and she doesn’t know anyway she could help those looking for a copy of the book.) In this bee, just like the Ringo Pie Bee, everyone can pick a monthly theme, but we make a point of using patterns in this book. We all went with 6 1/2″ unfinished blocks. We were allowed to combine patterns in the book however we liked, which was a lot of fun.

Penny’s Camera Man Ringo Pie block

Sew,Mama,Sew!: What’s your most recent sewing passion?
Penny: Honestly, just to finish up some of the quilt tops I have hanging in my closet that need to be quilted and bound, and then some curtains and things for our new home!

Ayumi: Hmm… I have been wanting to try many online tutorials and patterns I bought to make gifts for friends.

Ayumi’s Envelopes and Mailbox Ringo Pie Block

Sew,Mama,Sew!: Anything exciting to tell us about in your futures?
Penny: Absolutely! I have been working in conjunction with Kerry of verykerryberry on a project we’re calling “sew-ichigo.” We’re not quite ready to release a lot of details but just know, if you’re drawn to patchwork, you’re going to love it!

Ayumi: I have something in the works which I can’t wait to share!

We’re excited to see what Penny and Ayumi do next. We can’t wait to see more of their wonderful patterns online (and in print, we hope!). Come back tomorrow for a wonderful template and tutorial from Penny, and another from Ayumi on Wednesday. (We told you the week would be great!)

Learn More!
Penny can be found at sewtakeahike where she has a truly fantastic tutorials page (including this fun Pop Bottle Pattern and Curtain tutorial!). Find her patterns in the sewtakeahike shop and you’ll want to take a look at her awesome Isosceles Pezzy Picnic Quilt tutorial at the Moda Bake Shop. Penny is in the Spring 2012 Stitch magazine, and she’s also part of a pillow book coming out next fall with C&T Publishing. You can also hear Penny in recent podcasts with Pat Sloan and seamedUP.

Ayumi from Pink Penguin also has an outstanding set of free tutorials on her blog (right sidebar). Ayumi lives in Tokyo where she finds some really amazing Japanese fabrics to incorporate into her work and sell in her shop. Ayumi is also a regular contributor to Stitch magazine, and her work is included in the recent Zakka Style: 24 Projects Stitched With Ease to Give, Use & Enjoy. We’re so excited to see where Ayumi’s wonderful designs end up in the years ahead!

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