Patchwork Piecing Methods

patchwork piecing methodsThis is a short article giving a brief explanation of patchwork piecing methods with some videos for a visual explanation.

As you already know, generally quilts are formed using blocks which can be joined together by hand or machine. There are different methods you can use to join (piece) the cut shapes together.

English Piecing

English paper piecing is where the fabric is cut around paper shapes. These fabric shapes are then tacked on to the papers. You join the pieces by hand sewing and the papers are removed before you make your quilt sandwich. . Commonly, hexagons (Grandmother’s Flower Garden) or diamonds (Tumbling Blocks) are used for hand piecing.

American Piecing

Using templates, the fabric pieces are cut out then sewn together by hand or machine. This method is used for many traditional block designs such as:

  • Pinwheel
  • Broken Dishes
  • Churn Dash
  • Ohio Star
  • Bear’s Paw and more.

Rotary Cutting

Rotary cutting can be a great time saver used with or without templates. You would use a rotary cutter with a quilting ruler as a guide. This method is good for cutting larger pieces or strips, then into the required patches before piecing together to make the block.

Foundation Piecing

The design of the block is first drawn on some background material. Your chosen fabric is the placed on this background fabric and sewn in place along the lines you’ve drawn.

This method of piecing only works with certain kinds of block designs, like the Log Cabin, Pineapple and Flying Geese. It does give very accurate results however.


Any kind of shape or picture is cut out then sewn onto a larger background piece. You can use contrasting thread and decorative stitches for sewing, this adds to the overall design.

Applique is a whole subject all on its own and outwith the scope of this article. If you pop over to Molly and Mama you’ll find an excellent article on getting started.

This is one example of how applique is done.

Cathedral Window

Not so well known, the Cathedral Window piecing technique is where you fold squares of fabric and sew small scraps on top. Because you have multiple layers of folded fabric you don’t need wadding or backing.

Stained Glass

Stained Glass piecing is where irregular shapes are drawn onto a background. Fabric shapes are then cut out to match the drawing. These are then sewn into place with narrow strips of bias tape to give the stained glass window effect.

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