2023 Thread Matters: 5 Essential Tips for Fun Foundation Paper Piecing!

Greetings Aurifil family! As Master Educator and Aurifilosophy Program Coordinator I’m thrilled to introduce fellow Aurifilosopher Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill of Whole Circle Studio. Sheri is a master at Foundation Paper Piecing and we are delighted to have her share a few of her favorite tips with us today.   

I must admit that after joining Sheri’s 2022 Block of the Month, Botanical Beauties, my opinion of preparing a “pieced” quilt changed for the good. Foundation Paper Piecing is now my favorite technique for pieced quilts – thank you Sheri!! We’re thrilled to have you join us today.

Is your shop, group or guild looking for insightful, inspiring and educational information on thread? Consider booking a virtual or in-person program with one of our skilled Aurifilosophers. Learn more about Aurifilosophy and find your favorite Aurifilosopher here

Happy Stitching!
Karen L. Miller ~ Redbird Quilt Co

Hello! I’m Sheri of Whole Circle Studio. I’m a designer, independent quilt pattern publisher, and educator. Many of my quilt patterns are constructed using a popular machine sewing technique called Foundation Paper Piecing, also known as FPP. I love FPP because it allows you to create intricate and precise quilt top designs that would otherwise be challenging or impossible to achieve. By sewing fabric onto a paper foundation and using the lines as a guide, you can achieve accurate shapes and sharp points, making it one of my most favorite quilt piecing techniques.

Here are some of my recent FPP quilt pattern projects:


Shoreline Shells is a quilt pattern celebrating the ebb and flow of the ocean and relaxing on the beach. It is entirely foundation paper pieced — all those curves are actually straight lines.

The awesome thing about FPP, other than it being incredibly precise, is that you can machine sew a few straight lines near one another at angles and then it looks like it’s a curve.

Learn more about the Shoreline Shells quilt including how I quilted it and lots more layout options and color variations via the button below.


Modern Moths is one of five quilt patterns in my Irresistible Insect series and is entirely foundation paper pieced.

Using FPP, I was able to achieve some beautiful details and create a secondary star design in the negative space. 

Are you new to FPP or do you find it challenging? I find that with a little bit of patience and practice, quilters can pick up on it and learn to love this technique. Be sure to get access my free tutorial library (including a FPP mini-class and Tiny FPP video tutorial) by clicking HERE or on the image below.

Today I’m going to give my top 5  tips for a smooth and enjoyable FPP experience.

1. Choose the right thread weight and color:
Using a good quality thread is essential for foundation paper piecing. I use Aurifil 50wt thread for all of my FPP. This 2 ply thread is thin and helps alleviate bulk in my seams, which is critical since in FPP you often have seams close to one another and overlapping. I like to use a neutral color or a thread that matches my fabric for a seamless look. The 50wt thread is also strong, ensuring that my stitches won’t come apart when I need to remove the paper after I’ve pieced my blocks.

2.  Start with a fresh needle in your machine:
Begin each FPP project with a new, sharp needle. By doing so, you’ll achieve cleaner and more precise stitches as the needle pierces both the fabric and paper. I prefer to use a 80/12 Universal or Microtex needle. I find that this size works well with 50wt thread and perforates the paper nicely. 

Sewing through paper dulls needles, so it’s important to replace the needle after paper piecing and before moving on to another project or quilting. Using worn down needles can result in poor stitch quality and worse, can do damage to our beloved sewing machines.

3.  Choose an appropriate stitch length:
When foundation paper piecing, it’s best to use a short stitch length. I typically set my machine to a 1.5 stitch length, as it provides secure piecing and also perforates the paper, making it easier to remove once you’ve completed your block. If I’m foundation paper piecing tiny sections, I reduce the stitch length further to 1.3 or even 1.2. The shorter stitches help with precise starting and stopping points for sections with short lines.

4.  Sew slowly:
Going slow is the key to accurate piecing, otherwise it’s easy to get carried away with the stitches, not stitch straight, or go beyond where we want to stitch. If your machine has a stitch speed setting, be sure to set it closer to “slow turtle” mode rather than “fast bunny” mode. If you aren’t able to set your speed, just remember to not put the pedal to the metal. 

Even though my stitch length is short with paper piecing, I like to backstitch or stitch in place (if your machine has that feature) at the beginning and end of my lines to make sure my stitches are secure, especially when I tug to remove the paper later. By using a 50wt, 2ply Aurifil, I haven’t found that these extra stitches add any significant bulk and my seams still press flat. 

5.  Optimize visibility on your machine:
Good visibility is important with all piecing, including foundation paper piecing. The better you can see the lines you’re sewing on, the more accurate your piecing. Check out foot options for your sewing machine and experiment with them to see what allows for the best visibility. It’s important to have a clear view around the needle when the presser foot is in the down position, allowing you to sew accurately on the lines.

In summary: 
I hope these tips help you with your foundation paper piecing projects. Remember to select an appropriate thread and stitch length, change your needle frequently, sew slowly, and look into the presser foot options for your machine.

Keeping these suggestions in mind, you’ll achieve accurate quilt blocks with ease. 
Happy piecing!

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Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill is a surface pattern + quilt designer, quilt pattern publisher, award-winning quilter, and educator. As a trained and practicing graphic designer, her quilts start with a concept and research shapes the design. Her work is inspired by her everyday life and experiences. Sheri started her business, Whole Circle Studio, in 2015 with the mission to both enhance people’s lives through beautiful, meaningful design as well as to empower and inspire others to enjoy the process of making

Sheri’s quilts have gained international recognition, including awards from QuiltCon, International Quilt Festival, Quilt Week/Paducah and the Modern Quilt Guild. She self-publishes and distributes her quilt patterns, which can be found at quilt shops worldwide and online. Sheri also lectures and teaches, including Aurifil’s thread education program Aurifilosophy, in-person at quilt guilds, conferences, and shops as well as online.

Sheri lives in Connecticut with her husband and adorable yellow lab mix, Casey. Learn more about Sheri and her work at wholecirclestudio.com

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