Clear Sailing


Foundation Piecing – It’s a Breeze

Reprinted from American Quilter Magazine

By: Marci Baker

CLEAR SAILING, 47-1/2″ x 64-1/2″. All quilts by Marci Baker

I’ve always been intrigued by the foundation piecing technique, sometimes referred to as paper piecing. However, I was frustrated that the construction method I used didn’t guarantee success. Occasionally fabric pieces would not fit. If I cut the pieces larger, I would throw away a lot of trimmed scraps. I like my fabric too much to use it (and lose it) that way.

After three years of looking for a solution in books, asking other quilters, and experimenting with design, the answer was revealed when I least expected it – late one night when I skipped a step because I was tired.The technique guarantees perfect fit and is so simple that all quilters, from novices to experts, will find it useful.

Try this easier way of foundation piecing with a project of your own, or make one of the designs in CLEAR SAILING. You can sew just one block and frame it for a quick gift, or piece a whole fleet. Complete details on my method can be found on the Know Before You Sew™ Foundation Piecing Basics reference card, available through my Web site.

Click here for the Fabric Cutting Requirements

Marci’s method

Step 1.

With the wrong side of fabric against the unprinted side of the foundation, align them so that patch 1 is covered, plus 1/4″ seam allowance all around.

Pin in place.


Step 2.

Fold the foundation along the line between the positioned patch 1, and the next patch, 2, with the higher number on top of the lower number.

Using a rotary cutter or scissors, trim the fabric 1/4″ beyond the folded edge.
Step 3.

With the foundation still folded, note the shape of the next patch, 2, through the foundation.

With the fabrics right sides together, align the just-trimmed seam allowance with a straight edge of the fabric being added.

Position the foundation so that the entire patch 2 area, plus 1/4″ beyond all its edges, is on top of the fabric.
Step 4.

Unfold the foundation and pin parallel to the fold line.

Sew along the fold line, extending 4 or 5 stitches beyond each end.
Step 5.

Open out the fabric, and then press on fabric side.

Repeat steps 2–5 for each additional patch.

Cut all the patches as listed in the yardage chart and set them aside. Save all the scraps for foundation piecing.

Foundation piecing

Click Here to download the PDF of Templates

On an accurate photocopy machine, enlarge the large sailboat foundation 400% to make one 16″ foundation. Enlarge the small sailboat foundation 200% to 8″. Make seven small sailboat foundations. Make 5 copies of the seagull foundation.
Mark 1/4″ seam allowances around the edges of each foundation.
Following numerical order, foundation piece:

  • One 16″ boat, using water fabric for all background pieces
  • Five 8″ boats, using water fabric for all background pieces
  • Two 8″ boats with sky fabric for background pieces except the bottom, which is water fabric
  • Five 2″ seagulls

Leaving 1/4″ seam allowance all around, trim away excess paper and fabric.

Large Sailboat: Enlarge pattern 400% to 16″ x 16″ for full-sized pattern.

Small Sailboat: Enlarge pattern 200% to 8″ x 8″ for full-sized pattern.

Seagull: Patterns are the reverse of the finished blocks.

Assembling the quilt center

Referring to the quilt assembly diagram, arrange the blocks and patches. To sew the B triangles onto the H rectangles, use this stitch-and-flip technique: With right sides together and using the appropriate fabrics, align a B square on the end of an H rectangle (fig. 1).

Fig. 1.

Noting the direction of the angle needed, sew across the B from corner to corner. (It may be helpful to draw this line before sewing.) Trim the corner 1/4″ from the seam. Open the triangle and press.
Following the diagram, join the patches and blocks to make the five sections. Sew these sections together.

Quilt assembly. Red indicates sections. Blue indicates subsections.

Adding the border

Press the quilt top well. Matching centers, sew the border strips to the corresponding sides of the quilt, starting and stopping the stitching 1/4″ from the quilt edges. Miter the corners, trim the seam allowances to 1/4″, and press them open.


Layer and baste together the backing, batting, and the quilt top. Quilt as desired.

Finish the edges of the quilt with a double-fold binding.

To display your quilt on a wall, add a sleeve to the back.

Align arrows with lengthwise
or crosswise grain of fabric.



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Love it! I’m going to have to try this! Does AQS sell the foundation? So much for resolution to finish projects before starting new ones!

Claire, I don’t think we carry the product. Our Sales Director has a call in to Marci Baker to find out the details of the foundation and where it is available. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear from her. Thanks! Sylvia Thomas, AQS Social Media Manager (

Hi Claire. We heard from Marci. She said the product she uses is vellum that comes in a pad that you can get at an art store. The sheets tear out and you run them through your printer. Hope this helps. Have fun! Sylvia