Monday, 26 September 2011

Tutorial Part 1: How to Freezer Paper Piece A Mug Rug

This is the mug rug that we are going to make. It features a Cornishware mug and I have used red/white/blue fabrics as I am linking in with Laura's Mug Rug World Tour so has a little of Southwest Britain in its theme! (PS I will be giving it away too, but more of that another day)
In this tutorial we are going to piece the mug and saucer section using freezer paper piecing.  I think of it as a jigsaw technique, we will be joining lots of little pieces of fabric together into sections and then joining these sections together to make the mug rug front.  It is a versatile technique which gives you a lot of control but with all the small bits of fabric, it is fiddly.  The preparation of the pattern pieces takes a while but is worth it as it will make life easier when you sew.
You will need to print the Mug PDF- (section A), which is here.
You will also need:
Scraps of blue, cream, red, and grey cotton fabric-10 inch square pieces would be ample.
Background fabric- plain or a busy print- e.g ditsy floral, little dots- not a large print or stripes. A fat eighth will be plenty!
Backing fabric 7x9 inches
Batting/Wadding/Insulbright-7x9 inches.
Binding fabric- binding will be 1.25 inches x 40 inches.
Piecing thread.
Quilting Thread
Usual sewing notions, scissors, rotary cutter, pins etc.
Freezer paper
Fine line waterproof fade proof pigment marker
Your PDF print out is your reference map as you piece the mug.  You also need to trace this on to the papery side of the freezer paper.   I have traced on to the waxy side before but that is a technique for another day.  I wanted to start with something straight forward and intuitive. I use washi or masking tape to fix the freezer paper over the pattern, a quilting ruler and a fine line waterproof fade proof pigment marker 0.1 or 0.2 mm.  The numbers are the order in which you will cut and sew each piece so transfer them on to the freezer paper and it also helps to put an arrow on each piece.  I can see I forgot mine on piece 1 I added it in later!  This helps you to use the right grain of the fabric later on and to orientate your piecing.  You now need to add little tic lines where any sections join.  These only need to be small but they are essential- they help you match up your seams and points.  It should look like this
Now you can have a break and get your rotary cutter out.
Cut 2 blue strips 1.5 x 3.75 inches
Cut 1 blue strip 1.25 x 3.75 inches
Cut 2 cream strips 1.125 (one inch and one eighth) x 3.75 inches.
Join them together so that the widest blue strips are top and bottom and the narrower blue strip is in the middle.  Use a quarter inch seam and I am using a fine piecing thread throughout the mug piecing.

Press your seams away from the cream stripes.
From your freezer paper pattern cut out the mug section- piece 1 and pieces 2-10.  Never cut all the paper pieces out in one go- you will only lose them!  Have a plastic pocket or a CD plastic sleeve ready to put the pieces in that you will use later.  Keep only piece 1 out.
Place the waxy side of the pattern piece 1 onto the right side of your blue/cream stripes, spacing the stripes evenly and with the arrow following the grain of the fabric.  With a hot iron, press and fix the freezer paper to the fabric.  A small iron helps as some of the pattern pieces will be very small and can get lost with a large iron.  If your iron is not hot enough the paper will fall off, too hot and it will singe little!   Freezer paper can take a fair amount of heat.
Use your rotary cutter and quilting rule to add a generous quarter inch seam allowance  all around the pattern piece.   Not sure what a generous seam allowance looks like?  See below where the ruler lies before I rotary trim the fabric; see how the quarter inch line is just over the pattern piece rather than on it.  Cutting a generous seam like this allows for the space your machine seam stitches will take up and will give you more accurate piecing.
Put to one side somewhere safe.  Now take freezer paper pieces 2-7.  You will need to iron pieces 2,6, 7 onto your background fabric and pieces 3,4,5 onto your cream fabric. Space your pieces out on the fabrics; adding seam allowances, especially diagonals can take up more fabric than your would think.  You can rough cut your pieces out with scissors if you like but remember they will need to be trimmed down with the extra quarter inch all round so be generous if you haven't done this before.  It helps to lay your pieces out matching your reference diagram.  The pieces join in number sequence order so start with pieces 2 and 3.  
Hold right sides together, peep underneath to check your tic marks match, place a pin along the seam just to steady it whilst it goes under the machine foot.  You will be stitching with a small stitch-1.5 or 1.8mm so you will not need to secure each end- just sew straight across, quarter inch.   The generous seam allowance should mean that you stitches are next to the freezer paper pieces rather than through them.  You can slide the pin out as you are sewing.  Press the seam and then open the fabric out and press to one side.  Which direction the seams lie is up to you.  Different effects are created with the seams going one way or the other- pressing seams away will make the adjoinng piece recede and pressing towards will make it pop out  with a relief type effect.  Sometimes the bulk of the fabric means a seam can only lie comfortably in one direction.  There are no hard and fast rules here, apart from press after each you add each piece! 
Leave the freezer paper pieces stuck on the fabric; you will need to keep matching the tic marks and it will keep your work in shape and more accurate.  Now add piece 4 to the bottom of piece 2.  You have a mini section that you can now add piece 5 to and then piece 6. Add piece 7 along the top of the completed section so far.
 piece 8 joins at the diagonal seam at the bottom.
Next you will join the tiny piece 9 to the bottom left hand corner of the mug.   Here is a close up of how to match the tics up.  

I pinned at an angle for this seam as it was so tiny!
Now add piece 10 to the left hand edge of the mug.
You can see how mine looks on the reverse and how I have chosen to press my seams.
From the remainder of your freezer paper pattern cut out pieces 11, 12 and 13.  Iron piece 11 on to the red fabric for the saucer.  Iron pieces 12 and 13 onto your background fabric. Trim adding the quarter inch seam allowance as before.  Join pieces 12 and 13 to the left and right of piece 11.  You can now sew the saucer piece to the mug. Yay!  Time to celebrate, section A, the mug, is finished.  I didn't say it would be easy but I hope it is logical and that you are happy with the result so far.
The spoon is next and we will be using a different technique, foundation paper piecing.  Click here to go to part 2 spoon instructions. And here for part 3- finishing off instructions
If you have a question, please ask in a comment and I will answer there so others can read it.  
I hope it has been a helpful tutorial.  This method of freezer paper piecing is my favourite way of creating picture type blocks so I'd like others to try it too!  Should you make this mug block or mug rug I would love it if you added it to my Flickr group!
sib blog


  1. Lovely tutorial Kerry! I've only tried foundation piecing and am now eager to give the freezer paper a try. I love how accurately you can match up your pieces and the tip on a generous seam allowance is a great one!

  2. I really like the use of freezer paper. I can't tell you how many times I have tried another method and ended up wasting SO much fabric because I didn't cut a big enough piece or the angle was wrong or frustrating. This is a great technique!

  3. Thank you Kerry! I have only done foundation piecing so far. I am going to try this on my bee block for this month. I have it sketched out but am trying to decide how to divide it up still. I hope I haven't made it too complex for my skill level!

  4. Oh it's late - I have pinned this and will be back to play soon! Looks great x

  5. What a handsome mug!! I haven't done this type of piecing for ages since I learned how to foundation piece with freezer paper. It's a good reminder that there are more ways to put complicated 'picture blocks' together. Thanks Kerry!

  6. Oh goodness, that's a lot of pieces. I shall persevere...I'm still planning to do this...will try to get it done tomorrow morning. I think I will use some scraps I have from the Flurry line from Kate Spain and make a Christmas mug rug. Thanks for all the diagrams - so much easier to "see" how it goes!!

  7. Great tutorial. Very easy to understand. Thanks for sharing this technique with us.

  8. You know I have a big smile seeing this! I love your mug so much that now I want to use this pattern for my month in the Trad Bee if everyone is consider this traditional. And I want to make this mug rug too!!! Thanks for the tute!

  9. Yay!!! I've been looking forward to this tutorial! Paper piecing is one thing I want to try but worries me a bit. I'm sure I'll be hooked when I get going. Thanks for such a great tutorial and for linking up to the mugrug world tour! There's a linky on the page you can add your post to. :)

  10. Hi Kerry! Thank you for sharing this fabulous tutorial...I'm so excited to give this a try :o) hugs

  11. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I'd love to try this method of paper piecing and your instructions are so clear and precise.

  12. Next time I have to make something like this (and we only have one more month left and I'm not making anything like this for that month so maybe I will never have to ever again...) I will be back here going through this and the next tutorial step by step - they way you've written it makes it sound so easy but I'm still shying away for the time being!

  13. Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [27 Sep 01:00am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  14. I read the shopping list tutorial and I need to gather a few supplies but thanks for such an informative tutorial.

  15. Thank you for taking the time to prepare this tutorial.
    You always make everything look so doable.
    I will definitely give it a try.


  16. Very cool mug rug! Thanks for the tutorial!

  17. i've done a bunch of regular paper piecing before, but i often get frustrated with lining the fabric up just right. this method seems easier to picture in my head while sewing it. i'll have to try your method the next time i'm paper piecing. thanks for the great tutorial.

  18. Pfffft. I was sent here by I have to become a follower too! Great tutorial(s)! Thank you.

  19. Great tutorial! thanks for sharing.

  20. I did this type of method long ago and I you have brought back memories! I also remember that due to the generous seam allowances - if you sew the piece a little 'off' you can just pick up the freezer paper and re-iron it the right spot! So forgiving:)

    Lovely tutorial, thanks!

    PS - we would love to see your work added to (the 'ravelry'(tm) for quilters!)

  21. I started to work on one of your free designs and quickly discovered it was not a traditional paper piecing project. After finding this tute (thank you) I discovered what the problem was. Traditional paper piecing uses regular paper or newsprint paper and you are using freezer paper, which makes it a technique called Picture Piecing. Cynthia England uses this method for her designs as well, which luckily I just completed one so was familiar with how it is done. Now to go rip out what I did and start over again using the Picture Piecing technique. Awhile back I purchased a couple of your designs from your Etsy shop. Can you tell me if all of your designs are Picture Piecing or do you also have any Paper Piecing designs? Thank you! I love your designs!

    1. Hi Carla

      Lots of different authors use lots of different terminology- paper piecing seems to cover and refers to several different disciplines. There is also English paper piecing- just to complicate matters! Technically, freezer paper piecing is a template system of piecing which can be used to make a picture or an abstract design with freezer paper acting as the templates. Before starting any pattern-free or bough, I would recommend you read it through first to check construction/materials etc. My Etsy designs are both foundation pieced, sewing through the paper but you could also freezer template them too. I hope that helps!


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