Two-for-One Foundation Piecing Class Plan

by Wendy Hill

If you can sew on a line, you can make reversible quilts, clothing, and more using the principles of foundation piecing. With my method, fabrics are placed on both sides of a permanent foundation, a template is used to mark the sewing line, and then the stitching goes through all the layers in one fell swoop. After trimming and grading the seams, both sides are "ironed-up," and the process begins all over again. The same steps are used with any foundation piecing pattern and with repetition, the assembly of a two-sided block goes fast.

I recommend starting with log cabin blocks in your workshops. I chose log cabin for chapter 2 ("Teach Yourself the Basic Technique") because it is a well understood block for most quilters. Since it has only one template and lots of repetition with each log addition, it's a great choice to learn the basics of the technique. Once students learn how to assemble a two-sided log cabin block, they are ready to tackle other foundation piecing patterns.

You'll notice purple words in chapters 3 and 4. Look up these words in chapter 5, an alphabetical reference guide. This chapter makes it possible to avoid explaining new words each time they appear and allows for a detailed description in the listing. Once students are familiar with the technique, they won't need to look up the words at all. Reading through chapter 5 in the beginning is a good way to get familiar with the terms before starting a project.

On page 87 in chapter 5 there is a listing of "variations of the basic technique." I recommend learning the basic technique before trying one of the variations. If a student understands and can use the basic technique, then it is much easier to think about and design a project. The first variation explains how to have more piecing on one side with a combination or large piece on the other side. The second variation is similar, but shows how to have visible quilting show on the combination side, with more piecing on the other side. When the foundation piecing patterns have parallel or roughly parallel pieces, it is possible to sew each seam twice without the use of templates. The project on page 57 uses this final variation of the basic technique.

Using chapters 1 and 2 as a guide, plan to have students make 2 to 4 log cabin blocks in class. Encourage students to continue at home to have a small wall hanging of 4 or 9 blocks. Include these topics:
Planning Ahead - refer to page 7
Fabric Organization - refer to page 8
Typical Supplies - refer to page 8
Foundation Blocks - refer to pages 9 and 15-16
Block Construction - refer to pages 16-22
Block Assembly - refer to pages 23-24
Loops for Wall Hangings - refer to page 25
Two-Fabric Double French Fold Binding - refer to pages 25-26

Start the first day with the same topics as a one-day workshop. On the second day allow students to continue making log cabin blocks, OR try their own foundation piecing patterns, OR start a project under your guidance. Follow one of the projects from the book or have students design their own.

A longer workshop allows students to continue exploring sample blocks and ideas or to work on finishing a project.

If you are uncomfortable with open-ended workshops in which students work on their own individualized projects, plan a series of classes for beginner, intermediate, and advanced reversible foundation piecing. Start with a small log cabin workshop for the first class. Choose projects from the book or design your own projects for the next levels of the workshop.

Talking about reversible foundation piecing is much harder to understand than actually doing it. Show students how to reverse-piece in small groups (while the rest of the students cut their fabrics or make mock blocks). Spend adequate time on getting the students actually sewing - then it's just a matter of repetition and practice for the steps to become automatic.

The reversible foundation piecing technique is easy; what makes one project harder than another has to do with the quantity of pieces per block or with the difficulty of the block. For example, Roses/and More Roses (page 52) isn't hard to reverse-piece, but it is tedious and time-consuming with 26 pieces per block. Another example of a more difficult project is Sixteen Turkish Beauties/Four Square Butterflies (page 57). Again, it isn't the reverse piecing that makes it a challenge, but the actual assembly of the components of the fan block.

Some students tend to take a long time cutting their strips in class for the log cabin block. Remind students that with foundation piecing, the strips need not be accurate, just generous. Add 3/4" to 1" extra to the finished size of the piece. Also, students can be asked to precut strips at home before class.

Reverse foundation pieced blocks have four seams on top of each other! Grading the seams is a must (page 10, 82). Encourage step-by-step ironing for crisp-looking blocks.

Try different foundation materials. Remember, the foundation is a permanent part of the block, unless you use a washable product such as Solvey by Sulky for the foundation. Include: cotton, cotton/poly blend, cotton/wool blend, wool/poly blend, wool and silk battings; silk organdy; non-woven stabilizer (such as Soft 'n Sheer by Sulky); non-woven or woven interfacing (NOT fusible); and lightweight woven fabrics.

Most of all, have fun with this technique! Look at the Bog Coat by Kathleen Douglas on page 74 - this was constructed with silk organdy as the foundation material. As you can tell in the photograph, it is see through! Check out the baby quilt on page 63 by Grace Evans - this quilt looks totally different from one side to the next. The projects and samples in the book are just the tip of the iceberg - the potential of the technique has yet to be exploited!!