The Paper Pieced Home – An Interview with Penny Layman

When I found out that my sweet friend Penny was writing a book, I immediately knew that it would be a great one.  Truly. It may seem like I review a lot around here, but I really try to focus on the items that are definite moments of special work. And Penny’s book does not disappoint.  Clearly focused on paper piecing, a passion of Penny’s, her book is a great resource for both learning paper piecing and finding an abundance of modern yet retro inspired patterns.

I interviewed Penny about her book to give us all some insight into her work.  I hope you all enjoy!  And of course, we’ll have a giveaway of a copy of her book.

A: Penny, when did you really start paper piecing?  Was it truly for bee blocks? Or did you try foundation piecing earlier?

I had to do a little digging, and I did find a flying geese block that was my first paper pieced block from August 2009. I completely forgot about that! Soon after, I completed this paper foundation string quilt that I won a contest for on Sew Mama Sew!

A: I am lucky enough to know you a bit (though we’ve still never met in person!) and I love how the book reflects your love of all things retro.  The cover just makes me smile because it feels so “you”.  Do you have a favorite collection of retro items that are not fabric in your home?  I have a feeling I will want to start collecting whatever you do.

That is such a thoughtful thing to say! Yes, I love most milkglass, Cathrineholm pieces and Dansk Kobenstyle pots. Each of them are meager collections though as I have a very strong sense of making sure I use anything I collect, especially collections in my kitchen. For the most part, if I haven’t used it at least once in the last year, out the door it goes!

A: One of my favorite things about paper pieced blocks is the careful attention you can put into each little piece.  Is there an all time favorite fabric line that you return to because it is just the right scale or color scheme?  Or do mix and match from all kinds of designers?

Hmm, I can’t say that there’s a specific fabric line I have as a go to! I do love to use linen, so I keep a pretty good collection of that in my closet to pull from. Also, if I find the perfect sized dot, I buy it. I love using 1/8″-ish dots as backgrounds in my blocks.

A: In addition to the fine details of fabric selection, I love those blocks with careful additions of extra materials like embroidery floss.  It makes each piece even more of a piece of art.  What is your go to for adding extra attention to a paper pieced design? Stamping? Floss? Buttons?  Appliqued fabric? etc.

It really depends on how the quilt or project will be used. If the project will be washed often, I prefer to go with fussy cutting or embroidery for that extra design element. If the project is going to be hung on a wall, I might stamp or print with my printer. And under no circumstances do I ever use buttons. Using buttons as embellishments reminds me too much of the 70’s and 80’s in a bad kind of way 🙂

A: Paper pieced patterns can be pretty intense to tackle.  So I think they are often used in individual projects to show off all of the work.  Do you prefer to do this with your blocks or do you make paper pieced sampler quilts with your blocks? (And if your book blocks are not all in a quilt, I hope someone does that!)

You are so right! It seems like paper pieced blocks are their own little pieces of artwork most of the time and to think about making 40 of one paper pieced block for a quilt is overwhelming to me. I do however have two larger paper pieced quilts in the works but besides the scraps to treasure string quilt, I think I’ve only ever paper pieced one other large quilt. And it was only a snowball block. But there were 280 blocks and I thought it would kill me. As far as the blocks in my book all being in one quilt, I’ve thought about taking all the blocks from my book and making one huge quilt out of them!

A: Any last advice for someone just starting out paper piecing?

Cut larger pieces of fabric than you think you will need to cover each area. You will thank me!

Thank you Penny for that wonderful insight into your work. And I totally agree with that last tip.  Ask me how I know! lol

I’m happy to offer a giveaway copy of Penny’s book, The Paper Pieced Home,  to one lucky winner.  To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below. Tell me your favorite thing about paper piecing or what you want to learn.  Know nothing about paper piecing?  Then let me know some tips for organizing.  I’m working my way through the house and tackling one area after another.  Send me your wisdom!

Congrats to the lucky winner!
# 2 CarolMarch 

I appreciate the exact points!


86 thoughts on “The Paper Pieced Home – An Interview with Penny Layman”

  1. Wow what a great book! I love how paper piecing gives you perfect points and makes such unusual or difficult shapes easily. Thanks for the giveaway:)

  2. I have yet to try paper piecing, but it is moving towards the top of my list. I am impressed with the sharp points you can get with this technique. I will definitely give it a try!

  3. Penny has an amazing way of translating images to paper piecing. I like how she uses the blocks sparingly In the projects so they don't get lost or overshadowed by whatever they are pieced with.

  4. I've only done hexis…would like to do fussy cut paper piecing. Retiring from teaching in a year and a few months…will hopefully have time then!


  5. I've still got paper piecing patterns from 20 years ago that aren't done! I "think" I remember which drawer they're in! LOL Some of them were just 6" square size- seems like they were birds and barns or something. I enjoyed it then but somehow got away from it. Maybe it's time to go FIND them!

  6. I love all the blocks in the photos! I enjoy paper piecing – except for teeny, tiny pieces (like eyes!). I find that I can't paper piece late at night though – I make too many mistakes!!

  7. I like paper piecing, because I like how precise it comes together. If I do it correctly 🙂
    Thanks for the chance.
    ehodasz at yahoo dot com (do not use the google account)

  8. I have done very little paper piecing. I get it confused in my mind for some reason but I always love it when I am finished. I want to learn more about it all the way around thanks.

  9. I've never tried paper piecing. It's a bit intimidating to me. I love retro looks so this book would be just the encouragement I need to just do it! It would be great to use up the tiny pieces of fabric that I just can't seem to toss. shopgirl7232(at)yahoo(dot)com

  10. I love paper piecing especially when there's a curve in the design. The only other way to get that I know of is applique but I don't always want an applique look. I recently paper pieced a Featherweight sewing machine for my new vintage machine. I really struggled with all the little tiny pieces. I would LOVE to see a tutorial on how to handle sections of itty bitty pieces, how to press it more effectively, etc. If the pieces are an inch or larger I do fine but really really struggle with the itty bitty pieces especially if there's 10 li'l itty bitty pieces to piece. The designs in this book look lovely-so homey and retro!

  11. I love paper piecing for the exact preciseness of it! You can make such adorable things and your seams are never wonky <3 What a great book and chance to win, thank you both!

  12. What! No cleaning/decluttering tips? I've been following your fabulous "40 bags" on IG. Love that idea, wish I could get my daughter to buy into it! Love to try my hand at paper piecing! Thanks for the giveaway!

  13. I love paper piecing and I have a huge problem with angled prices. I'll get it figured out for the block I am working on then next time it's a new struggle all over again. Thank you for the give away I have grandchildren and the vintage blocks would be great to show them in a "hold in your hands" way what things I grew up with were like

  14. I love paper piecing, gives you the opportunity to make cool blocks that otherwise would have to be appliqued or not done at all! And the perfect points are a plus too!

  15. My favorite thing about paper piecing is the precision I get from my blocks when I complete it. I don't have to worry too much about cutting the fabric to the correct size. As longer as its larger than the size required, I have no worries!

  16. Paper piecing allows you to create designs that simply cannot be achieved with traditional piecing. It is a wonderful way to express your own artistic style. I love the pillows on the front cover of Penny's book. Those are what I would make first!

  17. I love the precision I get with paper piecing. Now I just need to learn how to sew the curves to attach my NYB to the background – sure wish that could be paper pieced too!

  18. I really enjoy paper piecing. Perhaps it is because I can make a picture of something that I can't do another way, and it is fun to see the picture emerge. I love the things in your pictures. This book will definitely have to go on my wish list. Nancy A:

  19. I just got this book from the library and it is fantastic! I've never paper pieced before, but I love the amount of detail you can get in the block! As far as organizing…I could use some hints myself! Thanks for the chance.

  20. I have accumulated many paper piecing patterns, but I haven't made any yet. I must start though, because you can get such interesting blocks! (hopefully, this comment doesn't show up twice

  21. I love love paperpiecing all the geeky characters that my teenage and twenty something kids love. I have made Doctor who, Zelda , Game of thrones, converse shoes just to name a few. They all think I'm pretty cool when I can make something they love 🙂

  22. Angela, thank you for interviewing and sharing Penny's book. One would think she's been at this forever w/her talented self but really only less than a decade. I'm totally new to paper piecing, have done only one small 9" star…..and YES thank you Penny……..cut bigger than you think:)

  23. I have not paper pieces before, but I would like to give it a try. As far as organizing, my best tip is to make sure you are in the right frame of mind before starting any major purging project. There is no point in attempting if you are not in "purge mode.":-)

  24. Paper piecing appeals to me because of the accuracy. When I organize, I find that if I break my decluttering time in 10 or 20 minute time blocks each day, a lot can be accomplished without disrupting my daily routine. It all adds up.

  25. I have not done much paper piecing. The blocks you have shown from the book look adorable and not too difficult(famous last words). I would like to try this.

  26. I love the detail I can achieve with paper piecing. I tried for the first time last year and have been building a list of things to try ever since. There are a few in this book that I'd LOVE to try to help decorate my new apartment!!

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