Paper Pieced Meet 'n Greet: Emily @ Mommy's Nap Time

Today we're learning more about paper piecer Emily from Mommy's Nap Time. My jaw dropped when I saw the first quilt she's talking about, and I'm sure yours will, too!

If you could give a short bio of yourself:

I've been sewing since I was 12 and finally found my home in quilting a few years ago! I love teeny piecing, paper piecing, and improv. I've been paper piecing for a couple years now, and I really love the precision whether the end product is big or small. 

Let’s talk about your paper piecing masterpiece – the Bella quilt. What did your design process look like?  

My Bella quilt came about after being inspired by the quilts in the book "Bella Bella Quilts" by Nora McMeeking. This book is out of print and not easy to find. I managed to get a copy of the paper pattern pieces (that were sold separately). To give a little background about myself, I really don't enjoy following quilt patterns. I design 98% of my quilts and work out the details as I go. I usually have a plan, but quilt ideas evolve in my mind over time. 

With that being said, I knew in buying the pattern pieces that I'd never use them. I didn't like the business of the finished quilts in the book, but I loved the precision and the challenge. So I took the best of both worlds, I drew my own paper pieces. Over the course of a few weeks I had sketched out dozens of ideas for different borders for this quilt or "rounds" as I think of them. They were just really rough sketches - testing out scale of one border next to the others. 
It took a while for me to work up the nerve to start this quilt. I knew at the beginning that it would test my abilities. I started with a free printable new york beauty block (unfortunately it looks like the pattern link in that post is broken). That center block is the only pattern I used in the entire quilt. Once I got going I drafted my own borders using large strips of freezer paper and a yard stick to draw out my arcs. This process was really tedious yet surprisingly rewarding. I didn't do very much formal measuring during this process - I let the previous round dictate the size of the next one. 


After each round was finished I waited a few days to decide exactly what the next round would be (I had so many sketches of borders to choose from). It took a lot of nerve each time I drew out a new paper pattern for a border, so some of this time was simply procrastination. I had played around with a couple internet programs, in attempt to simplify this process, but I didn't want to have to learn a new program (and then I'd have to figure out how to print the giant patterns). My intention is to one day produce a printable pattern for this quilt - but it will take some serious help from my friend Robbi who knows about such design programs.
It’s aptly named, since “Bella” means beautiful! I especially love the fabrics. How did you go about choosing them? (Did you select as you went, or did you pull a large pile of fabric plan it out ahead of time? Was there a color scheme you had in mind?)  

From the beginning I knew this quilt was to be made for my aunt Kathy. She is a polymer clay artist who makes beautiful statement pieces of jewelry. Kathy's signature pieces are beautiful, intricate, black and white necklaces. She works with other colors of course, but she always returns to black and white. I made it my intention to do her justice by using black and white with pops of colors. Prior to starting this quilt I hadn't ever used a black and white print. I didn't have a stitch of black fabric at all even! So I stashed up! I ordered some solids and picked up a variety of black and whites. It was an intense break from my normal colors!

Working with such large sections of piecing must have been difficult! Any tricks you learned along the way? 

Paper piecing on such a large scale was fairly difficult at times. My biggest tip is to recognize and accept that there will be imperfections in any quilt. Can you tell that the "bricks" in the aqua border are not perfect? They're not, but that's ok. 



Second to accepting your imperfections I suggest drafting the paper patterns onto freezer paper. I perforated the stitch lines by stitching along them without thread. Then I could fold the paper back along the stitch line - this method allows for paper piecing without actually sewing through the paper (here's a mini tutorial explaining the method). I re-used my patterns several times each this way. Also, each border was pieced in several sections (about 16" long at the longest) which made it much easier to handle at the sewing machine. 
The biggest tip is to embrace the challenge. Paper piecing is more fun if you really enjoy the challenge of it. It's not always going to be easy.
When and what was your first paper piecing project? How was that experience?  

My first paper pieced project was a simple fish block I made for a swap. I'm not sure I thought twice about it, and amusingly enough my second try at the block was a miniature (finishing at 2" x 1"). I liked the challenge!


Have you paper pieced any other projects? Do you paper piece very often? 

I have paper pieced many projects. I have a love of tiny piecing, and it is much easier to paper piece to get tiny precise blocks! My go-to paper patterns are this flying geese ring, and these flying geese units. I've made these two numerous times in all different sizes. Additionally, I store ideas and links for printable patterns on my paper piecing pinterest board.


I tend to paper piece when my mind is 'thinky,' when my heart is occupied with sorrow or stress. Paper piecing provides a clear goal, a finished project, and very little "design" thinking. I'm forced to focus enough to stay occupied, but not so much that I can't process emotions. I'm sure I'll be surprised at how many pictures I find when I pull pictures of my paper pieced projects for a mosaic. 

Do you have any paper piecing tips? 

Enjoy what you're doing, ask for help, watch a video tutorial. Don't be afraid of paper piecing - there are so many possibilities once you get the hang of it!

Thanks so much Emily, it was great to talk with you and drool over your beautiful projects!!

Prism QALAmy Garro