When I first learned paper piecing years ago, I bought patterns already printed on tracing paper or paper that you could see through. Back then, these printed pattern sheets were only available at quilt shows. However, since not many quilt shows came to New York, at least not then, I began to experiment with making my own pattern sheets.
I used tracing paper because it was the same kind of paper as the printed pattern sheets that I bought. I tried feeding this paper through my copier, but it kept jamming the machine because it was too thin and lightweight. Then I tried gluing the tracing paper onto copy paper before feeding it through the copier. It worked, but it was hard to separate the tracing paper from the copy paper, which defeated the purpose. Finally, I used a glue stick to put a thin line of glue across the top of the tracing paper before adhering it to the copy paper. This last method worked because the glue on the tracing paper anchored it to the copy paper, but you could still freely lift the tracing paper. The best part was that the copier recognized the two sheets of paper as one. Once the copy was made, you could separate the two papers easily.
I used this method whenever I wanted to work on a paper-pieced quilt. But it's been years since I did this, and I no longer have the small personal copier. The copier I now use is for high volume printing and it is very sensitive. Rather than mess with that machine, I started thinking about other options because I knew that using the pattern printed on copy paper wasn't going to work for me.
Here is where the vellum comes in! Vellum is transparent paper that is similar to tracing paper but is much heavier. This paper is used by scrapbookers as a design element, often to soften or add texture to a design.
When I was into scrapbooking (remember, seasonal crafter here!), I made a birthday card for my younger sister's 30th birthday. I took her baby picture, copied it onto 4 different color vellum sheets, and then cut small squares with the pictures in the center. I glued the 4 squares in a two by two layout to make it look Andy Warhol-ish.
Anyway, the whole point of sharing this story is that I copied the photograph onto vellum without having to prep it in any way. This started me thinking about how I can apply this technique to paper piecing. It wasn't a stretch to think that if I can copy onto vellum without a problem, I can probably print onto vellum without a problem. Scrapbookers do it all the time!
I went to the local craft store and bought some individual sheets of vellum. The store ran out of white vellum so I bought whatever colors they had - blue and red. I put the sheets into my laser printer and tried to print multiple copies. The sheets kept sticking together, so I tried it one at a time, which worked best. Here is the result:
By printing the pattern on vellum, you can see the fabric through the paper, which will not only help you place the fabric for the pieces correctly, but you will also sew on the lines more accurately.
The major drawback to this technique is cost. The sheets cost $.60 each, but I got it on sale for $.20. For once my timing was right! This is fine if you're doing a small quilt, like a wall-hanging, but it can add up if you're doing a full-sized quilt. I'm just doing a wall-hanging, so I won't need much paper. Plus, I got the paper on sale. According to the cashier, Michaels has this paper on sale a lot, so keep an eye out.
In my next post, I'm going to do my first tutorial - how to paper piece using vellum for those who are new to paper piecing. Cheers!