Tutorial: A Little Foundation Pieced Union Jack block

Finished 1

This tutorial is really aimed at people who haven’t done foundation piecing before, and you need to know that this is not a wholly traditional way of foundation piecing! It is lazy, a little slapdash, and wastes a bit of fabric, but it *is* quick and fun, and a nice introduction to the concept. If you are a proper quilter, or of a more methodical and tidier frame of mind, then please do just use the block template and ignore me! You can find lots of guides to accurate and proper foundation piecing elsewhere (with Lord Google’s assistance).

Before you start….

Print the foundation template. You can use bog-standard printer paper for this (the worse quality the better really – nice and thin is good!), or paper made specifically for foundation piecing, if you have some. The key is that you need to be able to see the foundation grid lines through on the back of the paper as well as the front. When you print it out, you will see that the sections of the template are numbered – this is the order in which you stitch the fabric pieces – this should all become clear in the instructions.

I have given measurements for the fabrics, but they are pretty generous, so that you don’t have to worry too much about accuracy of cutting or fabric placing. Consequently some of your seam allowances will end up being more than the traditional quilting standard of 0.25″. You can trim to 0.25″ as you go along if you want to, by folding the paper template out of the way and trimming the excess with scissors or a rotary cutter. To be honest, if you are planning on using the block to make a pincushion top like I have (which I don’t usually quilt), then it is not essential to trim because I reckon that all those extra layers gives it extra durability. If I was going to make lots of these blocks to sew up into a proper quilt, and I was intending to quilt the blocks, then I would definitely trim. It’s up to you, and what you are planning to make!


Finished 2


When foundation piecing it’s important that you adjust the stitch length on your sewing machine to about 1.5mm – this makes removing the paper later much easier – it’s just like tearing away perforations – so don’t forget to adjust!

If at any stage you can’t quite work out where the next seam line should be when placing and pinning the next piece of fabric (which can be tricky when you are doing rough and ready cutting like this), you can fold the template along the grid line you are planning to sew and use the fold to guide you. Or, you can unthread the needle on your machine and then stitch along the template grid line (adjust the stitch length to 2.8mm) –  there will be a very useful line of holes on the fabric side that you can use as a guide.

Cutting list

The finished size of the block is around 4.5″
You need 3 different, well contrasting fabrics.

Fabric 1
Forms the 2 main crosses (brown floral – a Liberty print called Elysian – on my example).

  • 4 pieces measuring 1″x2.75″ for section 1
  • 2 pieces measuring 1.25″x2.25″ for section 8
  • 1 piece measuring 1.25″x4.75″ for step 11

Fabric 2

Forms the highlighting edging to the main crosses (solid pink – a Kaffe Fassett shot cotton – on my example)

  • 16 pieces measuring 2.5″x1″ for sections 2, 3, 6 and 7

Fabric 3

Forms the little triangle sections (pale blue – a Liberty print called Capel – on my example).

  • 8 pieces measuring 2.25″x1.25″ for sections 4 and 5

InstructionsStep 1.1


Cut out the 4 sections of the template – you don’t have to be terribly accurate. Take one of the larger template pieces and place a 1″x2.75″ piece of Fabric 1 right side up on the reverse side of the paper. Here is one of the reasons for using thinnish paper for your template – hold it up to the light if you can’t quite see the lines. You can use a tiny dab of washable glue to hold this bit of fabric in place, or you can stitch it in place inside the seam allowance, or pin it in place.


Step 2

(Try and imagine that that line of stitching above isn’t there, and imagine a pin instead – sorry!). Take a piece of Fabric 2 and, right sides together, align the long edge with the piece of Fabric 1 and pin into position.

***Step 3


Flip the template over, and stitch along the seam line marked. As you can see in the photo, you need to extend the stitching right out to the dotted line at one end, and a couple of stitches beyond at the other end of the line – this means that all you stitching will be secured as you go.


Step 4

Flip back to the right side, fold fabric 2 over and press.


Step 5

Place another piece of Fabric 2 against the other long edge of Fabric 1, right sides together, and stitch the second grid line. Once again, extend the stitching all the way to the dotted line at one end, and by a couple of stitches at the other end of the line. Flip to the front and press as before.

Continue, as before, with Fabric 3, covering sections 4 and 5 on the template, extending your stitching lines, just as before.


Step 6

Then use Fabric 2 again for sections 6 and 7. (Shocking evidence of lack of trimming there, cover your eyes!!).


Step 7

Finally add section 8 using one of the 1.25″x2.25″ pieces of Fabric 1. Leave the paper in place, and cut along the dotted lines on the template to trim the block to size.


Step 8

Stitch the 3 other blocks and then trim to size, as in steps 1 to 7. Your final blocks should look as pictured in Step 8.


Step 9

Keeping the foundation paper intact, and using the grid lines to guide you, stitch together one larger block with one smaller block, then repeat for the other 2 pieces. You will end up with 2 sections as pictured in Step 9. Now you can remove the paper. Work slowly and it should come away easily. If you encounter any tricky bits then you can damp the paper along the seams to make it easier. Press the seams that you have just sewn in towards the centre of the block.


Step 10

Take the piece of Fabric 1 that you should have left, and align the long side with one of the halves that you have completed, right sides together. Pin and stitch with a 1/4″ seam. Fold and press the seam you have just sewn in towards the centre of the block.


Step 11

Repeat Step 10 with the other half of the block and you are all done!


To make your block into a pincushion, strengthened it by ironing on some woven interfacing, then back it with some cotton or linen (also interfaced). Then stitch a 1/4″ seam all round, leaving a turning gap of about 3″. Turn the pincushion through, stuff it, and then stitch the turning gap closed with a ladder stitch. The finished cushion is about 4″ square – just right for a pincushion I think.

Finished 4


Hope you like the tutorial (I feel like I am going out on a slapdish limb here…) – do get back in touch with feedback if you have a go.

Click here for lots more FREE sewing tutorials from Very Berry.

What?? Christmas is coming?

I have barely given a thought to Christmas other than order copious quantities of food and drink – the fizzy wine has arrived…

Fizzy wine has arrived...

Just ONE person is getting a home made present from me this year (*handing in my designer-maker union card, whilst relatives breathe a sigh of relief*). I made this little coin purse as a surprise gift for a friend:

Coin purse

I love this Echino fabric so much, and was delighted to discover I have a fair bit left (the rewards of delving around in my fabric stash mountain), because it doesn’t seem to be so easy to get hold of any more.

I am now busy writing a tutorial for Fat Quarterly, which will naturally involve Liberty fabric and the finished item will look something like this:

Liberty log cabin pincushion

This little pincushion is made up of four tiny log cabins stitched together – a great way to use the tiniest of scraps! I am selling this over on Facebook if you fancy a little Christmas gift for yourself (free Liberty Lawn scrap pack included… if that helps?).

I have a little piece of shop news from my Liberty emporium on Folksy… as a Christmas gift to my lovely customers, any orders made between now and December 25th will be automatically entered into a draw to win a bundle of 12 Liberty lawn mini-singles of their choice and a copy of The Liberty Book of Home Sewing. I am also offering gift vouchers, for needlewomen/men who like to choose their own Christmas presents! I can send these by email, for you to print off, right up to the 24th December (just in case…).

Gift Voucher (five pounds)

A Catch Up

July and August have been relatively quiet over at Very Berry Fabrics (I am hoping it is just a holiday-related pause..!), but the upside of that is that I have had the chance to do a tiny bit of sewing of my own. I am continuing in the grips of my tweedy-wool obsession, and I finished this little pincushion today, using some spare bits and bobs that I have from the tweed bag making:

Tweedy pincushion

I used bondaweb to fix the little pieces of tweed into position before I hand-stitched them in place.

Tweed pincushion 2

The cushion is filled with crushed walnut shells, which I’m using for the first time. They certainly do give a pincushion very satisfying weight and heft – I will be buying more of those I think.

Before the tweedy love took hold, I finished a few pouches using my flat-bottom-straight-sides method. I have been wanting to use this fabulous Japanese owl fabric for ages. I founded it really tricky to get a good picture of it, the fabric is a richer, less dark brown and more chocolatey colour in real life:

Wise owl pouch

I also finished two Liberty/linen pouches (my old obsession – the linen is lying sad and forlorn in my fabric box…):

Linen and Liberty hexie applique pouch

Linen & Liberty zippy..

This bottom one is probably my favourite – I am rather keen on the colour combination and super-proud of that red in-seam trim! For fabric-fact lovers, the linen is Kaufman Essex yarn-dyed linen, and the Liberty print is called Eloise. These 2 have sold already over on my Facebook page, but the pincushion and the owl-y pouch are still available.

Now I’m off to do a bit more work on that tricky little tweed bag…