Designing a Foundation Pieced Block from a Photograph

Designing a Foundation Pieced Block from a Photograph

Tags: foundation piecing, how-to, online workshops, paper piecing, pattern, quilt block

This is a short tutorial on how to design a foundation paper pieced block from a photograph. You can either use pencil and paper or software to create this. For a more detailed tutorial with video content and how to draw this in EQ8, see my online workshop Creating A Foundation Block From A Photo

Note: if hand drawing you will want tracing paper and a scanner to copier to reproduce the pages.

1. Find a suitable photo that you would like to transform. Start out with something simple like the flower in this tutorial. Be sure you abide by any copyright protections laws if you are using someone else's photo. I always find it is best to use my own photos to avoid any issues.

2. Start simple by drawing the block outline. It is easiest to make this a square or rectangle. Size doesn't matter at this point as you can easily enlarge or reduce it later.

3. Draw the primary lines to divide up the block by drawing along the edges of the design. The lines should be drawn from one side of the block to the other keeping straight - use a ruler if drawing by hand. I've drawn three primary lines you can see in red below.

drawing in primary lines for the foundation block

4. Subdivide the sections drawn in 3. These lines should identify the various sections of your photo ie the petals or leaves. All lines should connect between any two lines already in place.

sub divide the sections of the foundation block

5. Subdivide the sections again and keep going as many time as you like. The more lines you make, the more detailed and complex your block will be.

6. Plan your piecing order.

A: Remember, there is no right way to do this but in general if a section joins to a seamed piece, then the seamed section must be constructed first. For example: looking at the 2nd section from the right of my block. It has a blue line in the center with seams connecting to it so the piece above would need to be added after the section below was constructed.

B: Any line that has seams protruding from both sides of it will be a split in the foundation and therefore create a separate foundation. I have marked those lines in green on my example thus you can see I will create 8 separate foundations for this block.

additional foundations have been added which are shown with green lines

C: Label each foundation with a letter. At this point the red and green lines will be the cut lines. 

D: Now it should be easy enough to decide on the order to piece each foundation remembering if a section joins to a seamed piece, then the seamed section must be numbered first.

numbering a foundation section

7. After all your sections have been numbered, you are almost ready to start creating it. First make a copy of it and put your original aside. Separate the main sections. Add seam allowance to them. If you are hand drawing, you may need to trace them again with enough room between each foundation to add 1/4" (or more) seam allowance. Note: it is quite useful to add larger seam allowances for the foundations to give yourself a little wiggle room.

8. Make another copy of your foundations with seam allowances then make a test block. Select fabrics and make each foundation. Join all the foundations along the blue seams first, then work the red seams. Check your design and rework it if necessary adding any adjustments to your original copy.

Do you want to learn more about how to create this paper pieced block on your computer? Join me for a more detailed description of this tutorial with a video of the process and another how-to video on how to create this process using EQ8 software (EQ7 may also be used however the presentation will appear different). Check out my online workshop here: Creating A Foundation Block From A Photo

original calla lily foundation pieced block
Back to Blog

© Copyright 2003- Arbee Designs. All Rights Reserved. This content is copyrighted by the respective teachers or authors of articles or lessons presented on this page. Unless otherwise indicated, all other content is the property of Arbee Designs. Copies of the material for others may not be made without the permission of Arbee Designs.


Thanks so much! This tutorial was very helpful!

Jennifer Conroy-Schwartz

Hi Colleen, thank you for your message! Yes I can create custom FPP templates for you. Please email me for further details.

Ruth Blanchet

Do you provide FPP design service? I have a clip art image I would like to convert into a FPP pattern and would like to hire talent! Thank you!

Colleen Lanz Lazar

Following the instructions in this blog post will definitely get you started but if you need more in depth instructions I suggest you sign up for my online workshop then I can spend some one-to-one time with you creating the foundation you want. Details for the workshop are given above in the blog post.

Ruth can l make a p.p. pattern for a Bass Guitar? I’m a fairly new Paper piecer and can’t find the pattern l want.
Thanks for any help.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Subscribe with RSS feeds

You can subscribe here with RSS feeds: click here to subscribe

Subscribe to our newsletter

Be the first to know about new collections and exclusive offers.