paper foundation piecing a mariners compass quilt block
"No Nipples", Paper Piecing

No More Nipples! a tutorial

This post is dedicated to showing my technique for preventing those pesky Nipples and keeping points sharp where lots of seams come together. I am using my December compass block to demonstrate. My monthly compass blocks are all paper foundation pieced and have lots of points that come together in the center.
This technique works just as well for non-foundation pieced blocks where you have to intersect many seams and want to keep your points sharp and not have a hard lump where they meet.

Piece the components of your block as usual. In the case of this compass block, it consists of eight wedges that will be joined to form a complete circle. I will be piecing them together in pairs, then fours, then all together.

1. line up the center points of two units and turn them so that right sides are facing

At this point is easy for the skinny points to shift and become misaligned. Make sure the points are directly lined up both with each other and with the foundation paper and they stay put.

2. reduce the seam length on your sewing machine if you are foundation piecing. Leave it alone for regular piecing.
place the matched unit under the foot and lower the needle so that it pierces the fabrics at the start of the sewing line, not the edge of the piece. For non-foundation pieced units, start your seam a quarter inch from the edge, as you would for setting in a seam or mitering a corner. see below.

3. lower the presser foot and sew the seam using quarter inch seam allowance and making sure pieces stay aligned. Press the seam open as shown below. There will be a short cleft at the corner where the two pieces are not stitched together. Make sure this does not get distorted.

sewn seam starting 1/4″ from edge
press seam open, keeping points at corner aligned

If you are foundation piecing, remove the paper under the seam allowance before pressing seam open.

4. repeat the steps above for all the components of the block, resulting in four pairs of pieced units:

5. trim the “dog ears” if desired. Next you will piece the two halves of the finished block by joining two  of the above units. Match the two units with right sides facing and corners matched.

6. place the unit under the needle and presser foot and lower the needle so that it pierces the fabrics at the point where the seams intersect (1/4″ from edge of fabric, see above). Sew the seam, remove paper under the seam allowance, and press open.
Your unit should look similar to that below. There should be a 1/4″ cleft where the seams meet and the fabrics are not sewn together. repeat to sew the other half of the block.

7. Joining the two halves to make a whole:

place the two units like the one above right sides facing. Ensure that the center seams are aligned and pin.
Begin sewing at one edge of the block as usual, sew across the center seams, closing the cleft that was previously left unsewn. see below:

8. press the seam open …

9. admire your flat block: No Nipples Here! and it’s not thick and hard in the center either.

Also good for traditionally pieced blocks where many seams or points come together.

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10 thoughts on “No More Nipples! a tutorial

  1. Jess says:

    Thanks so much for this Sharon, it’s been a common problem for me, especially with paper pieced blocks. Bookmarking this post!

  2. Miki Willa says:

    Thank you very much. I wish I had seen this before I put all those little spider webs together! I will know know for the future.

  3. Melissa says:

    Thank you for this tutorial! I really needed it!

  4. Em says:

    What a great job with tgis tutorial. U r a natural teacher!

  5. Suzie says:

    Thank you so much for showing this technique, Sharon, that’s a great help. I can seethat this works much better, sewing through many layers of fabric and paper is not an easy task and your way is a good idea.

  6. Cloud CouCou says:

    This is really helpful, thanks. I’m not making anything like this right now, but one day I will and I’ll be back! PS I’m sure you know this already but your quilts are amazing, they look so complicated!

  7. Hi! Question for you- do you need to back stitch at beginning?

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