Penny Layman Interview. Paper Piecing: Week 3 {Learn More, Sew More}

Paper Pieced Home by Penny Layman

Eight years ago, Penny Layman started her blog Sew Take a Hike .  A dental hygenist by day, she has become an expert in foundation paper piecing.  Her designs have been featured in Optical Illusions,  Lucky Spool’s Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making, Pillow Pop, Modern QuiltsUnlimited, Stitch magazine and more.  Her newest book, The Paper-Pieced Home,  came out on January 9th.  I am excited to have her as my guest today!  (Stay tuned at the end for a *great* giveaway!)


What inspired you to start quilting?  I’ve been sewing since I was in middle school and never had a desire to sew a quilt until I saw a blog post by Anina in June of 2008. She posted about some wonky log cabin blocks she made for a bee, not following a pattern, and that intrigued and inspired me! I had always summed quilting up to intricate, fiddly, time consuming patterns and to see that Anina did her own thing was very liberating to me. It made me think “I could do that!”  So I set out to make my first quilt of wonky log cabins which I called “Fruit Salad”.

Did you start paper piecing early in your quilting journey? Yes, about 2 years after I started quilting, I happened to order a copy of Patchwork 318 from Superbuzzy and it was love at first sight for me! Since there are no instructions in the book, I set out to find paper piecing instructions online which which was a challenge back in 2010 believe it or not!

Do you keep scraps for your paper piecing or do you sew from your stash? I use both my stash and scraps. I have no preference. I rarely buy a fabric for a specific project so all of my stash is free game!

What tools do you recommend for paper piecing? My must haves are a fabric specific seam roller, a stitch picker seam ripper, a 1”X12” omnigrid acrylic ruler, and Clover fork pins. The other tools that I use that don’t need to be a specific brand are a small pair of fabric scissors, rotary cutter, fabric glue stick, and craft scissors for cutting paper.

What is the most enjoyable part of paper piecing for you? I work as a dental hygienist 3 days per week and by the time I get home at the end of the day, I am exhausted and can’t be bothered to work on anything fiddly or intricate after working in such a small space (people’s mouths) and using fine motor skills all day. For some reason, paper piecing is not fiddly to me. The things that I enjoy the most about paper piecing are the seemingly effortless perfect points and those times fabrics match up perfectly when I sew pattern sections together. I love that!!!

What is your favorite quilt you have made? My favorite quilt I’ve made is one I didn’t actually make on my own! It is my Ringo Pie bee quilt which is still in my closet, waiting to be hand quilted. The blocks were made by me and the other members of the bee. I pieced the big Dresden at the top center, the latte cup, the retro fridge, and the tiny blender and then sewed them together.  I am feeling very inspired from looking at it and talking about it!

Ringo Pie quilt top from Penny Layman
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration for my designs everywhere! Road signs, photos, nature, food, and things I use around the house. It’s not hard to find inspiration, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to make patterns of everything I’d like!

What are the most common problems you see with people trying to learn paper piecing? Any suggestions?  The biggest problem I see people face as they start paper piecing is cutting their fabric pieces too small. It’s easy to look at a 1”X1”-ish area in a design and want cut a piece of fabric 1 ½” square to cover it because that would be big enough for the area and the seam allowance, right? Not necessarily! If the area has an odd shape, oftentimes that thinking will not work. My biggest suggestion is to cut a piece of fabric for each area substantially larger than what you think you need. Especially as a beginner.

How did you decide what projects to include in your book? It really wasn’t glamorous at all, but very matter of fact. I sent several ideas to my acquisitions editor and she helped  narrow it down to the number of projects I needed for the book. The overall idea I tried to stick to with each project was something useful with a bit of whimsy.

(Here are a few of the blocks you can find in her book:)

block from Paper Pieced book

Sewing Organizer from Penny Layman Paper Pieced Home

I noticed you love food blogs.  What are some of your favorites? I don’t enjoy cooking immensely, but I do love to bake so KingArthur is one of my favorite go-to’s for baking. I also visit quite often ( probably weekly) and I’ve recently discovered the blog and everything she makes looks amazing!

Where are you teaching in the next six months? I will be teaching a few classes at QuiltCon and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll be teaching the sewing organizer project out of my new book “The Paper Pieced Home” a couple of days, and a Design class one day.


Thank you, Penny!

For this week’s giveaway, Penny has graciously offered a copy of her new book!!!  To enter for a chance to win, post a picture of a paper pieced block you have completed this week on Instagram and tag it #LMSMPaperPiece.

Comments 18

  1. Penny’s blog was the first I ever saw and followed, I fell in love with paper piecing then! I love her designs and style ~ she inspires me!
    Don’t enter me in the giveaway ~ as soon as I knew she had a book I ordered it ~ it’s in my hot little hands!

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  2. Wow I need a sewing organizer! I’m skittish about trying paper piecing and Penny’s book is on my wish list . SHe gives such great advice here about the must have tools. I’ve been a blog follower of SewTakeaHike since Spring 2014 and Penny is amazing. She’s very thoughtful and gracious too. Thank you for sharing the interview . I’m so proud of her accomplishments.

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