The Splendid Sampler: Family Affair

The Splendid Sampler, A Family Affair Block by Better Off Thread

I’d like to welcome everyone visiting my blog from The Splendid Sampler.  Take a look around and stay awhile. If you haven’t heard of The Splendid Sampler yet (is there anyone who hasn’t?!), go check it out and prepare to be sucked in.


Are you ready to try your hand at paper-piecing? If you are new to piecing on paper, take it slow and try not to get frustrated. If you can count to four and sew a straight line, you can make this block!

Here are a few of my paper-piecing tips:

If you are new to paper-piecing, cut your fabrics larger at first: It always helps to have a big more wiggle room when you are just learning!

Use light-weight paper: I use basic copy/printer paper (20lb).  You can also use newsprint, which would be even easier to tear off the back of your block.  Don’t use fancy, heavy printer paper.  You will NOT be happy!

 Decrease the stitch length on your machine: When I am paper-piecing I set my stitch a bit below a 2.  You want your stitches to be tight enough that they don’t rip out when you tear your papers, but you want it large enough that if you make a mistake you can use a seam ripper.

Press and trim after each seam: your block will turn out much smoother if you press liberally and trim your seam allowances.  You can set up your iron right next to your machine, so you don’t have to get up.

Place your fabric on the UN-printed side of the paper and sew on the printed side.


Let’s get started!


Your templates should already be printed (at 100%, please check, because there is nothing worse than making an entire block the wrong size…I’ve been there). Cut the templates out along the seam allowance line and cut your fabrics out according to the directions.  Next, place your #1 piece RIGHT-SIDE-UP on the UNPRINTED side of the paper so that it completely covers space #1 and 1/4″ over on all sides.  I glue the first pieces to the paper with a dot of glue stick.

I like to sew all of my templates at the same time (as pictured above).


Place piece #2 WRONG-SIDE-UP on top of piece #1 so that it is 1/4″ over the line between section 1 & 2.  The first time you do this, pin your fabric along the sewing line and flip it, so you can be sure it will completely cover space 2 and the seam allowances around it.   Remove the pin before you sew ( I generally don’t pin when I am paper piecing.  The fabrics usually grab together well enough).


Flip your template over, so the printed lines are up, and stitch along the first line.  You will be using a shortened stitch length and you will back-stitch at the beginning and end of each seam.  Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ and press the pieces flat.


Fold and crease the line between space #2 & #3.  This will allow you to see your sewing line from the top.  Place piece #3 along and 1/4″ over the crease and sew from the printed side.  Trim the seam allowances and press flat.


The last piece is quite skinny, and it’s difficult to make a crease, so I just lay the pieces together under the presser foot as accurately as possible.  There is plenty of extra width, if you aren’t exact.


Now you will have templates that look like this (doesn’t look like much yet, does it?).

IMG_0198 copy

Trim all around the paper, leaving 1/4″ seam allowance.  I like to line my ruler up with the black line, not with the outer edge of the paper.  It’s more accurate.


Peek under the last strip and make sure you have trimmed the seam allowance to 1/4″ under there.  I still need to trim the mustard colored fabric on this template.


At this point (if you’ve been working on all your templates at the same time), you will have 8 completed templates (yay!).  Do not remove your papers yet, I repeat, DO NOT REMOVE YOUR PAPERS!


Now, take a center strip and finger crease it in half (short ends together), to mark the center.  Line that center up with the tick mark on a completed template.  The layers are thick so don’t even try to pin it, just sew it on!


Repeat with the opposite side.  Match up the center, hold with a finger and sew.


Press the seam allowances toward the center strip.  I like to press gently from the wrong side and then flip and press (with steam) on the front, giving the square a light tug as I press (as pictured above).


Trim (again, line the ruler up with the black line, not the outer edge of the paper).

You may now GENTLY remove the papers.


Now you are just going to sew the squares together. You know how to do that!


One last tip: If you are worried about the center matching up, machine baste the very center and check to see if it all lines up.  If it does, go back and sew the entire seam.  If it doesn’t, try again!


Your block is complete!


Here is my version of the block using the Splendid Sampler fabrics.


And here are a few of my blocks.  I have more done, but I forgot to take a photo of them in the sunlight.


I hope you enjoy making the block!

If you have any questions, leave a comment, email me or flag me in the Facebook group.  I’ll do my best to get back to you quickly.


31 thoughts on “The Splendid Sampler: Family Affair

  1. Yah, a new technique to learn. Looking forward to trying it out today. Just got back from vacation…..and I bought some of the ledger fabric you used. I might just have to introduce that into my Cotton and Steel fabric. Thanks for a great block.

  2. Hi Janice
    Love your block and your instructions are great. I have paper pieced but it doesn’t hurt to follow the instructions, always pick up tips. Thank you.

    1. I still don’t get it. I think it would make more sense to me if you posted a live tutorial. I know it’s supposed to be easy but for me it’s too confusing.

  3. Love the story behind your block design. I have taught my daughter to sew, although she doesn’t do a lot of it. However I now have two grandgirls and another on the way, so I am looking forward to teaching them to sew. On my way to sew your beautiful block. Thanks for being part of the Splendid Sew Along.

  4. I love the look of your block & your background story! My grandmother taught me to sew, also. I have never paper pieced before, so am very thankful you have shared these instructions. I’m anxious & excited at the same time to start! Who knows, I may love it!

  5. I have never done paper piecing because it just looked too tedious and difficult. Your instructions make it look a lot easier than I thought and I’m excited to give it a try! Thanks!

  6. Even though I’ve been quilting for a long time, paper-piecing does not come easy for me….but I know it’s the only way to get precision on some blocks. I’m looking forward to doing this block….and doing it well!!! Thanks!

  7. Excellent tutorial on paper piecing! … Your block design is fantastic! Loved your Back Story which is so similar to some of us girls out here 🙂 … Your fabrics are perfect and so is your alignment of stripes and lines, unbelievable!!! … thanx so much 🙂 …

  8. Thankyou so much for your pattern. I love the story of family! I haven’t tried paper piecing before and when I saw todays block I was less than enthusiastic until I checked out your blog. Thankyou so much for explaining how to make it. Your instructions are very clear and much appreciated. Here goes :o) Cheers Jacqui on the East Coast of Australia

  9. Thank you so much. I was terrified of this block. I haven’t done paper piercing before but your tutorial was excellent and I have done it. Thanks so much. Love it. Jo on the Sunshine Coast, Australia

  10. As it turns out, I had just tried the paper piecing technique last week on a whim. That worked out well! Not only had I figured out the basics, but it was also fresh in my mind. I had some re-work on this block, but I did finish it in about an hour – and was a lot of fun!

  11. Hi Janice!
    Great block–I have my first version all cut out & ready to go. As soon as I sat down to sew though, I thought,”you’ve made paper-pieced quilts, but maybe you could learn something…” so I came over to this tutorial to see how you do it & what I could learn.
    Measure the cut from the sewing line–genius! Using this tip, I bet my block comes out the right size every time!
    My tip: tracing paper works REALLY well for paper-piecing: its light-weight so it rips away easily, see-through so I can line up the fabric without flipping it over constantly, but it may crinkly from the heat in the copier, so I feed it 1 sheet at a time.

  12. I made the block and it was 1/4″ too small. So I printed another copy of the triangles and the 1″ scale was correct, but the triangles measure 3 3/8″ on the longest sides (at the outermost lines) Is this correct? I’d like to try this again, but I want to make sure the scale and measurements are right.

  13. Although I was already a huge fan of paper piecing, I found this block to tremendously fun to piece. It is my favorite block so far, as it seems to compliment and enhance whatever fabrics one chooses. The 3D effect that some have achieved marks it a very versatile block. Well done!!!

  14. Thank you for your great instructions! I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to try paper piecing for the first time and this was block looks great!! I think I will do a few more paper piecing projects, but am pretty sure I’m going to really enjoy this type of quilting. Thank you.

  15. Hi Janice,
    Thanks for a great block. I tried making this block this morning and ran into a few problems, probably because I hadn’t had enough sleep and my brain was mush. I have done foundation piecing before so the tecnique is not new to me. When I completed my 1/4 squares and joined them together they measured a lot smaller than the 6.1/2” square block that it’s supposed to be. It’s a perfectly made block apart from the size . I pressed each seam as per the instructions but am at a loss to figure out why my block is so small. I will give it another go tomorrow but if you have any ideas I would appreciate the imput.
    Thanks again
    Cheers Toni

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