Making Templates for Piecing: Basic Supplies

If you’re working on a pattern that has repeated “odd” shapes (i.e. shapes you can’t easily cut with a rotary cutter), then you will find it helpful to make a template. Templates can be made out of a number of items, such as stiff cardboard, sandpaper, freezer paper and template plastic. 

"Spark" by Kristin Lawson uses templates, and is in our current issue. Find it here!
“Spark” by Kristin Lawson uses templates, and is in our current issue, which you can subscribe to in print and digital versions. Find them here!

Cardboard and Sand paper

Pros: Cardboard and card stock are handy because we often have them lying around. Even a postcard insert from a magazine can be used in a pinch! Sandpaper, when placed grit-side down against the fabric, will not shift and move while you’re tracing around it.


Cons: Because these are paper, they tend not to last and you will need to recut them several times. This can introduce error over the long run, so it is best to cut many at once and check them against each other. If you’re fussy cutting, it can be difficult to place the template correctly because they are not see through unless you cut a “window” in the center.


Freezer paper

Pros: Typically easy to find in most grocery stores (although only one of mine actually carries it!) It is easy to cut and press to fabric without leaving residue, and can be semi-transparent when used with a light source behind it. Usually, you only have to cut around the edges rather than trace then cut.


Cons: Like the previous paper-based options, freezer paper can only be used around 8-10 times before the plastic is no longer able to be adhered to the fabric. In addition, it is easy to change the shape of your piece every time you cut by shaving off the edge little by little! And it can also be a little floppy. A way to create a firmer template that is very stiff is to iron several pieces together (with all the shiny side facing down, so you can still iron it to the fabric)

Template Plastic

Template plastic comes in a couple different weights, and with and without printed grids. While some are able to be used with an iron (the type made from mylar and not vinyl) it is critical that you verify which it is before you buy!

Pros: Because it is transparent, it is easy to place while fussy cutting, and it is easy to cut with scissors or a craft knife. The edges, unlike the paper-based options above_ will not degrade over time.


Cons: Unlike the other options, you may not necessarily have this at hand (although I usually buy several sheets at a time to have some in my supplies). If you have different types (i.e. those that can be pressed with an iron versus those that can’t), please make sure to write on them with permanent marker which is which. The edges can sometimes be sharp, but this is easy to correct with a fine-grit nail file. Because it is plastic, it can be slippery, but this can also be fixed by adding some double stick tape to the bottom so it will grip the fabric as you trace.

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