Foundation-Piece a Festive Reindeer Block

Foundation-Piece a Festive Reindeer Block | Nancy Zieman | Nancy's Notions Guest Blog

Foundation-Piece a Festive Reindeer Block

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By Emily Jansson, Nancy’s Notions guest blogger

Foundation-Piece a Festive Reindeer Block | Nancy Zieman | Nancy's Notions Guest Blog

This fun paper-piecing project is much simpler than it looks! Sew a 16″ x 16″ (finished) block to turn into a holiday pillow cover or wall hanging. You may even choose to omit the patchwork border to create a pot holder, or make a few blocks to incorporate into a quilt.


  • 2-1/2″ blue batik fabric strips
  • Fat quarter of white tone-on-tone snowflake fabric
  • Translucent foundation paper
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Cutting Mat
  • Madeira 50-wt Cotona Quilting Thread
  • Tailor’s Clapper
  • Best Press
  • Iron
  • Tweezers

There are three “secrets” that are truly the trifecta of paper-piecing:

  1. Before you begin, preshrink all fabric with your iron, and saturate the fabric with steam. Pretreat all fabric with Best Press. This prevents distortion of such small pieces: you’ll thank me later.
  2. Use 50-wt. thread; when you have multiple layers of seam allowances on top of each other, you want everything to stay as low-profile as possible.
  3. Use a Tailor’s Clapper—it makes all the difference.

Remember these steps if you don’t want your pieced block to feel like a cracker when you’re finished. Okay, now for the fun part—let’s get to it!

  • Begin by choosing eight strips of fabric: four in medium tones, and four in dark tones. Stack them and cut to 16″ long.
  • Set your stitch length to a short stitch—around 1.5 or so. Alternate your fabrics in medium and dark tones, and sew into two sets of four stacked strips. Use 1/4″ seam allowances.

Reindeer Wide Strata Shot

  • Press your seams and rotary cut six strips from each of your two stacks (a total of 12 strips).

Reindeer Cut Stacks

  • Stitch one of each stack to the other (for a checkerboard effect). You will have six rectangles. Take care to sew up each pair in the same configuration.

Reindeer 6 stacks

  • Now stitch up two pair of these along the short sides (as shown). Set aside.

Reindeer Sew Stacks

Paper Piecing the Reindeer:

Choose one or more strips to use for the reindeer silhouette. If you use multiple fabrics, you can alternate them as you sew for a random, organic look.

I’ve chosen to demo this technique with the “K” section of this project, as it has several layers radiating out from the center, and therefore lends a nice example.

  • Download the pattern here. Then, print out the PDF pattern onto Translucent Foundation Paper and cut the pattern sections near the outer seam allowance lines.
  • Trim a rectangle of blue fabric that clears the first “K1″ space with at least 1/4” around all sides. Be sure to give yourself extra to make sure it will have an adequate seam allowance.
  • Working from the back of the translucent paper, place your first piece of fabric, right side up, into the K1 spot. Glue the wrong side of the fabric to the back/unprinted side of the foundation paper. There should be at least 1/4″ of fabric seam allowance extending over the marks where the seamlines will be for piece #K1.

Reindeer Step 1

  • Cut a piece of white fabric larger than the K2 spot, and lay it on the K1 piece, right sides together. Make sure that once it is stitched and pressed back on itself, it will cover the K2 spot and extend over with extra seam allowance.

Reindeer Step 2

  • Holding the fabric and paper in place (or pin, if you choose), flip over so the translucent paper is printed-side-up, and stitch on the seamline, adding two-three stitches at the beginning and the end of the seam to secure (I don’t backstitch, as that adds more bulk). 

Reindeer Step 3

  • Fold back the paper on the seamline and use your ruler and rotary cutter to trim a neat 1/4″ seam allowance. Don’t worry about the other edges of the second piece yet—they will be trimmed as each seam is sewn.

Reindeer Step 4

  • Unfold the paper and press the fabric open and into place.

Reindeer Step 5

  • Now lay your white fabric onto the piece you just pressed open, right sides together, making sure that it will cover the K3 piece once it’s sewn and pressed open.

Reindeer Step 6

  • Flip over so that paper is facing printed-side-up, holding everything in place, and stitch (don’t forget to add 2–3 extra stitches at the beginning and end for added security). Fold the paper back, trim your seam to 1/4″ and press open.
  • Repeat these steps for each section:
  • Fold paper back.

Reindeer Step 7

  • Trim fabric.

Reindeer Step 8

  • Press open.

Reindeer Step 9

  • Once each section is pieced and pressed, you’ll want to trim the fabric to the edges of the seam allowance and set aside.
  • Easy-peasy, right? Press everything.

Assembling the Block:

Okay, you’ve stitched up all of your pieced papers: now it’s time to assemble.

  • Divide your sections into groups:

Group A, B, C, D
Group E, F, G
Group H, I
Group J, K

Reindeer Sections

  • Remove the translucent foundation paper from each grouping as you sew (this prevents confusion). I use a pair of tweezers to really get in there and grab from the corners.

Paper Tearing

  • Once the paper is removed from each group (remember, do each group one at a time!), stitch the sections together in the following order, pressing each seam as you go:

1. A to B = AB
AB to C = ABC

Reindeer ABC

2. F to G = FG
FG to E = EFG

Reindeer EFG

3. H to I = HI

Reindeer HI

4. J to K = JK

Reindeer JK

  • Now sew your groups in this order, pressing each seam as you go (see diagram):



3. ABCDHIEFG to JK = Done!

Reindeer Piecing

That’s it!

Time to add the borders:

  • Grab the patchwork pieces you stitched earlier, and align the 8-square rectangles along the top and bottom of your paper-pieced block. Stitch and press.

Reindeer Patch 1

  • Now align the long patchwork rectangles to each side, being careful to match up the seams nicely. Stitch and press.

Reindeer Patch 2

  • Finish into a pretty wall hanging, or turn into a pillow cover. Don’t you feel accomplished?

Thank you, Emily, for being our guest blogger and for sharing this festive paper-piecing project.

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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  • Toni
    November 24, 2015

    Thanks so much for this fun pattern. I am unable to link to the template pattern. Is it me, or was the link not set up?
    Thanks for your help! Blessings on your holidays.

    • Emily
      November 24, 2015

      Hi Toni!

      I’m so glad you like the pattern. I’m puzzled the link is giving you so much difficulty. Did you click on the blue text that says “Download pattern here?”

      It’s working for me, and I had some friends check too (works for us).

      Please let me know if you’re still having any issues with it–thanks very much!


  • Jenean M
    November 24, 2015

    Thank you Emily for posting this. Not too many things get me really excited and strike my fancy so to speak, but your reindeer sure did. I absolutely love this and I’m going to make it this weekend. I decided already to make pillows for my bed and may some smaller one’s in red for my sofa. Thank you again. You got my heart pumping for this.

  • Jenean M
    November 24, 2015

    Thank you so much Emily for this design. Not too many things get my heart pumping like your reindeer did. I plan to sew up some pillows for my bed and smaller ones for my sofa, but in red/green. Thank you again. I can’t hardly wait to start this weekend.

    • Emily
      November 24, 2015

      Jenean, you made my day! I hope you’ll share your creations on our Facebook page! Can’t wait to see those pillows. 🙂

  • Terri Williams
    November 24, 2015

    Nancy, Thank you so much for this pattern! It’s small enough to use “stash” and just right for the upcoming Christmas holiday. I just took my very first class on paper piecing, it was so much fun! Looking forward to this! Merry Christmas!

  • Julie Kill
    November 12, 2018

    Love the pattern! It’s refreshingly different! I hope to try it soon. I haven’t paper pieced before, but this is so unique. love it!

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