Pat Coulters

Online Frigid Piecing Class

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The following is the text or 'class notes' of the Frigid Piecing Class taught online in 1996. Frigid Piecing was developed as a technique to piece irregular shapes. I use it for three dimensional looks, but it can be used to piece ANY really irregular block.

This is my "Headache Quilt", that I refer to in the text of the class.


See what other students have produced from this online class !!!

A printed brochure of the basic technique taught in this class is available for $1 and a LSASE. Many guilds order this to do an 'inhouse' program!

Email me for Details.....

This Outline will allow you to jump to the sub topic you want:

Class Begins !


Clear a place to work...this means a flat surface. Empty? .. Yes EMPTY !!!!

Now you will take a "hunk" of Freezer Paper to draw your QUILT on. This time you will use the DULL side of the paper UP. To be "Do-able" keep your size SMALL. (any paper can be used at this step, but the FP should be handy.)

The Freezer Paper is about 15 inches wide so make it 15x22 or 12 x 15 or whatever size you feel you want to conquer. The edge of the freezer paper can be the edge of the quilt (before borders) or you can make it smaller than the paper, just draw the edge, or plan to use the edge of the FP. I tape two sheets of FP together to make a BIG wall hanging.

Consider making a place mat, small wall hanging, or table runner. THAT small.!!

Now, using your ruler and pencil, you will draw Triangles. Try to not have more than 3 or 4 come together at the same point. What you do to avoid this, is extend the line so the next triangle will be LONGER than the one it touches. You may not have NON Triangles except for the edge..(well, you can, but I am not going to tell you how to piece them).

Try drawing ONE line on a slant, and then use that line to be the side of several triangles. Note that IF the triangles all converge at one point, you will not only have a big bump of fabric there, but you will have created a STAR, not triangles.

The edge can be triangles that would END somewhere beyond the edge, so the lines should be convergent. (coming together ... eventually, just beyond the edge of the quilt.)

NOT TOO TINY. the Minimum size should be 6" on a side, and the Maximum is 15" They should be not too Thin either.. at least 5 inches across the middle

I understand you will not get too many triangles on your piece, THIS IS OK, as it is a Class Sample... just to learn the Technique... even if you draw ONLY ONE you will piece only one Triangle!!! It is more of a challenge to get three triangles to come together to meet along the Side of a Fourth longer triangle.

A Discussion of "Light Source"

The next step is determining the LIGHT SOURCE, and how it will affect the triangles you have drawn. I usually use the TOP of the quilt as the LIGHT ... that is, I think of the Sun Shining down from above. If each one of these triangles is lit from above, which Side will be Light? Which side will be Dark (the face is AWAY from the light). The other side is partially lit, therefore Medium.

So, for an exercise, look at the largest triangle, and label each EDGE. The one that is facing your LIGHT SOURCE, is Light, usually the Bottom/Right is what I use for the DARK and I label the bottom right corner DARK. then the bottom LEFT is the Medium You will now label each edge ... L M or D.

(as you get used to this, the labeling step is not necessary, but for now it is a thinking process you need to get used to)

Labeling the Triangles

NEXT, you will give each triangle a NAME (Betsy, Fred..... no!!!) I generally label them A B C D E... and this should be done, either in a different color pen, or with a letter INSIDE A CIRCLE so that you do not confuse Triangle D with the shading for Dark. gee, that makes Betsy sound like a good idea!!

Tracing a Pattern

Some of you over achievers will want to know the next step.. so here it is *YES WE WILL TOUCH FABRIC SOON* .... Take your Freezer paper out, and this time WITH THE SHINY SIDE UP, you are going to Trace Triangle A. You must Rip off a new sheet of FP to trace the triangle on. My method of Tracing is to hold with one hand, and trace the < of the three angles, and then connect them using a ruler. That way I do not have wavy lines. Cut it out using a rotary ruler/cutter. You will then transfer all the markings to the DULL side of this tracing. CHECK the markings when you lay it back on the triangle.... SHINY SIDE Up ... that the LIGHT edge is marked.. and the MEDIUM edge is marked.. and the DARK edge is marked.. Put the triangle NAME "A" in a circle, on each edge.

IF ANY TRIANGLES WILL INTERSECT ALONG THE SIDE... it is a good idea to transfer that information in the form of a small hash mark on the dull side...(I usually write it on the shiny side, and then flip over and trace it on to the dull side... When the Triangle is on the paper the shiny side is up. When the dull side is up, the triangle probably will not fit in the space...

You can then do triangle B... Triangle C... do a few... not all of them.!!!!

Sub Cutting

If you have a few triangles done, you can pick a random CENTER of the triangle, at least an INCH in from each side, and put a DOT (on the dull side is fine). Then draw a line to each tip of the triangle from that dot. IT NEED NOT BE IN THE CENTER. Now be sure that each sub triangle is labeled... A Light A Medium A Dark, B Light, B Medium B D C L C M C D etc.

Only cut one triangle apart at a time, so you don't get confused..

Now you will IRON the Light triangle on to THE BACK of the light fabric, the Medium triangle on to the back of the Medium fabric.. the Dark Triangle on to the back of the dark fabric using the shiny side against the fabric... it SHOULD stick.

I usually align the OUTER edge of the triangle with the straight grain of the fabric, less stretching....

Now go to your cutting board and Using a Ruler with a QTR inch marking, you will use your rotary cutter and cut 1/4" away from the FP, giving you an accurate seam allowance....

Assembly of Block

Lay the fabric triangle, fabric side up, checking the L/M/D arrangement with your original drawing..(if the triangle was a real 'regular' i.e. equal sided one, you could easily put it together with the wrong edges together)

Analyze the triangle. the center has three angles. The one with the least Sharp, or the Most Flat triangle will be the 'set in' one. (Sew the shortest seam first, is also a good rule here) Therefore pick up the OTHER TWO and put them Right sides facing, and using Two Pins, poke through at the tips of the FP, and see that the seam should lay perfectly, and the Edges should be nice and neat, because you cut such nice 1/4" seam allowances..

Now, SEW right next to the FP, 1/4" from the edge, ONLY FROM THE TIP OF THE FREEZER PAPER, TO THE OTHER TIP. Do not allow your seam to go beyond the cut tips of the FP. (I do backstitch one or two stitches but Not into the seam allowance ) Press that seam OPEN, and leave the FP attached.


You will again lay the triangles out face up, with the third triangle in its place, I usually have the "assembled triangles" on the bottom, and the third triangle on the top. Flip the third Triangle down, so that the seam you will sew will be aligned with the triangle on your right. Pin the tips as you did before, and sew the seam from tip to tip.

Now, you can take the unit out and align the last seam. The FP will be RIGID, but you can fold it or crease it without worry, and use the two pins, sew the seam. These seams may be pressed FLAT, they do not need to be pressed open.

You now take the triangle back to the ORIGINAL drawing, and Pin it into place to the drawing.. Now work on the next triangle.

If you make a mistake, you can always just trace one more set of FP to try again, you have not ruined anything....

Final Assembly Step -

OK folks, back to some basic geometry concepts. When you are assembling, you want to deal with shapes that are REGULAR. A Regular shape is one that does not have any Indentations (think of a belly button) For example a square and a circle and a hexagon are all regular shapes. the formal definition of a regular shape is " one that can not have a line pass through it and intersect the edges more than twice." or some such thing... (it's been a lot of years) An IRREGULAR Shape might be a Monitor on a Pedestal. there is an inward area under the monitor, and then the Pedestal comes back out.. A set of Mountains would be irregular, as the tips have an Indentation where the valley is.

When two triangles are assembled, you do not want them to be shaped like a W .!!!!!

You do know how to inset triangles now, so SOME of that will be tolerated...

However, if you find that a bizarre intersection has jumped into the middle of your random design, consider the following possible fix.

Do not sew the entire seam... sew from the "regular edge", but do not complete the seam... stop about 2" short. Then attach whatever needs to tuck into that space, and then later complete the seam. I do this a lot, just so that the partial design is attached.

You should work from one area, maybe the center or the corner, sewing groups of triangles into REGULAR shapes, and finally assembling all of them together...

Naturally when you are done, you may remove the Freezer Paper.


In marking my triangles with light, Medium and dark, some are pointing up and down, some are laying across. Do I mark the point as light or dark? or should they all be laying the same direction?

Yes this is entirely normal. All triangles will have a different 'orientation' .. you have to imagine the SUN above, and how the light would fall.. This is a judgment call, you are the artist, and you make that decision.. usually I will favor the Left side to be light, and the Right side NOT to be light,, but this is not a Right Wrong situation...

My triangle 'A' is out beyond the corner/edge of the page. does this matter? Should I rename so that 'a' in the center some where?

Excellent question. You will trace only the two angles, but on your traced Triangle you can IMPLY the third angle.. that is, draw the two incomplete lines until they connect. I then draw a Hash Mark where the edge of the quilt is, but often I will let that triangle remain whole until I trim for my border... It gives you the option to let one Hang out over the Edge..

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