Dancing Ribbons

Dancing Ribbons free pattern by Cindy Rounds Richards

If you love Foundation Paper Piecing and small projects, the Dancing Ribbons Quilt Along is perfect for you! Learn all about it below.

Intricate marble patterns on an elegant inlaid table inspired Dancing Ribbons, by Cindy Rounds Richards. Use the project as 12" x 12" mini wall quilt or the center of a larger quilt. Have fun picking out your own dancing color combinations!

Dancing Ribbons uses paper piecing, curved piecing, and applique techniques. The manageable size makes it a perfect project for building your skills all while playing with color and design. You can use up your scraps, build a collection of treasured materials, or create a limited color palette for a stunning effect.

Click Here to download your free pattern!

Printing Note: Measure Foundation Piecing Section Z  for printing accuracy. Section Z should measure 6 1/2" from the left seam allowance line to the right seam allowance line.

Color & Fabric Guide

We love Dancing Ribbons, and now it's easier than ever to make with the Color & Fabric Guide! It takes all the design and organizing information from the pattern, but gives you space to write out your choices and catalog your fabric. There's also a coloring page and a guide to making the "rings" variation where two ribbons connect.

The Dancing Ribbons pattern has a fabric guide key and a guide to the fabric placement on the X and Y pieces. For the quilt along, there is more help than ever for you to play with the design of your Dancing Ribbons project.

Click Here to download the Dancing Ribbons Fabric & Color Guide.

The first page of the Fabric & Color Guide is a coloring page! Use it to map out your color placement.


The second page features the fabric palette guide and a space to place your fabric swatches. This is all based on the pattern, but offers a little more space for organizing.

The third and fourth pages are the guides for the X-sections and Y-sections. Use the information you filled in on the fabric palette guide page to fill in your fabric choices.

The final page is an optional guide for making Dancing Ribbons with connected "rings" of color, one of the most common design variations quilters make. This page identifies which colors of ribbon make up a ring and names each ring to help you organize and plan.

Dancing Ribbons Colorways

This project offers tons of opportunities to play with different colors and effects through design. Below are a few examples to inspire you.

This version is monochromatic, using only different shades of blue.

Both of these "rings" versions are colored the same except for the background fabrics, but the effect is really different.

You can use as few as 3 fabrics. Chose a light, medium, and dark fabric with a good amount of contrast. Make all the background pieces in the X and Y pieces the medium fabric, make the clockwise ribbons the light fabric, and the counterclockwise ribbons the dark fabric. Alternate light and dark around the center square. Add the light fabric and medium fabric to the Z pieces and you're set.

Dancing Ribbons Fabric

Because of the small scale of the project, fabric selection becomes very important. Solid fabrics are a beautiful, safe choice. You can't go wrong with a solid.

Similarly, there are solid-like fabrics which provide a little texture, like solid batiks, hand-dyed fabric, solid shot cotton woven fabric, and so on.

But what about prints? Printed fabric looks beautiful in Dancing Ribbons, but it's all about understanding how prints will work and which ones may work better than others.

Here I have a collection of feedsack reproductions ranging, relatively speaking, from large to small in print size. The top fabric has the largest design elements, but they are only about 1" large. The bottom fabric has a pin dot pattern, and the dots are less than 1/8" large. Each of these has potential to work, but I can audition the fabric to determine its strengths and weaknesses for this project. To do this, I started by cutting a window into a piece of paper the same size as the largest "ribbon" section.

  1. The first print has a lot of white in between colors, and there is a wide range of colors (greens, oranges, yellows, and purple) meaning this fabric might prove challenging to use in conveying a single color for a ribbon.
  2. This print has a fair amount of white space, but the purple background helps hold the color of the fabric together. It could work.
  3. The tiny pin dot leaves lots of the purple background to show. This one would work easily and always read as its color.
  4. A trickier option. The deeper purple of the background is great, and the white in the figures does not overwhelm the area. But there is a clear right and wrong direction to the print and I would need to decide if I want to pay attention to the orientation of the fabric in my cutting.

Let's look at another example.

1 and 3 work well in this example, and even 4 might do, but 2 has a total switch from one area to another with what color is happening in the print. What's going on here?

Oh! Each of those selections are from this one piece of fabric. That could be cool for using up this mega-scale print, but it would require a lot of fussycutting. I might not be ready for that level of commitment.

Make your own little window and audition your fabrics for scale if you want to audition prints before using them.

Foundation Paper Piecing & X-sections

Before Sewing

Print out the number of foundation paper patterns needed.
Cut fabric into pieces larger than needed to cover the pattern area. (Refer to pattern for sizes if you have not yet completed this step.)
Set the stitch length on your sewing machine to make short stitches.

Grab supplies:
Small acrylic ruler with 1/4″ marks
Small rotary cutter and mat

Organizing the X1-section:

You can lay out the pieces for the X1-section before sewing. Mark the pieces and/or the foundation paper as needed to keep yourself organized.

If you completed a Color & Fabric Guide for yourself, use it now to help you!

First Section Seam

Step 1: Lay fabric right sides together. Lay the paper pattern on top with the printed side up.

Step 2: Hold the stack of fabrics and pattern up to the light and visually confirm that the fabrics cover the #1 area and overlap the #2 area past the sewing line at least a 1/4″.

Then pin the sewing line and flip the #2 fabric over into the #2 area as if it's already sewn, making sure it completely covers the #2 area.

Make any adjustments now if needed, then flip the #2 fabric back in to place and remove the pin.

Step 3: Place the stack under the needle. Start sewing at the beginning point where the solid lines meet. (You may prefer to backstitch at this point to secure the seam. This helps later with removing paper.)

Step 4: Sew to the ending point where the solid lines meet and stop. (You may prefer to backstitch here, too. Again, this helps secure the seam when removing the paper later.)

Step 5: Remove the stack from the sewing machine, trim threads, and fold the paper back along the sewing line.

Using a ruler, measure a 1/4″ from the sewing line and trim.

Step 6: Unfold the pattern and press the #2 fabric into place

Every Remaining Section Seam

Step 7: Crease the paper at the next sewing line. You can do this by lining up the edge of the ruler along the solid seam line and pushing the paper back.

Fold the paper back, exposing the area of the previous fabric which will make up the seam allowance.

Step 8: Trim a 1/4" seam allowance from the folded paper edge.

Step 9: Unfold the paper.

Line up the next fabric piece right sides together with the previous piece. The edges can line up now that there is a trimmed seam edge to follow.

Step 10: Check that the fabric piece being added will cover its area completely, then sew it on as before.

Step 11: Press the new fabric piece into place.

Repeat steps 7-11 for all the remaining seams to complete the section.

After the Section is Sewn

Step 12: Trim the section 1/4″ from the outside of the solid marked edge. You may have an easier time trimming the curved seams with a pair of scissors.

Most paper piecing patterns, like this one, have the seam allowance included and it is marked with a dashed line. You can trim to the outer dashed seam allowance line so long as the seam allowance is 1/4" which it may not be if the pattern has been enlarged or shrunk beyond its original measurements.

Step 13: Repeat the process and all the steps to sew the remaining X-sections.

Y-Sections Assembly

Use the same methods as last week for organizing and assembling the X-sections.

Joining the Paper Piecing Sections

Joining paper piecing sections and maintaining straight edges can be one of the trickiest parts of foundation paper piecing. We have a trick for getting nice results, and all you need extra is a firm pin and a craft clip or two.

Joining Sections

(Note: the pieces shown aren't from dancing ribbons but the method is the same)

Begin by laying out the sections as the block will be assembled. Identify the order in which the sections should be sewn together.

Starting with the first two sections that need to be sewn together, bring the two sections right sides together. With a firm pin, pierce one section through the point with the pin.

Pierce the pin through the second section at the point as well. Leave the pin standing upright. The goal is to hold the points together for a brief moment rather than to pin the sections together.

With the pin still in place and held perfectly upright, secure the rest of seam using a craft clip. A clip is preferred to pinning because it holds the pieces together without shifting, which can sometimes happen with pinning.

Bring the pieces under the sewing machine, and remove the pin while carefully maintaining the fabric alignment. Bring the machine needle down into the hole created by the pin where the points of the two sections meet.

Sew backwards to secure the seam, and then forwards again through the rest of the section on the seam line. Remove the craft clip before reaching it. Once sewn, you can check that the pieces joined together successfully. Use this method to match point by point.


Before Sewing

Print out the number of foundation paper patterns needed.
Cut fabric into pieces larger than needed to cover the pattern area. (Refer to pattern for sizes if you have not yet completed this step.)
Set the stitch length on your sewing machine to make short stitches.

Grab supplies:
Small acrylic ruler with 1/4″ marks
Small rotary cutter and mat

Z Sections

After paper piecing the Z sections, join Z1 to Z2 and press the seams open. This makes it easier to join with the center. Repeat to make the other outer side. Sew the two halves together to complete the outer background ring.

Remove all the foundation paper from all sections so you are able to manipulate the fabric for sewing the outer ring to the inner circle.

Lay the center inside the outer ring right side up. Line up the North and South seams. Line up the East and West seams. Flip the background onto the center and pin the N, S, E, and W seams first. Then match each of the ray seams working your way around pinning the seams as you go.

Use your fingers as you sew to guide each section between the seams.

Once the outer ring and center are sewn together, press the seams toward the outer ring.

Congratulations! Finish as desired.

Show off your progress, connect with other quilters, get ideas, motivation and more!

Join us in the AQS Project Parade Facebook Group and quilt along with us!