How to do a Jigsaw Puzzle - for the first time

How to do a Jigsaw Puzzle - for the first time

How to do a jigsaw puzzle, using a map puzzle of London
Before I began

I wanted to learn how to do a jigsaw puzzle and as someone who had never done a jigsaw puzzle I decided I would get as much advice I could from the All Jigsaw Puzzles Facebook community to set me off on the best foot. I got some great advice especially from Sue Corbett and Neal Cracknell. They suggested starting by sorting the edge and corner pieces into separate areas, followed then by pieces by colour or text size. Sue mentioned using bags or bowls to keep the sorted pieces separate. Neal suggested using a flat surface and to have good lighting.

Starting off

The jigsaw puzzle I was given for the project was a site centred map jigsaw from Butler and Hill, which was centred on our London office, an area I know well. I started with a Puzzle Snug 2000 as my flat surface, which is built for making jigsaws on and has a felt top to make sure the pieces don't move around too much while you are puzzling. I brought in some empty containers from home and was set to use these along with the box lid to help sort pieces. Putting the advice I'd received into practice, I made a cup of tea and set to work.

Sorting the pieces

I began by getting out all the pieces out of the bag and started turning them all to be face up and putting the edge pieces into the box lid and the corner pieces into a ramekin I had brought along. Taking the edge pieces, I had to sort these into groups depending on which side of the jigsaw they belonged to. This was fairly easy, as on a map jigsaw each piece is likely to contain some element of text; which on maps tends to be orientated in the direction. This meant I could orientate the pieces according to the text being the correct way up. The straight edge would let me know which side of the map the piece belonged to. I then started sorting the pieces by colours which in the case of a map tends to be specific to mapped features. This meant I could identify the River Thames by the blue pieces, the A and B roads by their colours, and the parks by a green colour. From there I started with the place I knew and was in the centre, the house-shaped piece of the jigsaw; our office location. The next thing I did was build pieces out of places I recognised, such as the local shopping centre and various streets and landmarks close to our office. The horseshoe-shaped area of the Thames was a key part to get together first and really help orientate other locations.

Completing the puzzle

Perhaps the hardest part to complete, and therefore the last pieces to go in the puzzle were the little residential streets which radiate across London's landscape. These all look very similar, and in most cases, these were the exceptions to the rule of having their text aligned. The text tended to follow the direction of the road rather than being orientated with the horizontal upright text on the map. It was at this point when I first really realised that I was doing the jigsaw without a guide image to work from. It would have been much easier to have a printed guide of the map at this point, but after a while searching through and reading unfamiliar street names, I realised that it was far more interesting exploring the area, rather than copying from an image. We do sometimes receive feedback asking why there isn't a guide image with the Site Centred Map Jigsaws and now after personally completing one, I feel it's far more rewarding to complete without one and really enjoy the discovery a map jigsaw can offer.


I really enjoyed learning how to do a jigsaw puzzle. The jigsaw took around three and a half hours to complete. On reflection, I really enjoyed my puzzling experience. At one point I was so engrossed in it that I forgot to drink the cup of tea my colleague kindly made me! I seemed to be able to shut off the world and get lost in the jigsaw and the music coming from the radio. There was a great sense of satisfaction in finishing it and I look forward to doing more in the future.


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