As most of you who read my blog know, I’m mainly into my wool crafts. But recently, I’ve really been getting into something called English Paper Piecing, or EPP for short. It basically involves putting fabric over paper templates and hand sewing these simple shapes together. It is a really simple thing to do which can be so effective when complete. It is also a very portable project which can easily be slipped into a bag for when you are traveling or going on holiday.
I first started EPP in 2015 when I decided to make a small quilt for the baby I wanted to have in the future. (And now have!!!) I took this project with me when I taught at Summer School in Oxford, down to Worcester, UK and various other places I traveled to. I finally got it finished earlier this year after a long hiatus of trying to get other projects completed.
All of it is handsewn, except for the backing and binding. I knew my hand stitching is not very straight without a specific line to follow and the machine did it so much better than I could have hoped for. If you cannot stitch a straight line, EPP is PERFECT for you! You can only stitch across a very specific line at a time. You will see what I mean later on.
Here is my hand-sewn (mostly) EPP baby quilt.
Here are some of my EPP works in progress.
This is my hand sewn honey hexagon EPP quilt beginning. I started this one when I was pregnant, purely as a way to stop me going mad whilst waiting (and waiting!). It’s about a metre across.
This is purely from scrap fabric I have in my stash as well as using up fat quarters I’ve had forever. (Why do I think that fabric is ‘too nice’ to use? It needs to be used!).
Some more patterns using stash fabric. These were little practice ones and sewed up quite quickly. I am unsure of what to do with this yet. I am thinking that I might sew them up together and stuff them, making a large pin cushion. Either that, or sew up the sides and make a little bag that can hold a basic sewing kit for when I am out and about?
So, if you are interested in learning more, please read on.
What do I need?
- Template papers. You can either buy these ready made, like I do, or print them and cut them out yourself. Just type ‘EPP templates free’ into Google and loads should come up. I used Love Patchwork and Quiltings free hexagon templates for the baby quilt. It took a while to cut out so many hexagons but it was worth it in the end. Try and use good quality paper. 120gsm is pretty good. You can buy EPP papers on eBay.
Some examples of papers are the clamshell papers at the top, 60 degree diamonds, 45 degree diamonds, hexagons, honey hexagons (which I am currently using), Dresden plate templates (bottom left) and larger hexagons. There is a huge array of sizes you can use.
Make sure that your templates fit together well before you start sewing. It would be horrible to cover them in fabric to find that the edges don’t fit together as they are two different sizes!
The hexagons make lovely flower patterns. I imagine the clamshell one would make a great border to a quilt.
- Scrap fabric. I’ve collected bits from car boot sales, old clothes, charity shops and when I have visited craft shops. I was lucky enough to buy a box of scrap fabric from the car boot sale the other week and it will keep me in fabric for a looong while!
I use pretty much only use cotton for my EPP. You can use whatever you want, but fabrics like jersey probably won’t work very well. I would always recommend cotton or mainly cotton mix fabrics. I always say ‘Save Your Scraps!’ I try and keep as many scraps as possible, there willl usually be a paper template it can fit round.
- Sewing kit. You need the usual things, needles, thread, scissors, etc. I always have two colours of thread. One for sewing the fabric to the paper (a bright thread) and one for sewing the pieces together. I also find Wonder Clips AMAZING. You can buy 100 on eBay for under £5. They do come from China but they are so worth the wait.
Have a decent set of scissors, for clipping the fabric and threads. There is nothing worse in sewing than having blunt scissors. I use the pencil to write on the templates in case there is a complicated pattern I am using. The wax circle is very useful to me as I find that sometimes my thread tends to twist and get a bit knotty. Run your thread through the wax and this pretty much stops. You can buy this for £3 from HobbyCraft. I keep a set of needles with me so I can have several threaded at once. It can be pretty quick going to sew the fabric to the paper so I have several threaded so I can just pick them up, one after the other, without having to stop to thread them.
Ok, so there is the basic set up of what you need! Apart from the paper templates most people will have these things in their stash already, I know I did.
So, let’s get started!
- Start by choosing your pattern to start with.
Play with your templates. Do you like them this way? Or that way? What pattern will look nice? What overall shape do you want at the end?
Although I have not done it in this picture, you can write on each template what colour you would like so you can gather up the templates and do all the fabrics at the same time, then go onto the next one.
Here is an example of this below.
Number 1 would be one colour, number 2 another, etc. Once these have been covered you do this again –
And then again –
And so it continues… Not everyone does this, I don’t know if anyone else does this actually, haha. But it works for me and keeps me on track, rather than wondering where I should put things.
2. Starting the first template.
You need a piece of fabric a bit bigger than your template, your template and some wonder clips. (You don’t have to use the clips, I personally find them easier. Some people might just hold it on as they sew or use pins).
You fold the fabric over each side. Some parts will overlap in the tips but that does not matter. To help, clip each side down as you do it.
There is a bit too much fabric shown on the back here but it doesn’t matter too much. I’ve never found it a problem when sewing up at the end. If you don’t like it, you can always trim it back slightly. Here the pieces are shown from the back and the front. The front shows a very neat fabric piece with straight lines.
Now you have to sew/baste/tack the fabric to the paper. Some people glue it but I sew it on. I use large stitches that go around the shape.
I tie a knot in the end and start sewing around each flap over of fabric. That way you can use fewer stitches and it stays on really well.
You can see I used two large stitches in the front and it goes through each corner point. Do the same to all of your shapes.
Here are the shapes ready to be sewn together. Are you ready??
You need to figure out how they are going to look once they are sewn up. Here is an example using some other shapes I made earlier. Shown backs and fronts.
Right, now you must pick the shapes that are going to be sewn together. Put them RIGHT sides together. Using your other coloured thread, tie a knot in the end and put the needle just through the fabric on the straight line, catching ONLY the fabric with little whip stitches.
Do this along the entire edge until you have finished. If you are attaching more shapes, keep going, making sure the next shape is right sides to a previous shape. Otherwise, sew a couple of tiny stitches to finish and cut the thread.
This is what it looks like from behind.
And from the front.
The stitches are quite tiny and they are hard to see. You can see them easier here as it is a close up photo.
Keep going until you have sewn up all of your shapes.
I am sure you are wondering what you do with the paper at the end. Wait until all the sides of the shape are sewn up before you remove the paper so that they retain their shape. If you don’t the shape will sag and won’t sew nicely at all.
Cut the coloured thread in the shape and remove it all.
Turn the piece over. You can move the fabric aside to find the paper.
Simply pull out the paper and your sewn shape remains lovely and crisp and you cannot tell any difference from the front.
This shape has the paper removed from the middle. Can you see a difference? I can’t. I can now continue and take the paper out of the red shapes as they are sewn on all sides. I would not be able to take the paper from the cream diamonds as it would destroy the shape on two sides.
I really hope that this tutorial has been some help to you if you are a beginner. I think I have covered most things that need covered but if you have any questions or are in need of any support please don’t hesitate to ask. I am thinking of making a video to go along with this tutorial. If that is something you would like to see, please let me know in the comments or through email.
Happy sewing everyone!
xXx Love Kais xXx