English Paper Piecing

So it seems I have a new passion – English Paper Piecing – which is hand sewn patch work, a very old and traditional quilting method.  I took a two evening class at Stitches Seattle, which I would highly recommend. The instructor was lovely and knowledgable, and the class limited to five participants. It will be running again in September most likely, if you’d like to try it. I do like learning new techniques at home on my own, but it was also nice to get a jump start on the skills I needed, and now I can take it from here. This is the coaster that I made during class.

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The hexagons on their own looked like this.

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The basic method (or at least what I’m doing) is this:

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1) Get some paper shapes, precut ones are fast and cheap but you could cut your own. Cut out some fabric, slightly bigger than the shapes, I’m using a roughly 1/2″ seam allowance but it doesn’t need to be very accurate.

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2) Pin the paper shape to the fabric and baste it on on the reverse side. You end up with a stack of fabric covered shapes like these.

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3) Whip stitch the seams by hand.

Of course that is a simplification but that is the basic idea. You would then slip out the paper shapes and treat your newly made patchwork top as you would any other quilt top – adding batting, backing, quilting stitches and binding.

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This is the front and reverse of the 1″ hexagon fabric that I made. Once I finish it I’m planning to make it into a little quilted pouch for holding sewing supplies. The project is in this EPP book that I borrowed from the library:

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I have borrowed some other books but they are not to my taste at all, and seem focussed on creating small EPP blocks to be appliquéd to a larger quilt, rather than EPP as a hand sewn top in it’s own right – and, they are dated and ugly. This book makes  EPP seem cool, the other books don’t. It does seem that hand sewn quilts and English Paper Piecing is a very small, niche corner of the quilting world. I cannot find a local EPP meet up group for example.

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My favorite thing about EPP is that it is sociable. It can be done sitting in the living room with my husband of an evening, not by myself down in my basement sewing room. All i need can fit in this little box on the shelf, and I can take my project to knitting group if my knitting mojo is failing, as it is at the moment.

So I have embarked on making my first quilt, EPP style. It is coloured stars on a white background using 2″ 60 degree diamonds. I tried a few different sizes of diamonds but did’t want to go too small as I’m aiming for queen bed size. I suspect I will work on this project on and off over a year or two – we’ll see how the enthusiasm flows.

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These are the fabrics I chose, from Gossypium Quilts in Issaquah. Cool name for a quilt shop huh? Gossypium is the cotton genus. They were picked very, very quickly, a few random fat quarters and half yards while my three children explored the shop… (warning – your pram/stroller will not fit down any of the very narrow isles in this shop).

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Here’s my cut and pinned shapes and my first star block.

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And here’s where I’m up to now. I’m rather pleased with my fussy cutting I have to say. So this is where my evenings are going right now, often with an audiobook or reruns of Buffy!

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