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Introduction to English Paper Piecing

English Paper Piecing

This guide has been provided by Emma Thompson, from the former Sandpiper Sewing School.

How to do English paper piecing

English Paper Piecing, (often referred to as EPP), is the technique of folding fabric over paper templates and hand sewing these together.  The paper template shape ensures the blocks are accurate and also makes it easier to piece angles together.

English Paper Piecing, (EPP) requires only; paper, fabric, scissors, thread, and needles, so it’s a great craft to take with you & also doesn’t require the investment of machine sewing/quilting.


The Technique

Select your paper templates, you can buy pre-cut shapes or print out and cut your own at home. (Tip – Freezer paper templates are great, these can be ironed to you fabric and peeled off later).   Popular shapes include Diamonds, Pentagon, Dresden plates & of course Hexagons. Remember when looking at the size of hexagon templates the sizes refer to one size so for 1inch hexagons each side measures 1inch.

We have a downloadable Hexie Template

Patchwork Dreamer stock a good range of precut pieces.

Paper templates for EPP

Next cut out your fabric shapes, these should be a least ¼ of an inch larger than the paper templates so that you can fold over the paper.  Use a patchwork ruler to add ¼ of an inch and cut with scissors or a rotary cutter. (Tip – if you do lots of paper piecing you can purchase die cutting machines which will cut the paper and your fabric perfectly and through several layers at once).

Hand sewn patchwork

Fold your fabric over the papers press with your fingers and baste together.  There are a few popular methods of basting:

A) Sew through the paper and fabric to hold in place.

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B) Sew just through the corners of the fabric to hold around the paper.

Hand sewn patchwork

C) Baste with a fabric basting glue stick, quick but can make papers damp and therefore harder to fold fabric neatly, and can be harder to remove the papers.

Technique for English paper piecing

Next place 2 of your shapes together right sides facing, and whip stitch the edges together.  To whip stitch – sew small stitches across the fabric with you needle going straight across your two patchwork pieces, go through just a few threads of fabric each time.  Traditional patchwork books suggest 18 stitches per inch. Use a fine thread e.g. a 60 weight cotton that blends in well, fine threads do tangle easy, use a thread that you enjoy to sew with as long as it blends in ok.  

 For the photo below I used a thicker contrasting thread so you can see the whip stitch clearly.

(There are some great videos for whip stitch on Youtube).

Whip stitch

Carefully remove your papers and press with an iron. (If you have used basting glue iron on medium heat first the warm glue will allow you to remove the papers more easily).

Your EPP project is ready to quilt, use as appliqué shape, or even make into a pincushion etc.

Simple hand patchwork

When you’ve finished your quilt if you prefer not to quilt yourself don’t forget you can send your quilt top off to a Longarm Quilter, a wonderful treat for all your hand piecing to be professionally finished. 

The Quilt Room are the exclusive Gammill dealers for the UK (Gammill is a brand of popular Longarm quilting machine), so should be able to put you in touch with a Longarm quilter in your area.

This guide has been provided by Emma Thompson, owner of the former Sandpiper Sewing School.

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