Otherwise known as English Paper Piecing or EPP.

A method which has evolved from cutting shapes out of paper and then folding fabric over the edges of the papers before sewing the pieces together. Then, afterwards, you take the papers out again!

To get started you’ll need some fabric offcuts, paper shapes, needles and thread, glue stick, pencil and scissors, and maybe a Hera marker and a few quilters’ clips.

A range of reasons why so many stitchers spend time on English Paper Piecing, and why it can become addictive, are:

  • it’s a great way to use up small offcuts of fabric
  • it’s done by hand with minimum tools and equipment
  • it’s easily transported
  • designs and patterns for EPP are easily accessed on-line and in books
  • there are numerous ways of using EPP as decoration
  • it’s a good beginner’s technique
  • it can be used to make something small and pretty
  • it can also be used to make large useful items such as quilts

A starter project for me was a really simple coaster design which I found on the internet and which is simply made up of seven one inch hexagon shapes. After folding and tacking the fabric around the ‘Hexie’ they’re joined on the edges with tiny neat stitches through the fabric (not the paper) and then the tacking stitches and papers are removed.

  • cut a 3″ square of fabric (or slightly smaller for less fabric on the reverse of the shape)
  • put a small dot of glue on the paper shape to lightly hold it to the square of fabric
  • draw a quarter inch seam around the hexagon shape
  • trim the fabric to that shape
  • thread a needle and put a knot in the end
  • fold one edge and firmly press the fold with fingers or a Hera marker
  • fold the next side and fasten down the fold with a couple of tacking stitches
  • turn the shape anti or clockwise direction and continue folding and tacking the edges
  • take a long stitch between folds and two smallish stitches at each fold
  • continue to the beginning and fasten off

The tacked hexagons are stitched right sides together just through the fabric edges, not through the papers. In this way make up the design completely before removing the tacking and taking out the papers. The papers can be used again.

Now the seven hexagon design can be pinned onto felt and with small neat stitches appliqued to this felt background. Bonding a second layer of felt onto the back makes the coaster more resilient to heat from a mug.

To finish, trim around your shape giving it an attractive shaped border.

For a more ambitious design a larger 2″ hexagon, six 2″ triangles and twelve 1″ jewel shapes can fill the bill as a tablemat.

The centre of this design is a ‘fussy cut’ 2 inch hexagon shape from a fabric with an all-over flower print.

‘Fussy Cutting’ is the practice of choosing a favourite section from a fabric design and cutting it out as a separate feature.

When folding and tacking the edges this larger hexagon shape needs an additional long stitch through the paper and fabric in between the folds to keep the shape firm.

A Hexagon has six sides so we need six 2 inch triangles to match these sides.

The technique for triangles is similar to that for hexagons, but where the fabric folds at the corner it leaves ‘ears’ which are left free and not sewn in yet.

  • first put a dab of glue just in the middle of the paper to hold the fabric temporarily while working on the shape
  • thread a needle with sewing thread and tie a knot in the end
  • cut out the fabric to match the shape with a little more than 1/4″ seam to be folded over
  • fold the fabric edges over the paper and finger press the fold, using a quilters clip can help keep it in place
  • start sewing the folds with a double stitch at the first fold, then a long stitch across to the next fold
  • if the side is 2 inches put a long stitch through the paper and fabric and then progress to the next fold
  • sew clockwise or anti clockwise until you’re back to the beginning
  • fasten of where you started from

Next, the triangles are stitched to the central hexagon right sides together and the ‘ears kept free.

The third part of the design is to add the twelve jewel shapes. These are joined together in pairs before inserting between the triangles.

  • see the twelve tacked jewel shapes ready for stitching together
  • notice the ‘ears’ caused by the folds, these are left free from the tacking
  • place the correct edges right sides together and join with tiny stitches on the edge of the fabric only
  • the jewel shapes, when two are joined, fit the gap between the triangles
  • the ‘ears’ won’t show on the right side once the pieces are joined

Now the tacking stitches and the papers can come out. Then the design should be pressed carefully to keep its shape before being hand appliqued to a backing.

But what backing for the finished design? It could have a felt backing similar to the coasters or alternatively a quilted fabric backing.

So here the design has been hand appliqued onto a quilted background. The quilted square was cut into a circle before adding a narrow binding and hand quilting around the central hexagon. A pretty little tablemat.

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