One of several things that I love about quilting is the number of new techniques you can learn when constructing a quilt. English Paper Piecing (EPP) was one such technique that fascinated me for quite awhile before I finally had a chance to learn it. I was especially intrigued after seeing a display of EPP quilts at the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln several years ago. Soon after that I attended a demonstration of crafts at the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice during the annual Homestead Days in June. The demonstrator had small kits made up so that participants could stitch seven 1 1/2” hexagons into a flower. It was so cute and after that I was hooked!!
The technique involves hand basting a small piece of fabric to a card stock-weight shape and then whip stitching those pieces together to form a larger shape. Individual shapes can also be used as appliques. The basting stitches and the paper pieces are then removed from the project before finishing. You can make your own paper pieces or purchase them already made. The Paper Pieces company makes a wide variety of shapes that can be used multiple times. Since this brand was recommended to me when I first began I have not tried any others and have been very happy with the results.
Once you have prepared all of the shapes as mentioned above then you need to decide what to do with them. And there are several options from which to choose. One option is to use the shapes as appliques on a larger block. I used this technique in a patriotic quilt that I made from a Connecting Threads kit. This pattern required sewing two pieces of fabric together and then positioning the seam so that it lines up at opposite points of the hexagon. Another kit from Connecting Threads made small and large flowers out of Dresden plate shapes. The flowers were then hand appliquéd to the blocks.
Another option is to stitch several shapes together and then frame them with a fabric border. In this case the sides are trimmed so that the hexagons form a rectangle. I used this technique in a small wall hanging kit from Connecting Threads. EPP flowers were appliqued to the corners to give the border additional interest. I am also in the process of making a large quilt in this way but it is one that has been on my UFO (un-finished objects) list for several years now. It also uses individual EPP diamonds appliquéd to the border to look like leaves.
Yet another option is to sew several hexagons together to form a quilt top and leave the irregular shapes as is. By doing so the backing is then used as a facing. I have not personally tried this technique but am currently finishing one side of a quilt for a customer by whip stitching around the edges.
Learning the English Paper Piecing technique added even more quilts to my list of projects that I could make (because I needed more projects that I could do!) I discovered that I especially liked EPP because it is primarily a hand stitching technique that I can do while traveling in the car or watching television. I have found, however, that I prefer stitching smaller shapes as they are easier to work with as the stiffness of the paper pieces make larger projects more awkward. (This is probably the reason that my large EPP quilt has been on my UFO list for so long!) So if you are looking to expand your “quilty” knowledge, need a hand sewing project, or want to make that cool quilt that you’ve seen, I would highly recommend giving this technique a try. You might get hooked just like I did!