English Paper Piecing is a hand sewing technique, popular and simple to learn for those just beginning to quilt, but a favourite with experienced quilters for how handy it is to transport and sew on the move. Fabric is tacked over individual and accurate paper templates that form tessellating shapes, with a whip stitch used to sew each piece together in a mosaic pattern. Once complete the paper can be removed.
Draw shape wanted onto graph paper,
Best website for graph paper – Choose: Isometric // A4 // Inches // 1/4″ Isometric for this project.
cut out roughly and stick to card.
Cut the shape out neat and accurately from the card
and you now have a ‘master template’
Note – there is no Seam Allowance on the template.
Decide on fabrics wanted and how many templates are needed.
Use the Master Template to draw around shape onto stiff paper,
cut these paper pieces out carefully, any imperfections will distort the finished pattern.
Pin the paper pieces to the wrong side of the fabrics,
leaving a gap between each one for the seam allowance.
Two pins can help with stability and two holes in the paper can make things a little easier.
Cut out all the fabric pieces, including the seam allowance
– it does not need to be too accurate, but keep it neat.
Fold the fabric around the paper template.
Using a contrasting thread, tack in place.
Continue to fold each edge neatly and tack in place.
Check pattern and hold two patches, right side together,
lining up the ends as neatly as possible.
Using Whip Stitch, sew the two pieces together.
Try to catch only the fabric and do not go through the paper template underneath.
At the end, secure thread neatly, open out and admire!
Keep the tacking stitches in place for now.
I remove them along with the paper template once all pieces have been sewn in place to keep things stable.
Once all the pieces have been sewn together to form a block:
– The tacking thread can be removed
– Press all the edges so the seam allowances stay tucked under
– Carefully remove all the paper
– Applique to a backing fabric
Centre block on backing fabric (fold in four and lightly crease to find centre) // Pin or tack in place
With small neat stitches, sew the block onto the fabric, just fold back and sew around any flaps of fabric.
Hints & Tips
Needles – Sharps 9 or 10 work well, I find a long, thin needle works best.
Thread – Where possible, match thread to the colour of the fabric.
If joining a light and dark patch, match thread to the darker colour.
To include a special pattern or motif a fussy cut template can be made by
making a template with the seam allowance and cutting out a window
the same size as the accurate template would be.
If the lines being sewn from a Y shape, found in the tumbling blocks pattern,
sew from the middle going outwards. Starting with the V shape at the top, then sew the straight line last.
If you sew each piece all around one after the other the design will start to distort.
Sew all the shapes to the central piece, then sew the sides together
Sew a block in two halves, then sew them together down the middle.
This technique goes back to 17th Century Britain when restrictions on cotton and newspapers were lifted making it popular among all the classes with cheaper and more readily available materials. We now get little glimpses into history, as the paper was not always removed in order to add extra insulation, with newspapers, correspondence letters and catalogues all used in the construction of these quilts.
Mosaic floors in cathedrals were the biggest influence on early English Paper Piecing quilt patterns. now the most popular shapes are hexagon, triangles and diamonds. They can be found in the popular patterns of Grandmothers Garden, Tumbling Blocks