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English Paper Piecing

A perfect way to quilt-on-the go, you'll love the ease of hand stitching with paper templates.

Pressing the Seams


Lightly press open the joined pieces and check the seam from the right side. Stitches should not show. If they do, take smaller whipstitches through less of the fabric folds as you sew.

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Make and Baste the Templates


Pin a paper template to one or more layers of fabric. Cut out around the template with a 1/4" seam allowance. Your seam allowance does not have to be exact because the template will be an accurate guide.

Place a template right side down on the wrong side of a fabric piece and fold the seam allowance over one edge. Beginning with a knot on the right side of the fabric, baste the seam allowance in place; stitch through the fabric and the paper template with 1/4"-long stitches. Finger-press the basted edge.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all fabric pieces have been basted to paper templates.

Approaching the Corner


As you approach a corner, fold the seam allowance of the next edge over the template and continue stitching. Stitch all edges in the same manner. Don’t knot the thread as you finish, but do leave a thread tail of about 1/2" or so on the fabric’s right side.

Pinning Two Templates Together


Place two fabric-covered templates with right sides together, aligning the edges to be joined. Pin the pieces together at the center.

Begin Stitching


With a single strand of quilting thread, begin stitching about 1/8" from one corner using tiny whipstitches and catching a thread of both fabric folds. You’ll feel the paper templates with your needle, but do not stitch through them.

Reaching the Corner


Backstitch to the nearest corner. Once you reach the corner, reverse the direction of your stitching and sew across the edges to the opposite corner. Take a backstitch, and knot the thread with the knot in the fabric using a backstitch loop knot.

Pressing the Seams


Lightly press open the joined pieces and check the seam from the right side. Stitches should not show. If they do, take smaller whipstitches through less of the fabric folds as you sew.

Setting In Pieces


To set in a piece, pin and sew the seam on one side. Reposition the stitched pieces so the next seam is aligned and continue sewing.

Remove the Templates


When all edges of a piece have been stitched to adjoining pieces, remove the paper template, pulling the basting threads and templates out from the back. Press.

Projects to Practice English Paper Piecing Technique


Quilt 1
Brimming with old-fashioned charm, this hand-pieced quilt is made with scraps of assorted 1930s reproduction fabrics using the English paper piecing method. This method is great for on-the-go projects since the paper templates eliminate the need for marking 1/4" seam allowances.

Quilt designer: Tess Herlan
Quilt name: Garden Lattice, American Patchwork & Quilting, April 2002


Quilt 2
Here’s another English paper piecing design for a small quilt which you can use to cover a favorite doll or hang on the wall of a baby’s room. Each fabric shape is basted to a paper pattern that’s removed after the shapes are hand-stitched together.

Quilt designer: Tess Herlan
Quilt name: Quilting Ideas, Winter 2002

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