How To: English Paper Piecing
English paper piecing (or EPP) involves stabilizing fabric around a paper shape before sewing the pieces together to create intricate designs. It is most effective for designs that don’t have long straight sides but do have numerous set-in corners, such as the hexagon shapes. Because it's done by hand, it makes the perfect on-the-go project.
Step 1: Make Templates
Many precut paper templates are available through quilt shops and by mail order. Online stores, such as Paper Pieces (paperpieces.com), sell hexagons templates in a variety of sizes.
If you wish to make your own templates, trace the pattern on a sturdy paper multiple times and cut out carefully and accurately. You also can die-cut or paper punch hexagon templates using manila file folders (do not use color folders which could bleed onto your fabric).
Step 2: Prep Fabric and 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.
Step 3: Thread-Baste Templates
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.
Step 4: Conquer 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.
Alternate Steps 3 and 4: Glue-Baste Templates
Learn how to use a water-soluble glue stick to temporarily adhere fabric to paper templates for English paper piecing.
Step 5: 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.
Step 6: 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.
Put old thread to use when preparing hexagons. Choose a contrasting color so basting stitches are easy to see. To join hexagons, use silk thread, which “melts” into the fabrics. If you're joining scrappy hexagons, use gray or taupe thread. These colors match most fabrics.
Step 7: Sew Corner to 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 using a backstitch loop knot.
Step 8: 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.
Step 9: 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.
Step 10: 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.
Practice English Paper Piecing
Put your skills to the test with an EPP project! Whether you just want to try a small project using this technique or go all in with a larger quilt, these patterns are fun to try!