English Paper Piecing

So, after my joyful, if out of the blue trip to the Beeb just after Christmas, I thought it would be good to put up a somewhat more detailed list of instructions for English Paper piecing.

So here goes!

First I started off with a hexagonal template which I downloaded for free.

I printed this off on thin card. You can use paper or thicker card, but paper distorts easily and thicker card can be hard work to sew through by hand.

I printed 2 to each A4 sheet then trimmed them down.

Each template piece is cut into sections, ready for it to be wrapped in fabric.

You can just cut pieces of fabric with a seam allowance (a border around the edge) to wrap the template pieces.

If you want to try fussy cutting, which is picking specific pieces of pattern on the sections, often repeating them identically on all of the same sections, I find a cutting template really helps.

In truth a cutting template is helpful either way, and the one I used for this has a window which helps you select particular sections of fabric accurately.

You can choose any fabric you want. I’m using up really small pieces left over from other projects, but you could use recycled fabric from old clothes, or anything really. I once made some patchwork using oils curtains. Just be aware that this technique won’t work as well on thicker fabrics. You also need all of the fabric to be similar if you want to get an even result.

To make a cutting template draw around the one of each of the different shaped sections from your template, add a border for the seam allowance and the cut this larger shape out. My border about 7/8mm. Then cut the original shape out of the middle. The hole in the middle acts like a window, showing you what will be visible on the final section.

On this really small piece you can see that using the cutting template has really helped identify a section that will work for the centre of a hexagon and that there is *just* enough fabric for the seam allowance.

After choosing all of the fabrics for the sections, all of the pieces are cut with the help of the template.

Next the paper template needs to be put in the centre of the fabric.

Fold over the edges. You should aim for a clean shape, but don’t pull the fabric too hard or it will be harder to join to other pieces and can distort the template. I use a contrasting thread for this job. It makes it much easier to remove at the end when the piece is completely assembled.

Use a tacking stitch to attach and secure the fabric to the template. I do a double stitch to secure the thread to start off with.

Keep going around the shape, taking particular care to secure corners well and to stitch regularly so the fabric is fixed well on all the edges. Secure the end of the thread with another double stitch.

Once you have tacked all of the sections you are ready to assemble the hexagon.

To join pieces together, match up the edges of the pieces you want to join. The front sides need to be facing each other. In sewing patterns this is often referred to as right sides together. I start by joining all of the gem shapes to the central hexagon.

I slip the needle under the folded over seam allowance and bring it out at the corner where I am ready to sew. This keeps the piece from having lots of loose threads when finished.

To secure the thread before stitching along the edge do a couple of stitches very close together, being careful not to pull the thread all the way out. If you’d prefer you can knot the the thread to start it off.

Complete the seam with small, even stitches all the way along the edge. I both start and finish with a couple of additional stitches. Be sure to go right up to the corners, otherwise you may find that once everything is all put together there are small holes in the corners where the seams meet.

This is how it looks on the right side once the seam is finished. You can choose matching thread to make the stitches less visible if you’d prefer. There are also some sewing techniques to help minimise visible stitches but I really like this method.

Once all of the gem shaped ‘petals’ are attached to the hexagon, then you need to start adding the edge diamonds and complete the seams on the sides of the gems.

This is what it looks like on the reverse.

Now all of your pieces can be joined to make a larger piece of fabric – if you want to.

The final step in production is to undo the tacking stitches and remove the paper/card templates. It’s an incredibly satisfyingly portion of the make!

I decided to add a white border to mine, hoping to help the colours pop out more. I’ve loosely opted for colours to make each section look like a flower with green diamonds around the outside. I’ve started to join some pieces together, but still have plenty to do. Not sure what it’ll be in the end, thinking it might be a baby quilt as it’s around and about the right size!

These are all of the pieces I’ve done so far laid out ready for borders and joining together.

At some point I’ll post an update when I’ve finished but this is the kind of project that can go on for a while. It’s pretty therapeutic to do and lovely that I can just pick up and do an odd half hour every once in a while.

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