Dolly Henry is a sewing and design blog for the creative wanderer, where style meets play and making is a lifestyle.

Hi, I'm Megan - owner, designer and writer at Dolly Henry! Join me here as I explore the ins and outs of creativity, dabble in dollmaking and raise my voice on issues facing creative entrepreneurs.

Make yourself a cup of tea, and come on in!


Sunday, 20 January 2019

Getting Started with English Paper Piecing

Earlier in the week, I was chatting to Larisa from Stitching Notes about the various projects we would like to complete in 2019. English Paper Piecing came up, and after some discussion, we decided to hold a little EPP party on Instagram, this Sunday evening.

The idea is to share your current EPP projects, as well as any tips, skills or ideas that you have. I have some hexagon flowers, and a lone Lucy Boston block that have been sitting gathering dust for several years now. I would love to make more time for English Paper Piecing, and both Larisa and I thought this would be a great way to make sure we work on our projects, at least once a week! 

If you would like to participate, you need to ‘bring’ your EPP project, a cup of tea (or coffee) and even a dessert! The idea is to have a little online party of a Sunday evening, where we can all connect through the hashtag #sipteaandepp - to inspire and encourage each other to work on our EPP projects (current and forgotten) and participate in a community craft party.

For more details, please see my Instagram post here.

The timezone is for Australia, however, if you have a moment while the party is on, and you are elsewhere in the world, you are still more than welcome to put up an Instagram post and join in on the hashtag - there are no hard and fast rules!

Meanwhile, I thought I'd do a little introduction to English Paper Piecing, and include some useful resources and links if you would like to give it a go!

I started with Hexagons, so for the purpose of this blog post, and because I am also currently sewing hexagons, that is the shape I have chosen. (English paper piecing shapes come in all sorts of different sizes and styles.)

So what is English Paper Piecing (EPP)?

English paper piecing uses small paper templates to create the foundation pieces for a quilt block design. As you will see below, the technique essentially involves wrapping fabric around the paper shapes and then hand stitching the fabric together. You have to be careful not to stitch through the paper, as the pieces are removed once your block or shape is completed, leaving only the fabric.

I quite like EPP, because you can stitch an entire quilt top by hand, and it is great for using up small pieces of fabric or scraps. It's also excellent for fussy cutting any details on a print that you would particularly like to showcase.

There are two ways to baste the fabric to the shape. One is with glue and the other is with quick, large basting stitches. I've done both, but prefer glue because it is faster! Some people prefer using thread because they find the paper templates can tear when removing glue-basted shapes, which makes them difficult to reuse. 

I have chosen to use my Miss Fox in Thyme print to make a hexagon flower. I like to choose a feature design first because then I can coordinate the other hexagons to match the print I want to stand out. This is a 1/12 inch hexagon.

If you haven't done any EPP, and are buying shapes for the first time, I recommend choosing a set that includes an Acrylic template. The template includes the seam allowance, and is easy to slice around with a rotary ruler. You can also 'see through' the template, so you can position the design exactly how you want it to look on the finished hexagon.

Once you have cut out your hexagon (if you don't have a rotary cutter, you can always draw around the outer edge of your template with a pencil and then use scissors), position the hexagon shape in the middle of your fabric. I often hold mine up to the light to make sure I have centered the design properly, before basting. I use the glue basting method, and you can usually buy a little glue-stick especially made for the task from your paper supplier. 

Apply a small amount of glue along each edge of your hexagon, and wrap the fabric edges over as you go (shown above) It's a little bit like wrapping a present! There is usually about 1/8-1/4" of fabric folded over to the back.

Then you are done! Sometimes, I give mine a very light press with my iron to reinforce the shape.

You will need to make seven hexagons in total to make a hexagon flower!

Once you have the arrangement you are happy with, the hexagons are joined together with small whip stitches. My friend Lauren from Molly and Mama has a detailed post on sewing together hexagons here.

My hexagons are now ready for sewing tonight for the first #sipteaandepp party on Instagram!

I also wanted to share this beautiful felt pincushion Lauren sent me, her stitching is so tiny and even! Miss Kitty is perfect (or is that purrrfect!) for my stitching tonight. She was accompanied by a sweet pouch that Lauren also made, featuring a gorgeous hexagon flower. I'll pop a link to Lauren's pattern shop below if you would like to make a pincushion like Miss Kitty!

Useful Links

EPP papers, templates and tools - Patchwork with Busy Fingers or Sue Daley Designs.
I've tried some other brands too, but I find the shiny white card shapes are the best, and also remove well without tearing.

My fabric designs are perfect for fussy cutting onto 1/12in and larger hexagons - you can find them here in my store. You will get quite a lot of fussy cut pieces out of one 1/2 yard piece!

The Molly and Mama pattern shop, for gorgeous pincushion and sewing patterns.

Megan x

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Friday, 4 January 2019

Hello 2019

I am so happy to move into 2019, a brand new year. It's like getting a new journal - all new, not yet written on. Good intentions for the fresh white blank pages, knowing that some of those pages will not contain the best words ever written and some will even be torn out to use as a shopping list. Some pages will be reduced to scribble or a flurry of notes that might come in handy on a rainy day. But for the moment, the promise is in the new and that is worth taking a moment to inhale and enjoy.

I have seen a lot of people coming up with a word for 2019 - a theme if you like, to guide them through the next twelve months. If I was going to think of a word, it would probably have to be 'Acceptance'.

There is so much power, peace, and contentment in acceptance. Whether it's your current situation, a particular season or phase, taking a deep breath and accepting where you are for the moment is often quite difficult to do. Acceptance comes from letting go of the control you think you have over a thing, a situation or a person, and just going with the flow.

2018 was a tumultuous year for me in many ways. There was a lot of change, and I floundered for a while there with my creativity. It wasn't easy, but I learned a lot of really valuable lessons, which I am really grateful to take into 2019 with me.

So many people push for the fast-paced hustle these days, and it is exhausting. There comes a point where you have to accept that you do or have done your best and leave it at that. This was something I learned last year when I continually exhausted myself trying to yank open doors that weren't meant for me.

Wise words from a friend at one point helped me see things more clearly: She asked me what my true intentions were, and to look deeper at what I really wanted. When I did this, I realized that the avenue I had been trying to travel along wasn't actually where I wanted to go.

Rest is greatly underrated in our current climate. Simply being still and letting the mind wander. Off the screen, away from a TV or even a craft project. Allowing yourself headspace and downtime is so important, and though people have always worked very hard, I believe they also had more space in their life. Manual tasks were often so much slower that you would have had a bit more time to just think. If you walked or rode a horse to your destination, still slower and more mindful.

I had a three month period where I decided I would not engage in ANY business activity and focus on my own health and well being. This was really difficult to do, but as time went on, I realized how VALUABLE rest and stillness is. It's not optional and it isn't lazy. Taking a proper break helped me focus, and become more productive. You can't always see the full picture until you take a step back.

If you have your own creative business, you will understand how often we don't rest, how often you keep working when you really should have called it a day six hours earlier. This is where acceptance comes in. Accepting that there are only a certain amount of hours in a day and that you don't have to slam yourself into the ground to have had a productive work day.

Time and again I have seen others experience burn-out because they failed to ever take a break, pause or stop for a while to regroup. I have experienced it myself. I wonder how many little creative enterprises would still exist if their creators had ONLY taken a break, and some time.

Valuable lessons I learned in 2018, that I take forward into 2019 are:

- Rest. Take time off. If the day before was full on, have a break. The sky will NOT fall in. And neither will your customers or your business.

- Let Go. Realize when you are at the end of your tether and break free. Allow yourself to let go so that you can embrace the next thing coming your way. You KNOW when you have had your fill of something. Don't be afraid to quit and let the next thing come along! It could be something much more fulfilling and you can take all the experience you have gleaned from your last pursuit and channel it into your new adventure - whether it's a new business, new job, new hobby, parenthood or a new relationship.

- Fail Fast. Failure is amazing because it allows us to grow. You learn to ride a bike by wobbling around and falling off. You learn to walk by stumbling around and falling over. The trick is to accept when you feel something isn't working for you and move on quickly. Get back up again and do something else! Failure might mean failure, but it doesn't equal nothing. It yields experience, growth, and wisdom. It's a not so great pill to swallow that gives you valuable things in return.

- Be Brave. Thinking 'wouldn't it be nice...' as far as your business goals go isn't super helpful. If you don't put your prices up (nobody else will give you a pay rise!), if you don't contact that shop/publisher/blogger, if you don't plan that new collection, if you don't enroll in that course, if you don't schedule a holiday, then nobody else is going to. We aren't wallflowers at a party, waiting to be invited to dance by the handsome prince. We have to make our intentions known, and we have to make them known to ourselves FIRST. By being brave enough to acknowledge what you want, and even if it sounds silly, or you are shouted down or rejected at first, the only person that can make your aspirations known to others is YOU.

- Acceptance. Accept that you did your best. Accept that there are only 24 hours in the day. Accept that life is short and therefore you should be doing something that fulfills you. Accept that some seasons of life aren't that fun, but that nothing lasts forever. Accept that some days, salad doesn't cut it and you need cake. Acceptance is powerful because you can rest in the knowledge of ENOUGH, rather than feeling the impossible squeeze of MORE.

More keeps you running on overdrive. Enough brings you satisfaction and contentment. Leave the hustle for the hustlers and march to the beat of your own drum. We are all unique, life doesn't have a filter and mess happens. Some people can run as fast as a hare, and others get there on tortoise time. It doesn't matter. What matters is how much YOU enjoyed the journey.

I am so excited for 2019 - I can't wait to go forward and see what this wonderful year brings! I don't make resolutions, I know I'd never keep one. But taking the things I learn forward with me, and learning from a whole new set of challenges and making a whole new set of mistakes is the way it is meant to be (and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!)

If I was to make a resolution it would be this:

Live in the moment, and let go of what doesn't really matter. Stop resolving to be the one day *insert improved lifestyle, body, house, bank account, whatever here* and just accept where you are right now!

May you have a fulfilling and creative 2019!

Megan xx

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