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.

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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

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

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