My approach to EPP

Hello friends,

Today I will be sharing how I approach EPP. You might be saying:  What the heck is EPP?? Don’t you just love all the acronyms in quilting?  Someday I’ll compile a list and explain them all…some of them are quite funny!

But to get back to EPP: It stands for English Paper Piecing and is the process of taking a geometric paper shape and attaching fabric to it, then sewing those resulting fabric shapes into a bigger shape and ending up with a quilt block that you can incorporate into a quilt. Sound confusing? That’s why I am sharing this tutorial today!

To start I want to explain that I am by no means an expert on the topic of EPP. There are loads more experienced people out there. There are also all kinds of different methods to EPP. The method I’m going to share with you today is the method that I decided to use for this project. There are other ways of doing it ( and I will share some of those in next week’s post) , but this post would get reaaaaaalllllyyyy long if I talked about all the various ways to EPP.

So if you are anything like me, you probably want to just get started doing EPP right away, so let’s get to it. I am going to share how I made this paper pieced shape:

First, let’s talk about a few basic supplies that you might want to have on hand:

You will need some thread ( I recommend a polyester/cotton blend), one neutral and one colorful. You will need a regular, every day needle, AND a special, skinny needle ( I like using milliners or straw needles). Then you will need a glue stick ( I used a purple Elmer’s glue…I think anything would work), some scissors ( or rotary cutter and ruler), some of your favorite fabrics, and paper templates.

 

  • First, you will want to print off the templates that I am providing for you here: paperpiecing templates.
  • Next, cut out these templates exactly on the drawn line.

 

Find some of your favorite fabrics and , using a glue stick and a little, light dab of glue right in the center of your paper template, glue your template to the back of your fabric, making sure to leave 3/8 to 1/4 of an inch all the way around the paper shape. 

  • Grab a cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter ( or use scissors if you prefer) and trim 1/4 to 3/8 inch around the paper shapes ( I suggest you start with the bigger ( 3/8th) seam allowance. You can always trim it down smaller if you prefer it that way).

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    Do notice how I trim the tops of the points also!

  • Now thread a needle ( any regular needle will do) with a neutral thread, knot the end, and “tack stitch” your corners like this:
    fold over one side of your fabric unto the paper
    20200109_130739
    Fold the next fabric side over top of the first and insert your needle and take 2 stitches in approx the same spot, making sure NOT to sew through your paper, only the fabric!

  • Do not knot your thread, but move onto the next corner, fold that fabric over and take another 2 stitches there. Move all the way around your shape this way ( the triangle only has 3 corners, so only 3 tack stitches to make,  but the other shapes will have more. Again, you are NOT sewing through the paper, only the fabric!
  • Tack stitch all your shapes in this manner. There will be “tails” ( those little fabric corners that stick out beyond the actual paper shape and that’s fine!
  • Now it’s time to sew your fabric to your paper! You can use the same regular needle you used for the tack stitching, but this time thread it with a really noticeable color because these are basting stitches and will get removed later. The brighter the thread, the more easily you know which one to “seamrip” later ;).  Knot your thread ( which you want to cut to about 18 inches, anything longer starts to be a pain) and starting on the back side of your paper, insert a long running stitch on one edge. Continue all the way around your shape, sewing through your paper and fabric, using one continuous thread.
  • When you have basted down all sides,  just bring your fabric through the back of your fabric on the back and cut a little tail ( NO KNOT!), like this
  • Repeat this process for all your shapes, but you will notice that I did not do this for my triangles. Those shapes are so small that they really don’t need to be basted to the paper because the tack stitches are holding the fabric in place just fine. If you would rather baste the triangles down too, by all means do so.
  • Now it’s time to sew your shapes together into their final position. I like to lay mine out, just to make sure I start with the correct piece! You sew from the center out, so grab your big hexagon and a triangle and get ready!

 

  • This time you want to thread a super thin, bendy needle ( I like using Milliner needles) with a neutral thread. Knot your thread and line your paper pieces up so the right sides are facing. I like to tack my corners first and then go back and sew the seam, because it keeps your shapes from “wandering”.
  • Using a small whipstitch ( about 1/16 inch), you are going to sew your first triangle shape to your hexagon shape, making sure to NOT sew through the paper templates, only through the fabric ( You will be amazed how you can tell that you are sewing just above the paper, and not through it!). A whip stitch looks like this: Image from WikiHow
  • Whipstitch all the way along the seam and knot your thread when you get to your tacked corner.
  • Now it’s time to sew on the next triangle. You will do this exactly the same way as the first one…tack down the corners, then sew the seam. You might find that the tails of other triangles get in your way a bit. Just pin them down with a pin or one of these binding clips ( my personal choice because they don’t make you bleed!) 20200109_135055
  • Continue sewing on all your triangles in this manner and when you are done your result should look like this: Please note that the paper is STILL inside all these shapes!
  • Now it’s time to sew your diamonds into place. This may seem tricky but it’s really not!
  • Thread your milliner needle with your neutral thread again, knot it, and take some tiny stitches at all the “points”again.
  • Now whipstitch the seams and tie your knot when you get to the end of your seam.

    You will have to fold over your ‘previous’ shape in order to stitch the seam and that is just fine!

  • Continue sewing on all your diamond shapes in the same manner and when you are all finished your shape will look like this:

     

  • At this point it is time to give your block a good press and I like to use a little spray starch too. Then grab your seam ripper or tiny pair of scissors( my prefered method because it doesn’t pull on the stitches the same way) and remove your brightly colored basting stitches. I like to cut on the front of my work because I don’t want to accidentally snip my tack stitches away! 20200110_143532
  • After your basting stitches are all removed, you can remove the paper pieces from the inside of your shapes, being very careful to not distort your fabric shapes!
  • Give your block another good press and congratulations, you have finished your first EPP block!
  • If you enjoyed the process, print off some more templates and make more! If you didn’t, congrats, you have now tried English Paper Piecing and  can strike that off your quilting bucket list ;).

Next week I will share what you can do with your EPP block ( and will share what I’m doing with mine!), plus I will also share some other ways you can approach EPP. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions, or something is not clear, don’t hesitate to contact me (farmhousequiltsinlancaster@gmail.com).

And as always I appreciate it so much when you leave a comment or give my post a like!

Until next time~happy creating!

Monique

31 thoughts on “My approach to EPP

  1. I have done EPP to make flowers to applique onto a quilt, but that is the extent of my foray.
    This looks pretty fun.
    It is a nice project to tote around in my bag (in a flattish pencil box) and work on when I have a moment of time that in my opinion is being wasted (waiting for things, in line, on the phone, etc) I like making the hexie flowers and they can be applied on all kinds of silly things I make haha
    Happy Week-end Your progress is beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve tried before but not been to impressed. You make it sound more doable! I will try again! Question: Does the glue cause the paper to not want to come out of fabric?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was in the same boat as you…I had tried it but thought “meh”. But using shapes that I really like and, more importantly, fabric that I LOVE makes a big difference. And I like this method I’m using…very simple and easy and not frustrating. And to answer your question: I haven’t had any issues with the glue holding the paper, but just use a really light touch!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed your tutorial, I am not a gluer when I EPP,I just use a small appliqué pin to hold in place until shape is basted. I also do not sew through my paper pieces so I do not need to remove my basting stitches but your suggestions such as a brighter thread certainly would make it easier to remove those threads. A few tips I have learned along the way. Try a ladder stitch when joining the pieces rather than a whip stitch, punch a hole in center of paper pieces makes them easy to remove with a cuticle stick or crochet hook . My next EPP project will be POTC I love the portability of EPP.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all those tips Barbara! I think a hole in the middle would be handy, but I glue right in the middle…I find if I stick my nail right at the edge of the paper it pops out pretty easily. And I tried the ladder stitch and couldn’t make that one work, but I imagine it looks nicer. Can’t wait to see you start Patchwork of the Crosses and hope you will share your progress with us!

      Like

  4. Just reading your EPP tute makes me smile and I can’t wait to try it again. I did one place mat years ago and enjoyed it but felt alone as not one friend was interested. ( Maybe I need different friends.) So I am excited to do this again knowing I am not soloing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Once again, you’ve surprised me with another beautiful little treat! Like a couple others, i didn’t think I’d enjoy EPP as much as PP, but you make it look so much easier than I’ve seen before. I will be trying again. Also, if I do hand sewing of any type, I tend to have sore fingertips. I’ve tried many different kinds of thimbles or the like, but nothing works for my small fingers. Any ideas? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear that Brenda! I don’t have any suggestions on thimbles….I don’t get along with them at all so avoid them at all costs! However, for EPP I don’t think you will need a thimble at all because you are never sewing through anything hard or tough ;).

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      1. This must be one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” moments. lol I appreciate your quick reply and have ordered the same needles with plans to learn how to do EPP you way you’ve demonstrated (Thanks for your free templates!). You make it look so much easier than I thought it was going to be. Again – thanks so much, Monique

        Like

  6. Hi Monique, great tutorial. I find EPP both fun and relaxing, for some reason I don’t do it often. You may have lit a fire under me, because now I want to try it again. Your block turned out very pretty. Can not wait till next week to see what you come up with.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love EPP and dabble now and again. I’ve never tacked as well as as stitching through the papers but it does make your work super neat. I will try this upgrade next time 🙂 Thanks for sharing with Handmade Monday

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always love to see how other people do their EPP, EPP is my absolute first love in sewing and I never get bored of it. It is portable, easy to do bits at a time, uses up tiny pieces of fabric,a nd is so relaxing. x

    Like

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