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).
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:
- 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:
- 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!)
- 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!
- 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
And as always I appreciate it so much when you leave a comment or give my post a like!
Until next time~happy creating!