English Paper Piecing – folding pieces of fabric around a template, and then hand stitching – tends to produce a knee-jerk reaction. Most people fall into one of two camps. It either sounds like the most mind-numbingly boring thing in the world, or they’ve fallen completely in love.
If you’re already firmly in the hand-sewing camp, hey! It’s always good to meet a fellow member. And if you’re not sure why anyone would still want to sew by hand after sewing machines were invented, this is for you.
1. It’s portable.
I’m super tempted to make this a 9 point list, just so that I could tell you “it’s portable” three times.
I keep my projects in a see through plastic bag (true story? It was an underwear bag). It fits in my purse, and it goes where I go. This means I have a project:
- Waiting for appointments
- On the bus
- At soccer/baseball/hockey games
- house sitting
- baby sitting
- On my lunch break…
You see the possibilities. It’s also easy to pick up and put down, which is essential when I’m trying to finish a project.
2. It’s low investment.
What do I mean by low investment? I mean that, at minimum, you need
- and papers.
You don’t need a machine; the papers are reusable; you don’t need any fancy cutting equipment; and you can use fabric scraps. If you’re new to the world of sewing and quilting, then this is the most cost-effective way I can think of to jump in. And this moves us right along into point number three,
3. It uses up scraps.
Yay! How many people are sitting on piles of scraps at home, or tiny stash pieces that you could do “something” with? Come on, I know there should be more hands than that.
Anyhow, English Paper Piecing is a great way to use up little odds and ends of fabric.
One idea is to make a little pile of hexagons from the scraps of a larger project as you finish.
It doesn’t take much time at all, and then when you’re ready to start an English Paper Piecing project, you have a wide variety of colors and designs to choose from.
4. It’s also a great way to practice fussy cutting.
Fussy cutting is a quilting term that gets thrown around a lot. In practice, it just means any time you carefully cut some of your fabric in order to get a specific part of the design. People do this all the time in patchwork, and it works beautifully in English Paper Piecing, too.
Sometimes you fussy cut something in order to emphasize a central image, like in this mug rug designed using a Sizzix die cut.
Buuut, fussy cutting can also be used to repeat a motif over and over again, like in the Posy wall hanging from Flossie Teacakes. To me, this is where the real fun happens. You can create a kaleidoscopic effect from almost any fabric, by cutting your pieces out from the same point.
5. It’s versatile.
Look at those two pictures above. Do they look similar to you? But they were made with the same basic technique, basting fabric to a template, and then stitching the pieces together. This technique can make a traditional looking quilt like a Grandma’s flower garden, or it can make a bold, modern quilt like the Millefiore quilts.
6. Your pieces (almost) always line up.
When I work hard at it, I can get wonky edges, or have to stretch the fabric slightly to make my corners meet. It happens; I’m not perfect, and we just keep rolling. But, by and large, having a physical template makes it pretty difficult to mess up your points.
I hope this encourages you to give English Paper Piecing a try! Really, what have you got to lose?