Aside from meeting some very lovely, talented people and seeing what they do, I learned–courtesy of Sheri–how to English paper piece.
I had seen it before, and always thought it looked like something I’d like to try, but I never did until a few days ago. Now, after having actually tried it, I am in love!!
It is very easy and really relaxing. It is done completely by hand, so if you’re looking to get a project done fast, this probably isn’t what you’ll want. However, even with all the teeny, tiny whipstitches, (I think I’m averaging about 16 stitches per inch!) it moves along faster than you might think–mostly because it is so enjoyable! Another thing that I love so much about this is that it’s perfect for using up tiny scraps. I have TONS of pieces of fabric that I don’t want to throw away, but they are so small and irregularly-shaped, it would be a pain to line each one up and cut it with the rotary cutter. With EPP, the cutting part really doesn’t need to be terribly accurate (you’ll see why in a bit).
I thought I would provide a quick and dirty tutorial. If you want to learn more about it, there are tons of resources in books and online.
English Paper Piecing: A Basic Guide
1. Gather your supplies. You will need fabric, of course, and your paper templates! You can find templates to print online, they can be purchased online or in quilt shops, your you can make your own. If you are printing/cutting your own, be sure that you are very accurate with the shape of your paper. An uneven edge or the wrong angle could cause your patches top to not match up. (Common shapes are diamonds, hexagons, octagons, rectangles–I decided to go with hexagons!)
2. Cut your fabric pieces. And this is where you don’t have to worry about being accurate! There should be about 1/4″ overhang on all sides, but if there are a few crooked places, that’s okay. Since it’s so small, I do not pin the paper to the fabric, but simply hold it as I cut around.
3. Baste the fabric to paper. Again, I do not use a pin here. Hold the paper and fabric together, while folding down each edge and basting through paper and fabric. Don’t worry about making it too secure; this is just to keep everything in place until you get around to stitching them together.
4. Stitch pieces together. Take two basted pieces and hold them together, making sure that their edges line up. Then, whipstitch them together at the edge. Ideally your stitches should be very tiny and just catch the edge of the fabric. Be sure to go all the way to the corners! (The first piece I made at the MQG meeting was a little bit wonky because I didn’t go all the way to the corners.)
When you are ready to take out your paper pieces, simply clip the basting stitches and pull them out. Then you can open the fabric edges and remove the paper, so that it can be used again.