My Experience with English Paper Piecing

I'm ready to dish on my my English Paper Piecing experience to date and will either push you over the edge into trying it or send you running for the hills. 

Please note, this isn't a tutorial.  There are lots of good tuts already written.  My favorites are by Selfsewn and Sunshine's Creations; they're great to get you going!  Or feel free to leave your own favorite tutorial in the comments.  What I'd really like to do is de-mystify this technique and let you in that it's not as terrifying as it sounds. 

Paper piecing breaks down into about five steps:

1.  Cutting out your paper template

I originally thought, oh ya right, like I'm going to take the time to cut out paper and then fabric.  I mean that's twice the work, right?  But seriously... cutting out the paper is so darn fast and really reminded me how much I enjoy other crafty stuff. 

My Tips: remember to use paper scissors on the paper... not your good fabric scissors and I used a zipper top plastic baggy to catch my cutout pieces as I'm cutting to keep them safe.

2.  Auditioning and cutting out fabrics for each template piece.

You cut your fabric with an extra 1/4 seam beyond the paper template.  Did I mention you can use scraps?  It so cool to think that you can make something so pretty from so little fabric with this particular pattern.  Really makes me feel like I am giving those little scraps an amazing home!!

*Confession... I iron as little as possible with any of my quilting projects, so for my first starlet I skipped ironing the fabric scraps and went straight to cutting, but... don't do that.

My Tips: it's so much easier to cut and baste the pieces if the fabric is ironed first!  Lesson learned... the hard way!

3. Basting your fabric to the templates

My original thought was that this step was felt like sewing the fabric twice, but after some practice this goes so fast!  And I understand now that this is really just to help the pieces keep their shape before you start to join them.

So fun to see a rowdy stack of fabric bits transform into a groomed stack of shapes waiting for assembly!  This is when I can really begin to visualize how great it's going to be.

4. Sewing your pieces together

I know.. hand sewing?  Feels so 1900's.  But, I had an unexpected connection to the history behind all this and it's thrilling to know that this is how quilting was done back then.  

Very deep!  And it made me think about all the time that went into this craft.

5.  Admiring the precision of your joints and your completed work!  And repeat.

Reasons Paper Piecing is So Cool!
  • It's a great way to use scraps!
  • It's portable -- and here is a look at the kit I carry with me.  That is a leather-like envelope type pouch, with little scissors, a needle and piece of batting to hold it, and I use bobbins to carry a bit of my basting and sewing thread.  Easy to throw it in whatever bag I am carrying.
  • It gets a lot more natural and quick with a little practice.  By the time I was through my first starlet I had stopped poking myself with the needle and my speed is way more than triple
  • The accuracy of the seams and joint is really stunning to behold
  • Finger pressing the folds (using the heat of your fingers as an iron) while basting is one of my favorite parts
And there you have it.  So, by now you've guessed that I like it enough to do two of them and I have my eyes set out on a third.  How many am I going to make?  No clue yet.  Might go for a table runner... may go for a wall hanging.  I'll let the pieces tell me when they are done.

Now, go to the Rose Star Block Party Flickr group and get yourself started!!

I'm going to share this with Quilt Story at Fabric Tuesday, From the Blue Chair for Slash the Stash, and other weekly parties on my sidebar too!


Unknown said...

I love how these are coming out! Thanks for the tips.

Kris from Duke Says Sew What said...

Great write-up! Pressing sure does help, I tend to skip that step too...oops! Just love that second one. I may stop at 3. Too many irons in the fire. :)

zsazsazsu said...

omg this looks so very complicated but with a great result !

Wendys Hat said...

Cute! Love your fabrics!

Kati said...

Oh, that looks like so much work. Way to go on your project. Thanks for linking up to Slash the Stash!

Paula said...

This makes to want to go and get all my fabrics out and start cutting, I love paper piecing it's so therapeutic. You're doing a brilliant job.

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