English Paper Piecing is a patchwork technique where fabric is wrapped or folded over paper templates then hand sewn together, usually to form an intricate geometric design. Once the pieces are stitched together the paper templates are removed to leave a mosaic style design. Often referred to as EPP this historical technique dates back to the 1700’s, with the earliest example being a hexagon quilt dating back to 1770. By the early 1800’s this method had become one of the most popular patchwork styles in England. This method often only requires small amounts of fabric, allowing scraps and left over fabric from other projects to be used up. Today EPP is very popular as a travel project as the maker only needs to carry small amounts of fabric, needle, thread and the paper templates for them to work on. Due to the small nature of the templates, designs can be fussy cut to create more intricate patterns. Popular shapes to use are anything which tessellates including hexagons, diamonds, pentagons, and Dresden plates.
EPP should not be confused with Foundation Paper Piecing as they aren’t the same thing. Both techniques are similar as they both use paper templates to create the fabric shapes, however EPP is only ever hand sewn whereas Foundation Paper Piecing requires a sewing machine.
How to English Paper Piece..
To begin, choose your chosen shape and create your template using paper. Card stock or paper of a similar weight is often a popular choice, however some of the oldest quilts have been found with newspaper templates in them and even love letters, so it is all down to personal preference or what you have to hand. Pre-cut pieces can also be bought to save time making sure all of your templates are exactly the same size and shape.
Once you have your template, place it on your fabric scrap and cut around it using a ¼ inch seam allowance. The template will be the finished size of your design, however fabrics need to be cut larger than the template to allow for room to stitch them together.
Using either a fabric glue pen or a needle and thread secure one edge of the fabric at a time at the back of the template. Basting stitches which can easily be removed at the end of the project are a popular choice for this.
Once you have finished securing your fabric around your template you can iron your shape on a low heat to make sure the seams are lying flat. This also helps when sewing the pieces together.
Using a neutral thread, take two of your shapes which you wish to tesselate and place the edges together, using an invisible stitch to secure them next to each other.
When you have finished your design or quilt top, give it one final iron and remove all paper templates and basting stitches.