English Paper Piecing Goes Modern

I have tried hand stitching of all kinds. Anything to do with needles and thread has been in my project basket at one time or another. But every so often I discover something new.

english paper piecing with old comics
The back of a patchwork quilt block made with English paper piecing, using comics for the paper.

Several years ago I was helping a friend clean out her neighbor’s sewing room and we came across a beautiful piece of hand piecing. It was a patchwork block from a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt and it captured my heart immediately. Not only was it pretty and colorful, it also told an intriguing story.

When I flipped the block over, I saw that it was pieced with the English paper piecing (EPP) method that I’d heard about but never seen. This method of piecing is done entirely by hand. Intricate shapes are cut out to the exact size of the finished piece, and fabric is basted around the shape. Two shapes are then whipstitched together, again by hand, and the paper is eventually removed.

In the block I had found, the paper was still intact. This quilter had used the paper she had on hand, the Sunday comics, and not only do the colored comic strips add an unexpected twist to the found block, they also date it.

Needless to say, I kept the block. It is now framed and hangs on my wall with the back displayed.

Since then, I have tried my hand at EPP. I find hand piecing is the perfect take-along project when I’m traveling, watching kids’ soccer games, or anytime I want to keep my hands busy with something productive.

Modern quilters like Catherine Redford have have latched onto this centuries-old technique and are using paper piecing quilt patterns in their work. Here are some of Catherine’s tips from her article in Modern Patchwork Summer 2015:

1. Make EPP modern by using contemporary fabrics and strong design principles.

2. Save time by starting with strips of fabric cut the right width for the hexagons you are using.

3. Use acrylic templates and pre-cut, reusable papers to streamline the process even more.

You can get started with English Paper Piecing–or learn some new tricks–with a collection of resources plus a hexie template and papers–in our English Paper Piecing Made Easy collection. Read on to find out all the details.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Modern Quilting, Quilting Daily Blog, Sewing Techniques

One thought on “English Paper Piecing Goes Modern

  1. Great find. I made a miniature flower garden (1/2-inch hexies) and used freezer paper instead of basting. That was a lot of cutting but it was worth it. Just place the freezer paper with the shiny side up on the wrong side of the fabric hexie and press the edges onto the freezer paper using a tiny craft iron. Now if I could just figure out how to quilt this project. My hands would never hold up to hand quilting.