How to Sew a Quilt with English Paper Piecing

Do you ever wonder where trends come from? How is it that all of a sudden it seems like everyone is quilting with a hexagon motif and then the next thing you know, color blocking is all the rage? One of the recent trends that seems to have come out of nowhere is the popularity of English paper piecing patterns. They're everywhere you look! However, it's pretty clear the resurgence of this sewing technique comes from the modern quilting movement, where traditional techniques are given new life in contemporary ways.

As someone who was raised to hand sew, I have jumped into this hand-piecing technique with both thimbles, so to speak. When we chose Joanna Wilczynska's English Paper Piecing (EPP) project for Modern Patchwork Spring 2013, I immediately tried my hand at making her beautiful designs.

Here is a summary of Joanna's tutorial on paper piecing blocks for a pillow, from Modern Patchwork 2013.

paper pieced patchwork blocks
Here are two of my paper-pieced
patchwork blocks, in progress.

1. Trace the single patterns onto template plastic or cardboard; cut out. Using the templates, trace the shapes onto paper; cut out the quantities indicated. Be sure to trace and cut carefully.

2. Pin the paper template to the wrong side of the fabric and cut around the template, leaving an approximate 1/4" seam allowance. Fold the seam allowance over the paper template and secure the fabric at the folds with a few basting stitches. Do not stitch through the paper; catch the fabric only. Carry the thread from 1 fold to the next, and do not remove the paper.

3. After completing 1 hexagon, 6 squares and 6 triangles, whipstitch them together to create a circle.

4. When you have finished piecing all the circles together, remove the basting stitches and paper templates.

I find piecing these blocks addicting. Paper pieced quilt patterns are the perfect project for keeping my hands busy while watching TV or my kids games.

For those of you who are entranced by the modern quilting movement and patchwork quilt sewing techniques, we've put together Modern Quilting Patterns, Projects, and Techniques, a bundle with all our best resources (Modern Patchwork Spring 2013, Quilting Modern, Fresh Quilting, and "Quilting Arts TV" Episode 1101) at a very reasonable price. Availability is limited, so don't wait to order!

P.S. Do you like English paper pieceing? Leave your comment below.

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Quilting Daily Blog, Sewing Techniques

7 thoughts on “How to Sew a Quilt with English Paper Piecing

  1. While I have used templates and have tried freezer paper, I now prefer using Inklingo
    ( It allows you to use your printer to print the shapes directly onto your fabric and gives you a sewing line as well as registration marks to match up for even more accuracy. There are no basting stitches or paper templates to remove. Piecing is suppose to be fun and relaxing so if you prefer EPP then you should continue with it. But if you would like to try another method that is very easy and eliminates a few steps to give you more time to sew, then I would recommend giving Inklingo a try.
    Nancy (just a very satisfied Inklingo customer)

  2. I met Inklingo for the first time a couple of months ago, and recently completed a small project using this method for piecing. I can say it was much easier than basting papers to the back, more fabric efficient as the shapes printed out with very little waste, and my seam lines were straight because there was a printed line to follow. Give it a try! You might like it.

  3. In the past I had started a project with English paper piecing, but found the process frustrating – basting around papers, whipstitches that were never, no matter how I tried, as invisible as I wanted them to be. Then Inklingo came on to the scene and since then I have made numerous hexagon-related projects and many others using a simple running stitch. Having the perfect stitching lines and matching points printed on the back of my fabrics makes it so easy to turn out perfect blocks every time and allows for lots of continuous stitching possibilities and, once they’re sewn together, there are no basting stitches or papers to remove.

  4. Modern patchwork – modern methods. Have you tried Inklingo?

    The Inklingo site has lots more information – but here’s my brief description:

    You don’t have to cut paper patterns or use templates, there’s no basting to do,  you use a running stitch instead of a whip stitch so the stitches DO NOT show AT ALL on the front of the block!! And… last but not least – it is FAR more accurate.

    The cutting and stitching lines are printed on the back of the fabric – which you have ironed onto freezer paper so it will go through the printer. Any printer will do. I prefer to use the 8 1/2″ x 11″ freezer paper you buy in packages at quilt shops – it is a bit heavier and longer lasting and not curved from being on a roll. I can use the same sheets MANY times – just rip the fabric off and iron another piece on.

    But…. if you check out Inklingo and still prefer EPP – Inklingo is still a great choice – you can print your templates on freezer paper or regular paper because there is always the option of printing the templates without the seam allowances – especially for EPPers.

  5. I have tried EPP, and could not take to it. I enjoy hand piecing, and started out making templates, in the Japanese style, ie. a window template, and did several quilts that way. Then I found Inklingo. Oh. My. Word! My method of choice now. For those who love EPP, and I know a blogger who does, and does it brilliantly, I say, well done, but, is not for me. 🙂

  6. I enjoy the paper piecing. I like the crisp edges and easily-matched points. It’s a great grab-and-go project too. I have made a Grandmother’s Flower Garden tablerunner and some other small projects. I’ve especially enjoyed making hexagon baby balls that I embroider the seams with black featherstitching after they’re stuffed; have made nearly a dozen of those. I would definitely not consider a big project like some of my friends have. Life is too short.

    By the way, I trace my templates onto the back of the fabric so I have the stitching lines; they match up so easily. I’m guessing this is similar and faster than the inklingo mentioned in the other comments. I like doing the tracing myself.

  7. I am working on a paperpieced quilt called Pies and Tarts. However, instead of sewing the fabric to the template, I use starch and iron it over the template-so easy-then I whip stitch them together and pull out the template without having to take out any basting,