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English Paper Piecing Tutorial

To wrap up Applique and Handwork month here at Quilting Daily, we wanted to touch one of our favorite techniques – English Paper Piecing! Here is a tutorial if you’re just getting started with EPP, as well as a printable project PDF for a lovely table topper. And make sure you read to the very end. We’ve highlighted a number of beautiful English Paper Piecing patterns, including a charming flag quilt that you may want to dig into for the Fourth of July. Happy paper piecing!

I love having a portable hand project handy. I like something that fits in a neat little bag that I can keep close when I’m watching TV or something that travels easily. English paper piecing (EPP) is just the thing. I have tried working with one shape, but I find that I lose interest quickly. Larger hexagons made up of different smaller shapes work best for me. I love seeing how the different fabrics and colors play together to create one common shape. To add extra interest to my designs, I have worked with charm squares (5″ squares). This has forced me to get creative with my fabric selection for each hexagon block since I’m limited to how the different shapes fit on the 5″ square.

To create the table topper pictured, make each of the seven different blocks using the templates available on this printable project PDF.

Join the blocks and A’s as shown in the quilt assembly diagram. Refer to instructions below.

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1 charm pack
1/8 yard red/white dot
Paper for templates
Removable fabric glue stick
Applique or sharp needle
50-wt. cotton or silk thread
Batting 18″ x 18″
Backing fabric 18″ x 18″

Typically, there are two templates for each shape – one is used to cut the paper templates and the other is used to cut the fabric and includes the seam allowance. There are also plastic or heavy paper precut templates that can be purchased for many EPP shapes.  

When you make your templates, be sure they are accurately cut to ensure all the patches will fit together nicely. Check the size of each to make sure they’re consistent. Make two templates for each patch, one with a seam allowance and one without.

Cut patches using the template with seam allowance added.

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(1) Center the paper template without the seam allowance on the wrong side of the pre-cut fabric patch.

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(2) There are several methods for wrapping the fabric around the paper template, but I prefer to use a removable fabric glue stick.

(3) The fabric stays in place and the paper template is easily removed after the patches are sewn together. The fabric can also be basted by hand or, if using freezer paper as a template, the fabric can be pressed to the shiny side to hold in place. If basting by hand, the thread will need to be removed at a later time.

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(4) When basting, baste in the same direction for all similar shapes. Leave all the tails hanging out. This will make tails nest when sewing patches together.

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(5) I like a 50-weight cotton thread or silk thread to sew my patches together. Arrange two patches, right sides together. Insert the needle a short distance away from the corner where you will start sewing and bring the needle out at the corner. This way the knot won’t be at the corner. Whipstitch the patches together, catching a thread of each of the folded edges.

(6) You’ll feel the paper templates inside, but do not stitch through them. Continue sewing until you reach the end of the patch, take an extra stitch at the corner and knot the thread a short distance away from the corner.

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(7) Continue adding patches in this manner. For a set-in seam, sew two patches together on one seam. When you get to the corner, reposition the patches to sew the next seam.

(8) The paper or plastic templates are flexible and bend easily for repositioning the patches. Because they were all basted in the same direction, the tails all go in the same direction, eliminating bulk.

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(9) After all the patches and blocks have been sewn together, remove all of the paper templates. Layer the backing, batting and quilt top. Baste. Quilt to within a 1/4″ from all of the outside edges. Trim the batting even with the quilt top.

(10) Trim the backing 1/4″ beyond the edges of the quilt top. To finish the quilt, fold the edges of the backing under 1/4″ (even with the top). Whipstitch the backing to the front, tucking in any tails if necessary.

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That’s all there is to it! Try it out for yourself—you’ll be pleased with the results! We want to know, do you enjoy English Paper Piecing? If so, what do you love about it?

*Featured in the header image is Sharon Tucker’s True North Quilt Pattern.

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