I hope you had a wonderful sewing weekend, I am doing some hexagon quilting (English paper piecing, or EPP for short) for a project this weekend. My mother taught me how to do English paper piecing, and we’ve made a few blankets for our family since we were kids, all hand-sewn with love!!!
What is English Paper Piecing?
English Paper Piecing, or EPP for short, is a traditional quilting hand-sewing technique. Because EPP is done by hand, it is an excellent on-the-go project.
Prior to sewing them into intricate designs, fabric pieces are stabilized with paper using glue or thread to hold their shapes. It works best for shapes like hexagons that have many set-in corners and don’t have a lot of long, straight sides.
Once the quilt top is complete, the papers are removed, and the quilt can be finished in the same manner as any other quilt.
If you like to sew hexagon flower blocks quickly, we have a machine-sewn approach that is ideal for individuals who prefer to sew by machine.
English Paper Piecing Supplies
To start EPP, you’ll need 5 important tools:
Since EPP is used for quilting, it is best to use a fabric made for quilting. But you could also use leftover fabric scraps from a previous project.
For EPP, the fabric pieces should be 1/4 inch or 3/8 inch bigger on all sides than the papers. However, your seam allowance doesn’t have to be perfect because the template will be an accurate guide.
Most EPP papers are made of card stock. When you sew them together, they give the fabric its shape.
You can buy precut templates, or you can make your own. Quilt shops sell a lot of precut paper templates in various shapes and sizes.
If you want to make your own templates, trace the pattern multiple copies on sturdy paper and cut it out carefully and accurately.
Alternatively, you can use die-cut or paper-punched hexagon templates with manila file folders.
In the past, EPP templates were hand-cut from old magazines, wallpaper, junk mail cards, old greeting cards, and even newspapers.
You can use scissors or a rotary cutter to cut the fabric pieces. If you are making the paper templates like I did, you will need another pair of scissors to cut the paper.
Using fabric shears to cut paper will quickly dull the blades, making it harder to cut the fabric accurately. So, make sure you have different pairs of scissors for fabric and paper.
English paper piecing needles should be small and sharp with a good-sized eye that makes it easy to thread the needle. A good length for an EPP needle is about 1-1/4 inches.
A standard polyester thread is sufficient for EPP because it is inexpensive and works well.
Some Other Helpful Tools
They aren’t necessary, but they help make sewing a lot easier.
- Glue is a relatively new tool in the English paper piecing tool kit. Using a glue stick to baste your EPP shapes ensures better shape accuracy when sewing. It also makes you more efficient because it speeds up the basting process significantly!
- A thimble is a protective cover worn over one of your fingers or thumb to prevent injuries from pricking your finger with hand-sewing needles. A thimble is especially useful when basting your EPP with thread and sewing thick fabrics that require more force to push the needle through.
- Beeswax reduces static and tangling while also strengthening your thread. Watch the video to learn how to wax thread. This technique is frequently used on hand-sewing projects.
English Paper Piecing Tutorials
First, prepare the paper templates and fabrics of your choice. As previously stated, the fabric pieces should be 1/4 inch or 3/8 inch larger on all sides than the papers.
Place a template on the wrong side of a piece of fabric, then fold the seam allowance over one edge. Attach the fabric pieces to the templates with either sewing or glue.
Sewing – Start with a knot on the right side of the fabric and baste the seam allowance. Sew through the fabric and paper template using 1/4″ stitches.
Glue – Draw a very thin line of glue on the back of your paper piece, about 1/8″ from the edge. The glue line should be dense enough for the fabric to pick it up but not so dense that it will be difficult to sew later on.
Press down on the tacked edge with your fingers. Fold the seam allowance of the next edge over the template as you reach a corner and continue sewing or taping. Repeat this process on all edges.
Place the edges of the two fabric-covered templates right sides together.
Use single or double thread and begin sewing with tiny whip stitches about 1/8″ from one corner, picking up a thread from the two folds of fabric. You will feel the paper templates with your needle, but do not poke through them.
Repeat the stitching until you have completed the block. Remove the paper template after attaching a piece’s edges to adjacent pieces by removing the basting threads and templates from the back.
Press the block to make the edges crisp. Followed by sewing it into the intended project. I have created a pin cushion project from this hexagon quilt, feel free go there and have a look!
I sewed some mini hexagon flower quilt blocks using this English Paper Piecing technique.
Or you can sew the hexagons into one of our latest sewing patterns, a fabric book cover.
- Start sewing and share your completed handmade on Facebook and/or Instagram. Remember to tag us, @craftpassion, so that we are able to see them.
- Pin it to Pinterest for future To-Sew List
- Share with your sewing groups for a sew-along event.
- Browse more free sewing patterns and home decor projects to make.