Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Week 5, English Paper Piecing

This image of an antique quilt is from
English Paper Piecing is a patchwork technique steeped in history and is still used extensively by modern quilters. It's a particularly useful technique for creating one patch quilts (quilt tops made from one tessellating shape) and blocks with many inset or “y” seams.

This is part of a corner block from the Jane Stickle quilt.

Many quilters like sewing over paper or cardboard templates as the project can be carried along and sewn by hand. Piecing a complex shape with straight sides using the English Paper Piecing method is pretty easy and as long as your templates are cut to the right size, the pieces will always fit together. You don’t really need to worry about accurate ¼ “ seams either.

This block was made using The Sometimes Crafter excellent Tutorial, you can download templates there too.
Rather than reinvent the wheel and try to put everything in my own words I recommend you head over to for a definitive guide on English Paper Piecing. They sell pre made templates from lightweight card. These templates are also available from your local quilt store and online.

You can also print out your own templates by using websites such as Alternatively you can draft templates using graph paper and trace the shapes onto card. I've uploaded a couple of graph papers here to get you started:

By fussy cutting the fabric for each shape you can create secondary patterns with just one piece of fabric. Be warned... This can be a lot of fun and very addictive!

The cardboard templates can be reused many times so don’t throw them away. Be sure to sort all your different sizes and label them as a slight change in length of a side means your shape will not tessellate properly. Take care when cutting out your templates too, try and cut in the middle of a printed line and allow for the extra bulk when you are tracing templates.

Once you've made your shape you can either applique it onto a square of your background material or keep adding hexagons, diamonds etc till you have enough to cover the area of your block. It is possible to create a square edge by trimming shapes around the edges, make sure you remember to leave a seam allowance!

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