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English Paper Piecing: The Portable Quilting Technique

A wall hanging of a fabric owl made using English Paper Piecing
An EPP Owl made on the drive to Scotland

English Paper Piecing (EPP) is a quilting technique that involves folding and securing fabric around a smaller paper/thin card template and hand-stitching the pieces together. The process can be slow and meticulous, requiring patience and attention to detail.

The templates are removed once the shapes are stitched together (and can be re-used), leaving behind a precise and sometimes intricate design.

This technique is often used to create hexagon or diamond designs, but can be used for any shape.

One of the advantages of EPP is that it's portable and can be done anywhere, making it a great option for on-the-go projects or for those who don't have access to a sewing machine. It's also a great way to use up scraps of fabric and can result in stunning, intricate designs.

Preparing the Fabric Patches

There are a few different ways of securing the fabric to the template.

  • Stitch through the template - fold your fabric over the template and use a large running stitch to secure the seam allowance. This will be tough on the fingers if you are using thin card.

  • Stitch the corner folds - start on one corner and fold the fabric to overlap and make a double stitch. Fold the next corner and make another double stitch. Continue like this until you reach the beginning. Best for small shapes.

  • Use fabric glue - secure each side of the fabric to the template using fabric glue. Place a dab of glue on the centre of the back of the fabric to keep the template in place. Place a line of glue on the card away from one edge (to make it easier to stitch) and fold the fabric over. Repeat on the opposite edge. Carry on glueing and folding the fabric over each opposite edge, where there is fabric already stuck to the template place glue on the fabric too.

Stitching the fabric patches

Once you have prepared your fabric patches you will need to stitch them together by hand. There are some different ways to do this. I use a quilting clip to hold the patches together while I am stitching. Take a look at the pictures, I have stitched half of the hexagon patches to show you how it looks.

  • Whip stitch - place the patches right sides together and starting in one corner, I make a securing stitch and then stitch with a ~1/8" gap catching a little fabric on each patch. When I get to the opposite end, I make a securing stitch and then add the next patch in the pattern. I find my stitches show using this method.

  • Flat stitching - lay the patches next to each other and place the clip to hold them together at the seam to be stitched. Secure the corner with a couple of stitches and, on the back, stitch through one seam allowance to the other keeping the patches flat. If you are using fabric glue keep it away form the edges to make it easier to stitch. I find my stitches don't show with this technique.

  • Ladder Stitch - I have also tried using a ladder stitch on the EPP seam. I find this works well for me and I use this stitch a lot when binding a quilt. Again I secure the corner but this time bring the needle through the inside of the fabric at the edge of one patch for ~1/8" before bringing the needle out and taking it through to the the opposite patch an repeating the stitch.

EPP is portable and can be stitched anywhere. I stitched the owl in the wall hanging in the car on the way to Scotland!

It can also be used to create very intricate designs. Fabric can be fussy cut to create beautiful scenes or precise, geometric patterns.

EPP is a very mindful way of stitching, it's relaxing and a great way to unwind. It is also a great way to keep your hands busy while enjoying some downtime in front of the TV.

Do you EPP?

Happy Stitching!


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