Hi there! Welcome to English Paper Piecing — EPP!
EPP is a traditional method of piecing fabric together using paper to stabilize it. Using paper pieces allows you to sew a variety of shapes with precision and accuracy, that would otherwise be very difficult (or impossible) to sew together neatly.
The most basic steps of EPP are: Cut, Baste, Sew.
Let’s talk about what’s involved in each step and I’ll also tell you more about the items in our EPP Starter Kits as we go. At the end, I’ll also share some of my favorite resources so you can get more detailed instructions and some inspiration for your projects. I’m no expert in EPP but I do love hand sewing and using my favorite fabric scraps. For me, EPP is the perfect way to blend these two loves together!
The first step is cutting your fabrics to the shape you’re using. EPP papers are cut to the finished size, so your fabrics need to be cut larger to account for a seam allowance. The best way to do this quickly and accurately is to use an acrylic template. Our kits include either (50) 1” or 1 1/2” hexagon papers and a 1” or 1 1/2” hexagon acrylic template with seam allowances. Hexagons are great for beginners because the angles are easy to baste and sew. The 1 1/2” ones are a bit on the larger side too, which I thought would be a good option for new EPP-ers.
*If you’re fussy cutting, you may want to use a marking pen (an air erasable pen or heat erasable Frixion pen is included in our kits) to get exactly the part of your print you want onto the center of your EPP piece.
Some additional tools you may want to consider getting eventually are a rotating cutting mat (I have this one in the 8x8 inch size but have been eyeing this one too). I also like to use this 28mm rotary cutter for cutting small pieces. These additional notions can make the cutting step more efficient.
Other than scraps, precut fabrics like charm packs (5” squares), mini charm packs (2 1/2” squares), or even jelly roll strips ( 2 1/2” x WOF strips) can be great for EPP since you get a variety of prints in small quantities.
There are two methods for basting in EPP - thread and glue. I personally prefer glue basting because it’s really fast and easy, which is my preference in sewing and - let’s be real - in life in general.
- Place your paper in the center of the wrong side of your fabric with equal seam allowances all around (you can just eyeball it). If you’d like, you can add a little circle of glue in the middle of the paper before putting it on the fabric to prevent the paper from shifting while you’re basting.
Next, apply a small strip of glue along one side of the hexagon paper. Try to avoidgetting the glue too close to the edge where the paper and fabric meet because that can make it hard to remove the paper later and your needle will have to go through glue when you’re sewing.
- Continue around the hexagon, adhering the fabric to each edge until all edges are securely basted.
I’ve noticed that a lot of quilters seem to be very loyal to their thread - especially in the cotton vs. polyester debate. (I am not one of those quilters.) In our kits we’ve included cotton and polyester (or just cotton if you ordered from our second round of kits) threads that are both great for EPP. This way you can try each one and decide which you prefer because there are definite advantages to both.
If you use cotton thread, you may appreciate some thread gloss which is used to prevent the thread from getting tangled. It smells lovely and also helps the thread glide smoothly through your fabric. We have two brands of thread gloss in the shop from two awesome small businesses: Ponderosa Creative and Sew Fine. We even have our own custom Heron Blend from Ponderosa Creative that is really lovely (if you ordered from our second round of kits you already got this, but if not, we have plenty in the shop)!
Level Up Your EPP
As you continue to practice your paper piecing, you may want to start trying new sizes and shapes or combining shapes in your blocks. If you want a new challenge but still prefer working from a kit, check out our selection of EPP kits from Tales of Cloth. They include paper pieces, templates, and a printed pattern.
EPP with Tula Pink — This 3 part series on EPP is my favorite tutorial I’ve found so far. Tula Pink has 15+ years of experience with EPP and in these videos, she walks you through cutting (including fussy cutting and using templates), basting, “need-to-have” and “nice-to-have” tools, and sewing. She includes lots of great tips and pointers to get you on track with the proper techniques (and hide your mistakes)!
English Paper Piecing Tutorial - The Sue Daley Sewline Glue Pen Method — Sue Daley, creator of the Sewline glue pen, is an experienced EPP quilter and teacher. This tutorial is a really great one to get started making your hexagons as she walks you through cutting, basting, and sewing. Plus, she shows how to use the glue pen that’s included in our kits.
How to do English Paper Piecing Hexagon Tutorial — Melanie Ham has a really fun YouTube channel where she shares a lot of sewing tips, techniques and projects. In this tutorial she uses 1 1/2” hexagons like those in our kits and also discusses some of the tools that I have included in the kits and/or recommended in this post.
One question I’ve been asked is — what do you do with EPP blocks once you make them? If you’re not intending to make an entire quilt by hand, you might have this question too. Here are a few inspiration projects for using your hexies:
Rachel Hauser of Stitched in Color shares this beautiful pillow cover she made:
Heidi of Fabric Mutt made an EPP project case using her hexies here:
The master of modern EPP (in my opinion) Jodi of Tales of Cloth has a lot of great hexie and EPP ideas, patterns, and supplies on her website but I thought this simple 2” hexagon quilt would be perfect for a beginner.
I hope this post has given you the information and resources you need to get started with English paper piecing. Please feel free to reach out to me if there’s anything I can help you with!
(Updated May 22, 2022)