Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Aylin shares The Magic of EPP - a 2013 FAL Tutorial

she can quilt

Today, Aylin, who blogs at ayliN - Nilya is here to explain English Paper Piecing to us. Aylin's EPP work, and all her quilting, is stunning, and such an inspiration to me - do check out her blog if you don't already know her or if you want to join in her EPP quilt along which she is starting soon. I am sure you will be inspired by her lovely tutorial to give EPP a try and if you already EPP, you will find her tips and tricks helpful.

Welcome to the magic of EPP. I'm Aylin and Leanne introduced me so warmly, that I would love to thank her for inviting me to be a guest on her blog.

English Paper Piecing (EPP) is an old traditional technique to sew parts together by hand where the parts are reinforced with paper-templates.

Why do we sew by hand in times of modern machines? What's the magic about EPP? Well, I can tell you why I love EPP. This is the most relaxing way of sewing to me. You can take your project or parts of it with you where ever you go and do some stitches. Even if you only sew one seam, it is worth to take it with you. I do EPP sometimes in the car while waiting for my daughter picking her up from basketball exercises. It is a good way to kill the time.

And you see your project growing slowly and getting more and more beautiful. Maybe it's even a kind of therapy or meditation - it's just you and your little project in your hand. I find myself pausing from time to time and looking on my sewing or even stroking it. Well, seams as if I am a sewing nerd :).

If you have done some EPP projects, this is not new to you, but if not, I will tell you roughly the steps of making EPP. If you are starting totally new, I would recommend hexies or pentagons, because here the angles are wider and easier to sew. The main focus of this post will be to find a pattern for an EPP project.


So if you know what pattern you are going to sew, you need the templates for the parts of your pattern. When I started my fist EPP-project, I used thicker paper and drew my templates on it and cut them out. This is not the way you should do it, only if you have very random shapes. That was before I saw any quilting books or the quilting-world-wide-web. Then I discovered, that you can buy paper templates as precuts which is a very comfortable, but maybe a bit expensive if your project is a bigger one. You can also use plastic templates which you can reuse a lot of times, but I have only seen them as hexies. I have to confess, that I never had a chance to try the plastic templates yet. I just print my templates on normal paper and cut them out. 

There are pros and cons for each of those methods and you have to find your own best way. I use only self printed paper templates, because they give me more flexibility in time and size, and it is much cheaper with the basting technique I use. I only glue my parts (next step). The precut templates made of paper are easy to use, but you cannot get all shapes in all sizes and you have to know what you exactly need. The plastic ones are great, if you make lots of projects and reuse those templates again and again, but you are fixed with your size and shape. 

If you want to print your own templates you can find them for example here on incompetech. You can vary the angles of triangles or diamonds on this page until you find the right template.

Fabric Cutting
So if you have your templates, it´s time to look for fabrics. EPP is predestined for fussy cutting, but of course fussy cutting is not necessary. If you like to fussy cut your parts, you should cut one of each template on a harder plastic so you can use them as master-templates. You can also make a frame while cutting your template out of a bigger piece of paper. This little Tula-Creature-Mugrug is an example of how to fussy cut. The head of the frog is made of two hexies, so I needed two motifs of the fabric to make this one head. Fussy cutting is a beautiful way of showing motifs, but it is also a fabric consuming way. Just beware and think before you cut into you precious fabrics ;-).

Just lay your plastic template on your fabric to find your right motif and cut it out - don´t forget the seam allowance.

Cutting the fabrics for EPP is done in very different ways by different people. Some people precut squares for hexies, triangles or diamonds, and some cut strips. I have to tell you that I am very sloppy with cutting fabrics for EPP. I always take more than 1/4 Inch for the seam allowance so it will not matter too much if my fabric is not always parallel to the template. I cut the fabric in my hand with scissors or with a rotary cutter on a mat (sometimes with a ruler). I just use what's handy.

Wrapping the Fabric around the Template
Now you have your templates and your fabrics cut. The next step is to wrap the fabric around your template. There are three methods to do so. Well, I have tried a fourth one with my first EPP Project, but that was because I didn't know better :). I pinned all six sides of the hexies with needles and so I was always pierced by the needles while sewing together. Of course this is nothing you should do. It hurts, I can tell you.

The easiest and quickest way of basting the fabric around the template is to glue it. This is the way I prefer, because this is the part of EPP I don´t like to much. Of course you can only use this method with paper templates and you have to buy the glue pen. I use the Sewline Fabric Glue Pen, but there are others too. You can remove the templates afterwords, but the templates cannot be used again.

Another method is to sew through the fabric and paper template (see the two photos below on the left). Here you have to remove the thread before you can remove the templates. The last method is to sew only the corners of your folded fabric without going through the templates (see the photos below on the right). This is the only method you can use with plastic templates. The advantage of this method is that you can remove the templates without removing the thread.

For all three methods, be careful not to pull the fabric so tight over the template edges that the paper bends or warps. You still need some space to sew the parts together. It can help to use clips to fix the folded fabric around the template - some recommend paper clips or Clover Wonder Clips. I haven´t used them yet, because I glue my parts.

Whatever method you use, you should fold the fabric always in the same direction around your template. This makes it easier to sew the parts together and to get neat points. This is very important, when you have pointed angles. In addition it looks nice from the back.

It´s up to you, whether or not you finish basting all your parts before starting sewing the parts together. Usually that´s not me :). I prepare some parts and sew them together and start with the next parts. Let me show you some steps of my ferris wheel pillows.

Sewing the parts together
Now it´s time to sew your parts together. Take two parts together right side facing the right side at the seam you want them to sew together.

When you sew your parts together, you have to note some things:

Use a colour for your thread that is the most unobtrusive - of course this depends on your fabric choice. If you have only dark fabrics you should use a dark thread. I use off-white colors with lighter projects and darker grey for darker projects. Of course you can change the color of the thread for every seam.

Cotton, polyester or silk? This is a philosophy and I will not solve this question. I use polyester for my EPP, because I think it´s stronger. Some say silk goes better through the fabric, while others only use cotton.

Avoid knots and stitch some stitches at the same place for fixing the thread at the start and do so from time to time and at the end of a seam line. Start the same way at the next template

Use a thin needle.

Sew small stitches (there are different methods to sew the seams).

Don´t sew through the paper templates when joining the parts. If you do, your stitches will be to big once the paper is removed and you will see them later on the right side. It also makes the templates harder to remove.

Corrections: If you see that your next template will not fit in neatly, you can manipulate it if you have paper templates. Just pull or push or fold the fabric in the right direction. Of course you can only manipulate differences up to 1/8 inch or a little more.

Here you can see the one stitch I made bigger for you with orange thread.

Putting the parts together
There are also different ways to put your parts together. You can finish one motif (e.g. a flower) after the other and then bring them together at the end or you can sew one motif to the next and see your project growing. Some sew EPP in lines and some sew it in motifs. Just find your way. It depends on my mood and the time I have for a project. If I have enough time I sew in motifs. If it has to be quicker, I sew in lines. Sewing in lines will be faster, but sewing in motifs satisfies me most.

Removing Templates

The templates will be removed only when the parts are surrounded by other parts, or when you have finished the whole project. I remove only some parts and iron them before removing the next ones so the seams are fixed neatly.


Now to quilt your Project. I prefer to quilt my EPP´s because I am afraid that a seam could open. This has never actually happened to me but I am very careful. You should avoid quilting in the seams with EPP. When I make pillows from EPP I always use fusible interface to fix it all. And I wash my EPP´s only by hand.

Tutorials for Sewing EPP

You can find lots of tutorials for all the steps of EPP and this tutorial should only show you a quick overview.  Now lets start finding our EPP-Pattern for the next Project. I promise you, if you go through your everyday life you will see so many EPP-Patterns. Get inspired by your flickr and internet friends. My daughter used to go to a Painting Artist School and they had a great teacher and that´s her philosophy: copy or cloning doesn't exist, you only get inspired by the work of others.

The floor of a shop.
And to tell the truth, you see so many beautiful and stunning projects in the internet, that your brain is full of all these impressions so that you cannot always distinguish or remember where you saw each idea....... Just go for it! Of course it is nice to mention the person who inspired you if you can remember.

There are lots of books showing you how to make EPP - two of them I would love to introduce to you:


The one of them is from Hilde Klatt and Liesel Niesner called "Liesels Sechsecken-Technik". Ok, you will say: now it is crazy recommending to us a book in German, but there are so many useful pictures it might be helpful, even if you don´t understand the text. Have a look in this book:

And the other book is the one from Tacha Bruecher called "hexa go-go". She is a quilt friend of mine living in the same city as I do and an absolute EPP maniac. Her book is lovely and she gives lots of tips sewing hexies.

Shapes for EPP
To show you the range of shapes you usually use in EPP, I put them together for you. So this is nothing new, it's geometry and it's a good reason to listen to maths in school, that´s what I tell my daughter ;-). Be aware as I don´t want confuse you. On the next picture you see all shapes being in a 6 pointed diamond. You always use the same side length or a multiple of it. In my drawings you will find (0.5), 1, and 2 inches. All the drawings are made on prints from  incompetech.

For making an equilateral pentagon you need a compass and a set square.


With these shapes you can make lots of patterns.

This is my recent EPP-long-term-proect: My Flower Garden. The connecting fabric will be grey and there will be all kinds of flower shapes to become an irregular flower garden.

 Here you can see the shapes I used:

My latest EPP Project was a pillow for Swappen auf Deutsch 3. I saw this cover of a book and I knew I wanted to make it with fabric.

First I had to find my motif, because this Pictures gives you so many possibilities. In this case it is easier to copy it in back and white, so the origin colours will not influence you so much.

Then I had to think about the templates I needed here. These are not the usual 6  (60°) or 8 (40°) Point Diamonds. 5 Point Diamonds have an angle of 72° and you cannot find them easily to buy as precuts, but you can find them on incompetec, where you can vary the angle. Also I needed 10 Point Diamonds with 36°. I can tell you, this is a project I really had to pull and fold my shapes because it isn´t that easy to get so many points together with different angles. 

Doesn't this look cosy? Sitting on the sofa covered with lovely quilts doing some EPP - that´s magic ;-).

Funny, but my pillow for Swappen auf Deutsch 2 was also a EPP pillow. I sat at the table and started to draw an pattern. Later I realized, that I must have been inspired by a picture taken by Brioni-flossyblossy I saw on flickr, but I really had forgotten it. That´s why my pattern was totally EPP and hers was EPP appliquéd on fabric.

As you can see my hexies here are not real hexies with equalateral sides. That´s a problem with drawing on squared paper. You will move your pen on lines or going from one corner to the other and that brings different shapes as if you make your pattern for example on hexie paper. 

In this case I drew my master templates on squared paper while increasing my layout in the size I wished and copied the master template. As you can see I had really pointed angles which is not a real beginner project. But if you know me a bit, you know that I am not afraid of anything in piecing. What´s the worst could happen? It doesn't work - so what? So you try again or leave it, that´s it. Nobody is going to laugh at you or even punish you. It´s my quality time and I decide what to do with it. It´s not failure, just the braveness, that I tried it!

Here are some other drawings of mine. Maybe I will make them into quilts or pillows some time. Feel free to get inspired ;-).

So dear readers of this post, if you really got to this point you made me so happy - thank you for staying tuned. Maybe I can see some of your EPP projects soon - even if you already started, this might be the reason to go on and finish it. I will start a EPP-QAL at the beginning of February, and you are invited to come and join - watch for news on my blog ayliN-Nilya!

Here more of of my EPP finishes...

Thank you AylinIf you have not yet linked up your Q4 FAL finishes, please click here to go to the linky to add one link for each of your qualifying finishes. If you are working on one last finish, you can link up your other finishes now, so you don't miss the deadline for linking - midnight M.S.T. January 8, 2014.