Welcome to EPP Week day 1, the begining of a series of posts all about English Paper Piecing! Today, we're going to start with the basics-- the English Paper Piecing supplies you'll need to get started, plus a few extra supplies to make the process more fun.
Precut Paper Pieces
The idea of English Paper Piecing is you are covering a paper shape with fabric, sewing the shapes together, then removing the fabric while the fabric shape stays intact. Hexagons are arguably the most popular shape, but others include diamonds, triangles, squares, pentagons, trapezoids, and other geometric shapes. You can buy packs of precut paper hexies for only a few dollars, and if you're careful, they can be reused once or twice. The benefit of precut packs is each piece will be consistently the same size, making accurate sewing easy. Our favorite are 1" hexagons, which means each of the 6 sides is 1" long.
Hexagon Cutting Template
While you can freehand cut fabric roughly larger than your paper piece (or use mini charms,) a template the size of your paper piece with an added seam allowance lets you cut your fabric with the least amount of waste. The added seam allowance also insures your fabric cut will be big enough to fit around your paper piece, with a tidy reverse side that will allow the finished project to lie nice and flat.
While this may seem like a "duh" entry, the kind of scissors you use can make EPP much easier. Thin, pointy-tipped fabric scissors make cutting clean edges on small pieces a breeze, and is easy to pack in a project bag so you'll always have them handy. We love these Tula Pink 6" Straight Scissors for their durability and general beauty!
Whether you want to glue baste or thread baste, you'll need thread for stitching your paper pieces together. Aurifil 50 weight is the perfect thread for EPP because it's thin enough to almost disappear into seams but is still strong. It's a good idea to use thread that generally matches most of your fabrics in tone-- white thread for light fabrics, medium shades for medium fabrics, black or dark gray for dark fabrics. Personally, I use a light-medium fleshy pink just because I enjoy looking at it while I stitch and I mostly use light-medium colored fabrics.
For sewing EPP shapes together, applique needles work the best. They're slightly thinner and more flexible than the average sewing needle, making it easier to go through only the fabric and not the paper. These Clover needles are a great balance between the flexibility of applique needles and the ease of regular sharps, but you can also use even thinner milliners needles.
These endlessly useful little clips are great to have on hand for a variety of sewing projects, but they make sewing EPP shapes together a snap. Neither piece will budge, allowing you to sew a strong, accurate seam that will be virtually invisible on the right side.
Fabric Glue Pen
You'll never meet a sweeter, more forgiving glue-- this light colored, tacky pen allows fabric to stick to itself or the paper directly and never allows ripping, tearing, or peeling. Use little dabs from the glue pen to adhere fabric around the paper piece, and if you want to redo or start over, gently pull fabric apart or off paper piece. The glue will keep the paper piece adhered for as long as it needs to (I've had glue-basted unsewn hexies sit in hiberation for months and they're still stuck together just as well as day 1) but always comes apart easily. It's my favorite form of basting because it's quick, easy to redo if you mess up, and requires no removal after sewing.
Beyond the Basics
Fussy Cut Finder
Fussy cutting is the process of choosing and cutting a selected motif from a fabric, like a single flower or animal. This finder works in conjunction with the 1" Hexagon template and makes fussy cutting fast, easy, and fun. Stay tuned for a post coming soon on how to use this tool!
Perfect for use with EPP templates, this fabric pen has light blue ink with a smooth, rolling ceramic tip. It never drags on the fabric and can be used with the lightest touch-- and it disappears with water!
Template Sets and Patterns
If you come to love EPP, there's some amazing patterns out there (such as Smitten, pictured here.) The patterns often have corresponding paper pieces and templates, plus assembly instructions to make gorgeous, impressive quilts and more.
Be sure to come back soon for our next post on English Paper Piecing!
Check out all our EPP supplies here