English Paper Piecing – best enjoyed when making small projects.

We have five members in my professional study club, and I have previously written about two of the quilts I made for these friends. Continuing with quilts for my other study club friends (who actually don’t retire for a few more years), I needed to come up with two additional designs.

The parents of one of the other friends is originally from England. So, I decided that her wall quilt would be a good opportunity to try English Paper Piecing.

EPP involves placing a paper template onto the wrong side of the fabric, folding the fabric over the paper template, tacking the fabric to the template with water soluble glue and then hand stitching the various shapes together. It’s almost like a fabric form of Tetris!

The New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece by [Katja Marek]

Five years ago, while attending the Minnesota Quilt Show, I purchased a book “The New Hexagon – 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece” by Katja Marek. The beautiful blocks really caught my eye and since it was 52 blocks, I originally thought I would just try to make one each week for a year. Well, unfortunately, other projects always came up and the book sat on my shelf unopened.

Then, last year, while browsing various quilting sites on-line, I saw a posting by the same author about a Millefiore Quilt Along. This quilt along was completed a few years earlier, and the pictures were stunning.

Because the technique involves hand stitching the pieces together, I thought that a wall quilt would be a good place to start to learn the technique. This project would not be too large and intimidating, and would be easily carried in a bag to work on when I was not at home.

Since this particular friend has beautiful flower gardens at her home, I started out by doing some simple flowers. Many of my quilting friends will already know that hexagon flowers are commonly made using paper piecing.

Unbeknownst to my friend, I was stitching the flower pieces together when we were working in the same office on several occasions. I’m not sure she realized after receiving the quilt that I had been sewing the pieces together right in front of her!!

Once I had a few hexagon flowers sewn, I needed to figure out the rest of the quilt design. To personalize the quilt for my friend, I played around with creating my own paper piecing designs. She is an avid biker, so with the help of her husband, I found a photo of the type of bike she rides. Using Electric Quilts, I created the paper piecing design to make a bike for the center of the quilt.

With the bike designed, I next needed to figure out what to do for the background of the quilt. After playing around with a couple ideas, I decided to make it look like the bike was on a trail. The flowers would then be stitched into groupings on either side of the bike.

Hand sewing the pieces of the bike together was time consuming. And, the background was going to be larger pieces with straight seams. Thus, I settled for machine sewing the rest of the background around the bike and the flowers. After machine quilting, I added some hand embroidered stems for the flowers and some ribbons.

I enjoyed learning this new technique, it is much more “portable” than machine quilting.

See the source image

After this project was completed, I thought about what paper piecing project I could try next. Since the millefiori quilt idea really stuck with me. I spent some time designing my own take on a Millefiori quilt. Early November, with two weeks off of work and I started out with great intention of creating a full sized quilt using English Paper Piecing.

However, I quickly realized that I am not a fan of hand piecing quilts. The amount of time needed to cut out the paper templates, glue them to the fabric and then hand sew the pieces together was overwhelming. And, I really wondered how durable my hand stitching would be. I certainly didn’t want to spend hours and hours sewing together a quilt that would easily pull apart at the seams.

Thus after finishing one section of the quilt (the center section in my hand drawing), I decided that the rest of this quilt would be sewn by machine.

There will be many difficult seam junctions to line up when sewing this design by machine. But, I am much happier with the way the rest of the quilt is coming together (more on that in a couple weeks). And, while I enjoyed learning English Paper Piecing, I am also happy that I learned that this is not something I will use for designing larger quilts.

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