English Paper Piecing

1-hexagon-cushionI’ve been bitten by the EPP bug – for those new to patchwork, this is the technique where fabric shapes are basted onto paper templates, stitched together before removing the paper. It’s the perfect mobile project that you can pick up a do anywhere: the doctor’s waiting room, sports field sideline and airport lounges – all are much better places with a little EPP in hand! By Judy Newman

In my usual style I just jumped in and had a go, and in the process have learned some tips from experts that I thought I would share with you. 


GADGETS: New gadgets are making it easier and quicker.

A round ‘lazy Susan’ style cutting mat, will speed up the process of cutting fabrics, as you can use your rotary cutter then turn the board and cut the next line in super quick time. There are a number of brands and sizes available.

Pre-cut papers mean you can spend more time sewing and less time cutting out paper.

Pre-cut fabrics are also a joy because you can skip the cutting stage and go to basting then stitching.


Instead of basting with thread, a glue pen specially designed for fabric saves even more time. Don’t just grab a glue stick from your stationery store, buy one from your patchwork supplier – you don’t want nasty chemicals affecting your fabric. Sewline make one that works really well.

Clips can be handy to hold your fabric in position when basting.


Fussy cutting – where instead of cutting at random, you position your shape over a motif or specific section of the fabric print – is great fun and can be used to great effect. Mirrors are available so you can see the kaleidoscope effect your fabric will create before you cut.


BASTING: There’s more than one way to baste a hexagon. You can stitch right through the paper (above at left) or you can make a little stitch through the folded fabric seam allowance edges like I have on the hexagon at right in the picture above, saving the papers and allowing you to just pop out the paper when it’s time to remove it.

Good tip: Denise Reynolds from the Victorian Quilters Guild advised me that when folding your fabric across the paper edge, don’t pull it too tightly. You need a little space to be able to pick up the threads on the fabric edge.

THREAD: Like all sewing, match your thread to the darker fabric so it is less visible. As to the actual threads, there is much debate on whether polyester or cotton, a blend. What’s your favourite? Briony Leith from Blue Willow Cottage prefers Wonderfil’s 50 weight Egyptian cotton thread.

STITCHING: When piecing two shapes together, use a knot to start the stitching. Use tiny little whipstitches and aim to have your stitches going across in a straight line, not at an angle. If your stitches are on an angle, they’ll be more visible on the right side. Pick up just a couple of threads from the edge of the fabric.

If you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to give it a go.

Sue Daley has a great video with lots of tips, watch it here

What’s your tip? Share them in our comments.

And here’s my project for your inspiration. I’ve pieced a panel of Liberty hexagons and stitched them onto natural linen to use as a cushion front.

Hexagon Cushion Cover (pictured at top)

Materials needed:

  • Selection of cotton fabrics or pre-cut 1½ inch fabric hexagons (I used ‘1 inch finished’ pre-cut fabrics so they include a ¼ inch seam allowance). Note: the hexagons are measured by the edge, so a 1inch hexagon has sides that are 1inch long.
  • Acrylic 1½ inch hexagon template if cutting your own fabric (you won’t need this if you use pre-cut fabrics)
  • 1 inch hexagon papers
  • Thread, needles, pins
  • Fabric glue stick if using glue basting method
  • 2m medium weight linen fabric.

Front: Cut one linen piece 57.5cm x 48cm, and one piece of lining fabric, same size.

Back: Cut two pieces of linen 48cm x 40cm.

  • Lightweight cotton fabric for Front Lining.
  • Quilting thread
  • Machine thread
  1. Cut 1 ½ inch hexagon shapes from fabric. Cut your own using a 1½ inch acrylic template or buy pre-cut hexagons. *I used pre-cut 1 inch hexagon papers and pre-cut hexagons of Liberty Fabrics from The Strawberry Thief – there are 80 fabric pieces in a pack.
  2. For each hexie, fold ¼ inch seam allowance over a paper hexagon. Baste or glue the seam allowance to hold it in place.
  3. Layout your hexagons and decide on your placement of colours. My cushion has 7 rows of hexagons; 4 rows of 11 hexies with 3 rows of 10 hexies in between.6-stitch-hexies-into-rows-then-stitch-rows-together
  4. Stitch hexies into rows. Once all rows are stitched together stitch the rows together, checking the placement of your rows carefully. When the patchwork piece is complete, press from the back then remove the papers carefully. Baste around the outside edge.
  5. Position the patchwork piece onto the linen Front piece, positioning it in the centre. Pin and baste in place then whipstitch around the edges.
  6. Place the Lining fabric onto the wrong side of the Front piece. You can quilt the Front piece if you want. I chose to work a few rows of outline stitching on the patchwork piece and around the outside edge but you could also add batting and quilt the cushion front.
  7. To assemble the cushion, stitch a 1cm-wide hem on one 48cm edge of both Back pieces. Place cushion Front right side up and place one cushion Back piece with right side facing it, aligning the raw edges and positioning the hemmed edge in the centre. Place the remaining cushion Back over it, aligning raw edges and overlapping the hemmed edges. Stitch a 1.5cm seam around the outside, clip bulk from the seam allowances and then zigzag or overlock the edges. Display your gorgeous hand pieced patchwork on a favourite chair and enjoy.1-hexagon-cushion



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5 thoughts on “English Paper Piecing”

  1. So nice to see EPP that my grandmother taught me. Even if you aren’t starting now I suggest keeping scraps from baby clothes, uniforms and other dresses. My quilt tells my life story and gives me great pleasure.

  2. I remember my mother doing this back in the 40s and 50s. A great way to use up small pieces of materials usually from cast-off clothing. All packed in a special bag ready to take with her. I don’t see why triangles couldn’t be used this way or even square pieces. Using your last method a stronger paper can be used and reused.

  3. Good to see this suggestion. I used this method some years ago using denim from the backs of the legs of my childrens’ jeans which I had saved for many years. Nice snapshot of their childhood in a quilt. Pat Lowry.


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