Thursday, January 22, 2015

Crafty Thursdays: English Paper Piecing with Barbara Graham

Author Barbara Graham is here today for Crafty Thursdays to tell us how to do English Paper Piecing and to tell us about her new book, Murder by Gravity. And we're giving away three paper piecing kits so you have all the supplies to try out this wonderful technique at home. Just comment below to enter (US Residents only).

English Paper Piecing, often abbreviated as EPP, is a simple technique for piecing quilt blocks by hand. Few supplies are needed—a needle, a neutral colored thread like gray or beige, scraps of fabric and paper templates. The templates can be most geometric shapes like triangles, squares and diamonds but the one most of us are familiar with are hexagons, sometimes referred to as “hexies”. The pattern known as Grandmother’s Flower Garden is made of hexes.

Templates are available for sale in quilt shops, on the internet and as free printable downloads (these require you to cut them apart as accurately as possible. The size of the hexagon is the measured length of one edge, not the size across the middle and range from ¼ inch to several inches.

General instructions: Place a paper template against the wrong side of the fabric piece and secure with a straight pin on the front. Smooth one fabric edge over the paper to the back and baste it into place. Continue around the shape, folding the fabric smoothly over the template and basting as you go.

For hexagons smaller than 1 inch, it is possible to baste a fabric square into shape taking only stitches in the corners on the back side. The best way to handle larger hexagons is to cut a fabric hexagon about a quarter inch larger on all sides than the paper and actually stitch through the fabric and the paper using long stitches. This is a great way to use up odd colors of thread you may have.

Most frequently, the hexagons are stitched into a flower shape with a central hexagon of one color surrounded by six hexagons of another color. To stitch the hexagons together, hold two basted hexagons, one center + one petal with right sides facing and whip stitch along one edge. The stitches should be somewhat horizontal and close together enough and tight enough to be stable when you open the twosie. Add the next hexagon and stitch along the center edge and then fold again and stitch along the edge it shares with the first petal. Continue until the center is surrounded. Then, and only then, you can remove the paper from the center hexagon. Remember to remove basting threads before trying to extract the paper.

Always leave the papers in the outside edge pieces until they are sewn to other pieces or until they are stitched onto the background fabric. It is the same process for anything from a small coaster or pincushion to a king sized quilt. 

Once stitched down to the background, you can make a small slit in the fabric under the back side of the hexagon and using tweezers, pull the paper out. 

If you need extra help, there are great tutorial videos available for free on the Internet. 

Murder by Gravity: The Coffin Quilt is the 6th “Quilted Mystery” featuring Tennessee Sheriff Tony Abernathy and his wife Theo, a quilt shop owner. Snow before Halloween shocks the residents of tiny Park County. More upsetting is the private plane passenger who reportedly jumped, without a parachute, into the most remote spot in the county. Problems increase with a stabbing and the theft of a priceless quilt. As the sheriff, Tony hates Halloween. Even so, he never expected a valuable coffin, and the body inside, to go missing.

Don't forget to comment to be entered for the English Paper Piecing Kit. US Residents only. 


  1. EPP is creative and wonderful It is wonderful to be artistic and creative. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. Thanks for including instructions with your page on paper piecing on a quilt. I've been wanting to attempt this but was nervous to do so. Since I am a lover of cozy mysteries I will also be sure to add your book to my to be read list.

  3. This is so fun! I've never tried a quilting project before, and this one looks hard to screw up. Not that I won't find a way, but at least the deck seems stacked in my favor on this one. Thank you!

  4. It is possible to screw up but you'll have to work at it. The most likely problems would be having your stitches too loose or not getting the pieces lines up. Remember, it's fine to have a bit of a mess because no one will ever see it.

  5. I love the look of this beautiful technique and that quilt is amazing!

  6. Our winner is Robin! Look for an e-mail shortly.

  7. Thanks Deborah for notifying me. It was a welcome surprise to get your e-mail on this cold and dreary day here in Ohio.