Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The low down on EPP (yeah you know me)

Interesting development. Having started EPP, pretty much all my non EPP quilty and non quilty friends want to know how it's done. I am busy trying to take no offence that I haven't been asked how my other quilts were made. I'm fine. Really. 

So I'm giving the low down in one post, rather than repeating it endlessly by phone or email. If you know about EPP I suggest you stop reading now and go look at the photos. One thing is for sure, this is going to be the WIP that goes and goes. 

What it is?

English Paper Piecing is a very old fashioned way of hand making quilts by wrapping fabric around a shape, and then sewing all the fabric shapes together. It's pretty easy, but a bit fiddly and very time consuming - but in a good way. I have discovered there are lots of different ways of doing it, each with pros and cons


These are the little shapes you wrap your fabric around. As far as I can tell there are:
- hard plastic shapes
- flexible plastic/rubber shapes
- paper shapes

I am using store bought paper shapes because I'm too lazy to make my own and that would be a BIG hassle. It is really important that your shapes are accurate so that they all fit together. One quirk is that the size of the shape is measured down one length. This means if you put different shapes together, you can easily tell what size to use. 

There are HEAPS of different shaped templates. I am using 2" 60 degree diamonds and hexagons, because they go together and I like the look of them. I have discovered that 2" diamonds make a 7" finished hexagon like the one in my photos. 

Having looked around online, it looks as if the benefit to using the plastic shapes is durability, and the flexible ones seem best as they are easier to remove from the fabric once it is all sewn together.

However paper is cheaper, and my bought shapes are a good quality card that can be reused over and over. I'm pretty happy with them. Also, I got a plastic template with the seam allowance included, for cutting my fabric to the right size for my paper pieces. It's clear, so you can see the fabric underneath in case you want to fussy cut a picture to feature on your piece. 

But - if you're broke you could simply make a template out of cardboard and cut your own pieces from thick paper (there are templates you can print on line) and not spend any money. It's quilting for all budgets!


This is the bit where you wrap the fabric around the little template and baste it so it keeps its shape before you sew the pieces together. It's poos, as Princess would say. I have discovered three techniques:

- hand stitching in the corners - not through the paper - so you can slip your template out after it has been sewn to the other pieces. Pros are that your template is unscathed and can be reused heaps. 
Also, it means your basting never has to be removed, provided you use a light coloured thread that can't be seen from the top of the quilt. Cons - it's the slooooowest method. 

- hand stitching through the paper template. Accordingly to my online research it's faster and best done with bright thread so it is easily seen for removal.  Cons - the basting thread needs to be removed after the pieces are sewn together which I understand can be time consuming. And it's still not the quickest.

- gluing. In my mind, the method with the most potential. Fast and no basting to remove. Cons - get the wrong glue and you'll have a big old sad face. But, as I am SO AWESOME I have done some glue testing for you. Here are the culprits. 

Both available cheaply at your local craft store, unlike the most recommended brand for glue basting online which is eyewateringly expensive for a little glue stick. And to cut a long story short, because I'm getting bored with typing and I'm sure you're getting bored with reading - the UHU glue stick is the winner. 

It's not so sticky when using it - which can be a little frustrating, but it just peels off when it's time to take your paper out. The kids glue on the other hand requires you to wet the paper to dissolve the glue and get it out. So my block was retrievable, but not ideal as I won't be able to use the papers again. I could glue 12 diamonds in under a minute each, which compares very favourably to the five minutes it takes me to baste with thread. And I assume I'll get faster. 

Hints for glue basting - do it on a piece of printer paper so you don't get everything sticky. Baste opposite sides, so the fabric stays square (with thread basting you work around the template). I just zoomed the glue around the edge of the paper, and then put a little extra on the fabric on the corners once the first two sides were folded up. Once all four sides were glued I turned it over right side up and gave the whole thing a good squash down on the table to make sure it was stuck. I had lovely crisp edges. It was all good.  Let the glue dry properly before you sew them up. 

Sewing the pieces together 

This is the bit where you make a pretty quilt. There are heaps of tutorials online about how to whip stitch the pieces together. After you have sewn all the pieces around a shape, you can remove the template. So I can remove the templates from the middle of my hexagon shapes, but not the outside. 

I use (quilting sacrilege) Gutermann polyester thread. It doesn't tangle and is fine enough that most of my stitches are hidden. Don't judge me! And my clover wonder clips hold the pieces together firmly so they align properly - which is harder than you think!

I'm totally bored now!  Did you survive? Here are the next two I've done. 

Linking up to WIP Wednesday, Show n Tell Thursday and Needle and Thread Thursday - links on my party page. Howdy visitors!


Kelly Young said...

okay- those fussy cut diamonds are awesome!! I say that, with the full knowledge that EPP is not for me (i hate hand stitching), so I completely appreciate how tedious those blocks are. They look great!

:) Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

Jen P said...

Your blocks are beautiful. I'm still not sure that I have the patience for EPP but I am coveting your blocks.

Zafeiro Vaxevanidou said...

I love your fabric choices!!! They are a perfect match!

Sue C said...

Oh my, what intricate work. Your blocks are just beautiful. Well done.

Karen said...

Thanks so much for the explanation! Your fabric choices and fussy cutting are gorgeous! :-)

Jen P said...

Ahhhhhh - have had that song stuck in my head since first reading your post. I'm walking around singing it but the worst part is (even worse than my singing) that my workmates are too young to know it.

OPP yeah you know me

snips said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa... back up... glue basting? for real? And here i've been stitching away like mad and not getting anywhere! Bust out the glue sticks!!
Oh and your blocks... awesome! I especially love the the elephant one!
Thanks for the tips and tricks!

kim said...

Your blocks are beautiful!
I wish I knew about glue when I made my son an extra long twin size epp quilt. It would have gone so much faster.
Thanks for the tips on this project :)

Leonie said...

Love your piecing - and love piecing. time consuming but in a good way. have never used glue but... did you know you can now buy water-soluble shapes for this purpose? you leave them in and when you wash your top it dissolves! I know it's coming to NZ but dont know when. You can contact Lisa from Lydia's Treasures and she'll have the info if you're interested!

Vicki said...

What wonderful fussy cutting! And EPP....whoa....your are one patient quilter!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the low down, and especially the glue stick recommendation. I've used regular glue stick before and had a really hard time getting papers out (and subsequently have moved to the eye-wateringly expensive brand!). I'll try your suggested brand if I can find it on this side of the ocean.

Alison said...

Your blocks are gorgeous and your title is so clever. :)

Anonymous said...

More than fabulous! Fantastic fabrics and wonderful piecing!!!
esthersipatchandquilt at yahoo dot com

The Sassy Quilter said...

Awesome! Never thought to use the clover clips. I like the idea of getting store bought templates too. Love the fussy cutting you are doing too.

Kelly Young said...

love these (still), ha! Thank you so much for sharing at Needle and Thread Thursday!

:) Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

hydeeannsews said...

I really do like the doll babies, but those circus diamonds are loads of cute, too! (Is that scraps from henry fish with them?) Looks like you are doing a scrappy mix of patterns. And have quite figured out your method. How many years til you're done?

Karen @ Pieces of Contentment said...

You write with a great sense of humour! From what I've recently discovered, polyester is the best thread for EPP so don't be worried about it. I've just started using (sparingly) a glue pen for basting, I find it much more manageable than the glue stick I initially used and it lasts a long time (and you can buy refills).

Jeana said...

Loooove your blocks! Can you let me know where you got your
Plastic template? I need one of those!