I took Katie Jones‘s English paper-piecing class at QuiltCon because, for some reason, I had never learned how to do it. I did a lot of hand-stitching as a child, but the theme of my quilting renaissance has been EFFICIENCY, and therefore I’ve pretty much stuck with my machine. Katie’s class was great; I learned a lot about the basics of EPP, but left Austin figuring that there were still a lot of tips and tricks out there.
So because I am a noob and not yet in any position to share time-tested English paper piecing hacks, I turned to the Internet. I pleaded with RST followers on social media to let me in on the shortcuts or tools they use to make the piecing process simpler and faster, and I got back SO MANY great responses. (Thank you!) I can’t wait to try some of these out and report back, and hopefully you might find these useful too. Here they are, organized by piecing step:
- Many piecers (including Katie Jones) swear by Paper Pieces for pre-cut EPP templates. They’re relatively inexpensive; you can get 25 2″ hexies for under $4, and you can reuse them several times if you’re careful. Plus they save you huge amounts of time.
- Others swear by their die-cutters (Angela says that she has an Accuquilt die that cuts fabric and template AT THE SAME TIME — what?!?) and save cardstock from junk mail to cut their own. I also received several votes for the Fiskars punches.
- Also, an interesting suggestion from Teresa Coates: “My tip would be using the 2-1/2″ precut [fabric] squares for hexies. And don’t bother trimming down to 1/4″ seam allowance; just leave the square as is.” Less cutting: a trick I can definitely get behind!
- Leave a long tail when you begin basting rather than knotting your thread. It’ll save time and you don’t need to knot it anyway.
- For thread basting, Amanda recommends a couple of Wonder Clips to hold the first two sides while she secures the corner.
- Countless readers like to glue baste their paper pieces. Most popular: a school glue stick and the Sewline glue pen. Katie did not recommend glue basting because it makes the paper templates harder to remove (and increases the chance they’ll tear and can’t be used again), but YMMV.
- Chain basting is a faster and more efficient way to get it done. Baste all shapes for a block at once (and lay them out and take pictures) so that you don’t have to keep going back and forth and breaking your mojo.
- Amanda recommends Quilting on the Go by Jessica Alexandrakis for helpful basting and joining techniques! (Bonus: Jessica’s website is also a treasure trove of EPP resources.)
- This is probably obvious to everyone, but as a kid I always sewed with double thickness of thread and thus grew up assuming that’s how everyone does it. WRONG. Katie was very sweet not to laugh at me. Single it is!
- Mollie says that whipstitch is a faster option for joining (and the most popular, yes?), but she actually uses a tiny running stitch for better-looking seams.
- Lots of folks wrote in to proclaim the benefits of Thread Heaven and beeswax as thread conditioners. These keep the thread from slipping out of the needle, reduce the likelihood of knots, and reinforce the thread to extend the lifespan of the seam.
- Katie J’s pro tip: To make sure that your shapes don’t get distorted, wait until after each shape is completely “sewn in” with seams on all sides before you remove the paper. All external shapes should retain the paper until after they’re appliqued on.
Thanks to all who participated and sent in awesome suggestions! What have we missed? Let us know in comments!