TUTORIAL - English Paper Piecing {how to begin}

Posted on 14 November 2018

English Paper Piecing Tutorial

Have you ever wanted to attempt English Paper Piecing and didn't know where to start or how? We're here to help! Keep reading for tips, tricks, and how-to!

English Paper Piecing Supply List

First and foremost, you'll want to gather supplies. The first item on the above list is fabric and while you can use anything you have - it helps to have several focal prints. You don't need to fussy cut anything but it can add a much needed focus to your project and also gives you a perfect excuse to use some of your adorable prints!

We carry the 1" paper pieces and acrylic templates, as well as the glue pen in our shop. For thread, we highly recommend Invisafil thread because it's thin enough that it disappears into the fabrics as you sew. Any small snips or scissors will work great.

As you can see, we're using a good mix of focal points and what might be considered as blenders. We will focus on the focal prints going forward. Using the acrylic template, move it around on your fabric to find a motif on your fabric that you'd like to showcase. In this case, we really like the moth. It doesn't fit completely in the white outline of the template (the actual hexagon size; the outer portion is the seam allowance) but we plan to repeat this motif across several hexagons. 

Now that I've figured out which motif to use, I traced my acrylic hexagon with a Frixion pen and will cut it out. You can alternately just use the rotary cutter to cut around the template. I prefer tracing as the template can slide. Repeat as necessary for all hexagons. 

Grabbing my paper pieces and cut fabric pieces, I will now start assembling my hexagons. There are multiple ways to attach the fabric to the paper piece, but I personally prefer glue basting. I use SewLine Glue pens and do a quick swipe across one side of the paper hexagon. Make sure the glue isn't too thin or too thick, and that it doesn't go all the way to the edge of the paper. We want this edge to remain slightly loose for stitching together. 

Fold over that edge of fabric, holding the paper in place. Then repeat the glue and folding steps for each side of the hexagon. It's preferable to go the same direction on each of your hexagon pieces. If going clockwise, continue that direction across all pieces. 

Note: Make sure you pull the fabric taut over the paper piece. 

Next, I'll decide how I want to piece my hexagons together. You can choose to do this randomly or you may prefer a specific layout and order! The options are limitless and there is no wrong way. Gather the remainder of your supplies; thread, needle, scissors, thread conditioner if desired. 

Lubricate your thread to help prevent tangles and knots. We grab our thread with one hand, and hold it in place on the thread conditioner with the other hand. Pull the thread taut over the conditioner until it's entirely coated. We recommend Robot Mom Sews Unicorn Thread Gloss. 

Once you've decided how to assemble your hexagons, you will take two, and place them right sides together, matching the edge you need to stitch together. 

Thread your needle and then make a small knot at the end of your thread. We will work with a single strand of thread while stitching. It's important to know that if you don't want your stitches to show on the frontside, please select a thread color that disappears (coordinates) with your fabric hexagons that you are stitching together. You may have to change thread colors frequently. Another important note: make small, close stitches. Each side of the hexagon measures 1". Ideally, you want 14-18 stitches on each side of the hexagon. While stitching, only go through a few threads of the fabric, as shown above. Don't pierce the paper either! 

When you reach the end of that seam, you can either unfold your hexagons and begin your next piece or tie off your thread and begin removing papers if you're done. 

When it's time to remove the paper pieces, I always spray my pieces with Best Press starch and iron them until they dry, using high steam. This does two things; firstly it helps the hexagons hold their shape when I remove the papers. Secondly, the steam helps release the fabric from the glue. Steam, carefully pull up the fabric edges, remove the paper and fold the edges back down. You can machine or hand appliqué the hexagons to your project or make an entire pouch, pillow or even quilt by hand sewing them all together!

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