HOW TO ENGLISH PAPER PIECE

I have no idea who showed me how to English paper piece hexagons and diamonds. But the years have slid by and I really enjoy this technique. It is portable, easy, and looks great when completed.

What research I have done on this technique is that it started in England (well that certainly is obvious) in the 1700’s. The technique showed up in America in the early 1800’s. I have not done enough research that may or may not show this technique in other countries.

Gather supplies:

Paper (I use scrap paper that is on hand, such as discarded mail)

Fabric

Pattern in shape and size desired

Thread

Scissors

Easy directions:

I found this slide show about English paper piecing to be very easy to follow and the photos much better than anything I had in my own personal collection for directions.

If you prefer YouTube, this is a nice presentation.

This previous post has a PDF pattern for the hexagon I use in most of my quilts using this technique.

How To English Paper Piece
Flowers & Tumblers Quilt

This is not a hard technique, but it is time consuming.

Here are my steps and tips FOR HOW TO DO ENGLISH PAPER PIECING:

  • Get my supplies together.
  • Make the template from something sturdy (I cut up the plastic lids from ice cream containers for this). Draw around it on the paper for the amount of hexagons (or diamonds) you want to do. Personally, I start with 2 or 3 sheets of paper and cut more as needed. I find I can use the same paper shapes 3 times before they are no longer stiff. Cut carefully and accurately.
Papers used for English paper pieced hexagons
  • I do not cut out hexagon (or diamond) shapes from fabric. I do cut squares or rectangles big enough to cover the shape plus be folded over to the back. My reasoning is that I can trim off the extra fabric from the back of each shape – I cannot make extra if I don’t allow enough room. I learned the hard way that not centering already cut fabric means there is not enough fabric on back to prevent fraying or just flat out not enough fabric.
  • Take one paper shape and one fabric piece. Pin the paper to the wrong side of the fabric. Baste all around the shape. You will want the fabric to fit snug and the edges sharp. Do not bend the paper shape or have the fabric sag away from the paper.
  • Starting with the center and one petal, whip stitch along one side. Add another petal and sew the two seams. Do this all the way around until you have one complete “flower”.

One completed English paper pieced flower.

AND FINALLY:

  • Do not remove the paper yet. When you remove the paper will depend on what you do with the sewn shapes. The basted edge holds the raw edges firmly so they can be sewn together to the next row of hexagons. Or sewn down to a fabric block by applique.
  • When you decide to remove the paper, simply take out the basting stitches and pull out the paper. As long as it is still stiff and the edges untorn, it can be reused in another “petal”.
More English paper pieced flowers.

Other places for information:

I found several other links about English Paper Piecing. We all learn differently, so these might be helpful too.

The History of English Paper Piecing | MQG Community (themodernquiltguild.com)

My Summer English Paper Piecing project | Diary of a Quilter – a quilt blog

Discover Vintage America | Covering Quilts (discoverypub.com)

Dear Readers,

Have fun exploring the world of English paper piecing. You may be one of those quilters who becomes “addicted” to this technique. Even if you are not one who becomes “addicted”, at least you will have learned how to do English Paper Piecing. Happy Quilting.

PLEASE NOTE: 
ALL PHOTOS AND WRITTEN CONTENT ARE MY OWN UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

GRANDMA'S FLOWER GARDEN

Grandma’s Flower Garden – Many quilters like to do patterns that are vintage or traditional. Some like to use vintage or reproduction fabrics. That is what makes this small quilt fun – it is all 1930’s fabrics.

GRANDMA'S FLOWER GARDEN

All the fabric in this quilt is from feed sacks or 1930’s fabric my grandma gave me. My grandpa worked at the feed mill and he would watch for several bags that matched. He would buy the feed in those matching bags and bring it home for grandma to make clothing for the kids.

My mom told us many times that she would not do anything on the playground at school that might show her underwear because it was stamped with “flour” or “sugar”.

But what if I don’t have the real stuff to use in a project like this you ask? The first place I suggest is looking on Ebay or Etsy for the “real” stuff. If you can’t find something that suits, then try Missouri Star Quilt Company at https://www.missouriquiltco.com/shop/browse/30s-fabric. They have many reproduction fabrics that look similar to ones Grandma had.

I hand pieced the flowers using the English paper method. The flowers were then hand appliqued down to the background in 1997 – 98.

It was machine quilted by MG in 1998. I finally got it bound and made a tag for it in 1999.

Finished size is 30″ square.

GRANDMA'S FLOWER GARDEN backing.
The backing is a plain white feed sack with the brand logo on it.

The above picture is of the backing.

Grandma’s Flower Garden was a gift to a family member.

https://indianaquilter40.com/flowers-tumblers-or-scraps-are-taking-over-my-world-part-3/

https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2019/07/grandmas-flower-garden-or-take-along.html

TUMBLING BLOCKS (English paper pieced)

I love to English paper piece hexagons (see: https://indianaquilter40.com/flowers-tumblers-or-scraps-are-taking-over-my-world-part-1/ ) but not so much diamond shapes as in this Tumbling Block quilt that I English paper pieced in 1990-91.  It was an experiment, and I chose three colors to make the diamonds and a floral fabric that coordinated for the background. 

I found that the diamonds were harder to baste together than I thought they would be (probably because of the sharp points of the diamonds), plus the more I worked on it, the less I liked my color choices.

Tumbling block quilt

I sewed all the blocks together into the “diamond” shape above and then hand appliqued that down to the background. The more I worked on this project, the less I liked it but I was determined to finish it.  I added the black border to frame it.

For me, the lesson learned with this quilt was cut the fabric shapes bigger than the recommended amount because it made basting the fabric to the paper easier.

In the last few years, I have simply started cutting squares that I can fit comfortably over the paper pattern. Once they are basted, I trim off the extra. For me there is less frustration even if there is a little bit of wasted fabric.

Clip art of Tumbling Blocks
Another idea for setting the Tumbling Block pattern.

It’s alright to admit that there are some quilt patterns we don’t like or want to do again. If you listen in on discussions among quilters, you will hear comments like, “I never want to make that pattern again” or “I don’t know what I was thinking when I started that quilt” etc. That being said, if you like any pattern, please make it. If not, recycle the fabric into another project or give it away. There are just too many quilt ideas out there to struggle with one we really do not like or want to do.

The same can be said for the color choices we all make. If the colors are what you want for that quilt – go for it honey!!!! Do not listen to those who say that you should start over in such and such colors. This is the quilt world, and you can make the quilt in any color scheme that you want.


So this Tumbling Block top got dropped into a box of UFO’s (unfinished objects) and did not reappear until 2002.

I did some really simple hand quilting on it in 2002, bound it with bias tape, and gave to a local church for their yearly auction. I was glad to see it go to a new home.

Finished size was 30″ x 50″.

Cotton fabrics and poly batting.

A side note is that I have been working on another paper pieced quilt using diamond shapes. My grandma left me several boxes of 1930 and 1940 feed sacks and other cotton fabrics. I decided to try a different setting and have gone with flowers.

More info about the Tumbling Block pattern:

For machine piecing: https://www.quilting-tidbits.com/tumbling-block-tutorial.html

For hand piecing: English Paper Piecing Instructions for Using Diamonds and http://www.lovepatchworkandquilting.com/quilt-tutorials/quilt-school-english-paper-piecing-diamonds


FLOWERS & TUMBLERS (or scraps are taking over my world) part 3

Quilt with tumblers, paper pieced flowers and flying geese border

Background of Flowers & Tumblers quilt:
FLOWERS & TUMBLERS (or scraps are taking over my world) part 3 – I have been trying to use only scraps to make quilts during 2019 and am making a dent in the two boxes of scraps. For this quilt I was inspired by a row quilt that I hand quilted for a customer this past summer and thought that some sort of row or section quilt would be fun. See previous posts:

https://indianaquilter40.com/flowers-tumblers-or-scraps-are-taking-over-my-world-part-1/

https://indianaquilter40.com/flowers-tumblers-or-scraps-are-taking-over-my-world-part-2/

Once the sections of tumblers and flowers were complete, I added 2.5″ strips of lightweight denim sashing around the sections. Now to come up with a border.

What to do about a final border? I decided on Flying Geese. So maybe I should change the name of the quilt from Flowers & Tumblers….No, I like the name. Anyway,   I wanted big geese so started with 9″ squares that I will mark down the center diagonally and then sew the foot width from each side of the line.  Those will be cut apart on the pencil line, turned and sewn together as geese.  The advantage of this method is that there is no stretchy side to deal with and they can be made any size.

I sewed 20 big geese blocks, but I wasn’t thinking about how each goose is 2 blocks so after sewing the geese together, I realized they were way too big (um….ever heard of measure twice and cut once?) so I just went thru the scrap bin again and pulled out scraps to cut 5″ squares that sewn together as geese will make 9.5″ geese (the correct width for this project).

How to make the flying geese for the border

I cut 5″ squares of white or cream muslin and cut 5″ squares of various scraps. Just FYI – making geese this way allows you to make the geese any size you want for any project.

Stack of muslin square and stack of scrap squares.
5″ squares

I drew a line from corner to corner on the light colored squares with a pencil. This line will allow me to sew a straight line beside it and use the marked line as the cutting line for a half square triangle (HST).

Square with pencil mark diagonally from corner to corner.
Sewing along beside the pencil mark in previous photo.

Below are the sewn blocks all ready to be cut apart and be ironed. I assembly line sew the geese all one way along the drawn line, and then sew them the other way. Here are the long line of blocks all sewn on both sides of the line.

5" blocks sewn on both sides of the drawn line.

Once I have sewn on both sides of the drawn line, then I cut the geese apart so they look like below. Now they are ready to be cut on the drawn line and ironed.

Half square triangles before being cut apart.

See below that the blocks are ironed and stacked by twos so I can match them and complete the “geese”.

Ironed half square triangles.

Here are two sewn geese. They are ironed and ready to go into a row.

2 matching HST sewn together and ironed.
The 2 matching HST sewn together and ironed. Now to sew all the geese into rows.

I sewed the geese together in pairs of 2, then those into pairs of 4, etc until I had the border the length I wanted.

Pile of "geese" ready to sew together into a row of "geese"

And that is how I make HST geese. It is time consumptive and I have no doubt others have methods that work just as well for them, but this is what works for me.

I came up a few geese short so I added white fabric to the borders to take up that space. I just wanted to be done with this quilt and move on to another one. Who says that the geese actually have to go all the way around the quilt border anyway?

Here is the PDF pattern for the exact size tumbler and hexagon I used:

I did some of this quilt while on a quilt retreat in northern Maine, see here for post about that:

https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2019/09/returned-from-trip-and-ready-to-go-again.html


What about the other Flying Geese blocks that were too big?


As for the blocks that are now complete but too big for this project, they are in the shoe box with the left over tumblers from this quilt.  I believe the next scrap quilt is already started.  I am starting to visualize a whole bunch of section quilts to use up the scraps.

I am already planning……

So what happens once the scraps are under control? At that point, I get to make a planned quilt.  I have an idea for one that will be Christmas themed. On hand, I have a black and white Paris themed fabric and if I combine it with red and green Christmas prints, I can make a quilt dedicated to my trip to Paris at Christmas in 1985.  My mind is already wandering to other possibilities……..



FLOWERS & TUMBLERS – Part 2

This quilt, Flowers & Tumblers, was started in July 2019 with the English paper pieced flowers. Here is the continuing saga with part 2.

My goal for this year is to make a dent in the scraps bins which have overflowed, plus figure out fun and different ways to use up leftover pieces from other quilts that I have made.

For part 1 of this quilt, go here.

Two flower sections completed laying flat.
Two completed flower sections

After completing the two sections of English pieced flowers, I did the tumbler sections. Many of the tumbler pieces were leftovers from another tumbler project (https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2017/07/tumblers-galore.html) that I made in 2017. Once the leftovers were sewn together, I had to cut more anyway. Well, a little more dent in the scrap bins.

The photo below is of two completed tumbler sections and one almost complete flower section. The sashing is not between them yet. I am liking how the sections look together. The leftover green rick rack makes a great vine.

Flowers & Tumblers sections

PDF pattern for flowers and tumblers. The flower will take 7 hexagons (1 center and 6 petals):

The top is together with light weight denim between and around the outside of the five sections. I like the look so far. I will complete it with Flying Geese blocks for the outside border. The top currently measures 72″ x 80″ and my goal is 92″ square.

Flowers & Tumblers quilt top finished.
This used lots of scraps !!!

There will be one more post on the final section of borders of Flying Geese in the next few days.

I encourage you to go through your scraps and just have fun combining them together. I really enjoyed doing this quilt in sections instead of blocks or the same repeating pattern. It has a totally different look than scrap quilts I have done in the past. I think this method may become addictive…

These are the posts on the previous blog about this quilt, please see:

https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2019/07/grandmas-flower-garden-or-take-along.html

https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2019/09/returned-from-trip-and-ready-to-go-again.html