English Paper Piecing is a traditional quilting technique dating back at least to 1813. Unlike Paper Foundation Piecing, this method is done entirely by hand.
Although it does take time, English Paper Piecing makes it much easier to match the corners and angles of some shapes. Patterns involving hexagons, diamonds, stars or baby-blocks are the best candidates. Since working with these shapes can otherwise be awkward, this can be the method of choice for accurate, convenient construction. Block patterns that work well with English Paper Piecing include Grandmother's Flower Garden, Apple Core, Garden Star and both Round and Oval Mariner's Compass. As these blocks require some skills to assemble, English Paper Piecing is a technique best suited for intermediate and seasoned quilters.
This piecing technique involves pinning each quilt piece to a corresponding paper pattern piece. The paper strengthens the fabric and acts as a sewing guide. Pieces are then stitched together to form patterns. When assembly is complete, the paper may be torn away to reduce bulk. Ironically, some historical quilts made in this manner still contain paper to this day. It is thought the paper provided an additional layer of insulation and warmth.
Benefits of English Paper Piecing
There are two considerable benefits to using this technique. The most obvious plus is convenient piecing of awkward shapes. Some shapes, such as hexagons and diamonds, can be tricky to piece accurately, and the smallest misalignment in one area throws off an entire pattern. English Paper Piecing both bolsters your fabric and provides an accurate sewing edge so that alignment is consistently on the mark.
The second benefit of English Paper Piecing is the convenience of portability. Quilts made in this fashion can be constructed in modular units. Projects are easily transportable since little equipment is needed beyond fabric pieces, needle, thread and a thimble. Portable projects are more likely to be completed quickly; yet another bonus.
- adequate amounts of fabric
How to do English Paper Piecing
Regardless of the shapes you are working up, the steps of English Paper Piecing remain the same.
- Place a paper pattern piece on the fabric's reverse side.
Tips for Best Results
English Paper Piecing does take some time since the technique is done entirely by hand. There are a few tricks you should know to save time and yield the best results, however.
- Use a different pair of scissors for your paper and fabric pieces.
For best results, cut material with scissors reserved for that purpose,
otherwise the edge will dull quickly.