Make gorgeous quilted projects with English paper piecing

english paper piecing
How to get started with English paper piecingnoHut Photography - Getty Images

If you're new to needlework and sewing and looking for a project to get started, we have the perfect one for you: English paper piecing.

English paper piecing is a craft which uses pieces of fabric backed on paper to build up beautiful quilt-effect projects on cushions, purses and blankets.

It's a really easy sewing technique which can be done without a sewing machine – making it perfect for beginner sewers.

Alice Caroline is a sewing expert who creates patterns, kits and fabric bundles using Liberty fabrics. There's very little she doesn't know about English paper piecing – and here she talks us through it so you can get started with this beautiful quilting technique.

How do you do English paper piecing?

Put simply, English paper piecing is the process of backing fabric onto a piece of paper. This reinforces the fabric and makes it really easy to neatly stitch the pieces together to create a quilted effect, without having to use a sewing machine.

To begin, you need to print off or draw a template on white paper – the most common shape used as a template is a hexagon. You can choose whatever size template you like, but a 15cm-wide hexagon is a good place to start.

You then cut out a piece of fabric the shape of the template, leaving a quarter of an inch hem around the edge. Fold the hem around the hexagon and glue it down.

Repeat this process for however many hexagons you need for the size of your project. Once you have all your hexagons, you can begin to stitch them together. To do this, pin two hexagons together, right sides facing. Whip stitch (also known as overcast stitch) across one of the edges, keeping the stitches as small as possible. When you open up the two hexagons, they should look almost seamlessly attached.

Repeat this process until all your hexagons are attached to each other. Pull the paper out from inside the hexagons, so only the fabric remains. The result is a beautiful quilt of contrasting fabrics.

What makes English paper piecing so good for beginners?

English paper piecing is a great way to get into needlework or quilting. This is because not only is the technique very simple, but it also requires very little equipment – all you need is some fabric, paper and a needle and thread.

As Alice says: "This is a brilliant starter project if you don't already sew, as you don't need a sewing machine.

"It's also a very transportable project – you can take your hexagons of paper and fabric with you anywhere and stitch them together on the move.

"It's a really mindful activity and soon you'll be able to do it while watching TV in the evening."

Best English paper piecing projects for beginners

Alice recommends beginning with a small project and working up to something larger like a quilt for your home.

She says: "Start with a project like a purse or a cushion – then you have something beautiful and useful which is manageable for beginners."

Starting with a smaller project is also a great way to try the craft on the budget, or use up scraps of fabrics left over from other sewing patterns.

Alice says: "I never throw fabric away and English paper piecing is a great way to use up the scraps from my other projects. Small pieces make really effective shapes so no scrap is too small!"

Alice also has a range of beautiful English paper piecing and quilting kits in gorgeous Liberty fabrics, which allow you to make the most of your fabric without wasting any.

If you're a beginner, Alice thinks a kit is a great way to get into English paper piecing. She says: "If you haven't got much time or don't have much sewing experience, a kit which comes with clear instructions and the fabric cut to size is a great way to get into the craft."

How should I pick my fabric for English paper piecing?

Lots of Alice's patterns and kits use Liberty fabrics, and many of her kits feature in Liberty's store and on its website. Her favourite print is the Betsy, which you'll spot in a lot of her work.

Alice loves working with Liberty fabric. She says: "Liberty fabric is really fine, so folds round the paper so easily. It behaves really well which makes it perfect for quilting and dressmaking."

But if Liberty fabrics aren't your style or out of your budget, Alice recommends beginning with your favourite colour, or a print you really like, and building your English paper piecing project from there.

Don't worry too much about how well all the fabrics you use match each other – Alice says part of the beauty of English paper piecing is having lots of contrasting prints in the final quilt.

Have you tried English paper piecing? Share your quilted creations with us by tagging us in your pictures on Instagram!

You Might Also Like