21 July 2014

English Paper Piecing Basics: Week 1 // A Little History, Supplies + A Giveaway!

Hello, and welcome to our first week on the basics of English Paper Piecing! I'm hoping to cover a range of topics to help you with your English paper pieced projects. There will be step-by-step tutorials, inspirational ideas, free patterns and more, I'll be posting each Monday for the next 10 weeks or so - I have to get organised and sort out the finale schedule ;-) so I do hope you'll join along with me. English paper piecing (EPP) has become oh so popular again in recent years, which I for one am really happy about! It seems so often in quilting and life in general nowadays, to speed everything up. Don't get me wrong there are lots of times when I want to do just that, and if there are new tools or methods to make the lives of us quilters easier, then I'm all for it! Also I know not everyone has the luxury of endless sewing hours but I love the contrast of hand sewing and watching a quilt project grow and develop over time; enjoying the slower pace and process. 

So, What Is English Paper Piecing?

Well, in short - it's an age old technique that is used to make quilts by hand. Fabric is basted over a pre-cut paper template and then the templates are sewn together to form a quilt. Sounds simple, yeh?

When you think of English Paper Piecing; sometimes known as 'mosaic patchwork', hexagon quilts usually spring to mind, largely because It's the most popular and  predominantly used shape throughout the history of the craft. The hexagon pattern originated in England during the 1700's and became a popular design in both Europe and the U.S. during the last quarter of the 18th century - when all thing's English became highly fashionable. Apparently this is how the name 'English' Paper Piecing was coined, it was a marketing stunt! The most recognisable of all EPP patterns; the Grandmother's Flower Garden rose to popularity in the 1920s and 1930's most likely because it can be made easily with scraps, which was so important during the Depression of that time. You can often still find antique EPP quilts with the paper templates intact, which were recycled from books and documents. 

What Materials Do I Need?

So the first couple of posts in our summer series is about getting started, for which you need materials! The great thing about EPP is that you really don't need much to get going. Above are my personal favourite's and tools I use for EPP but by no means is this a definitive list - swap and change to adapt to your preferences and sewing kit you have on hand.

First up you'll need some fabric to chop into! There is a vast supply of 100% cotton quilting fabrics available to us now, so take your pick! When choosing your selection keep in mind the importance of value; you'll need a mix or light and dark fabrics to really make your quilt projects stand out. If you want to try fussy-cutting, look for fabrics with a good repeating pattern (if you have no idea what I'm talking about - don't worry fussy-cutting will be covered later in the series!). You may also want to pre-wash your fabric before starting to test for colour-fastness and allow for shrinkage. 

My personal choice of needle is a Gold Eye Sharps. Size 11. though remember that the thicker the thread the thicker the needle required, so keep that in mind depending on your thread choice. 

I use Aurifil 50wt thread for hand sewing, it's a lovely fine strand so it glides through the fabrics well. However I have heard from the lovely Florence; an avid EPP'er, that she has recently tried Superior's Bottom Line, a strong polyester thread which apparently rarely tangles - so I'm hoping to test that out soon! 

Small scissors are vital for snipping threads as you work through a project. You'll also need some paper scissor's if you choose to make your own paper shapes. 

I like to use my rotary cutter to cut fabric shapes ready for basting, I find the smaller 25mm size is ideal. Though you can use fabric scissors for cutting if you prefer. And a cutting mat of course!

You may also want to try out the Sewline glue pen, which has set the quilting world abuzz since it's release. You can use this instead of hand-sewing the shapes (we'll talk more about that next week), so it really speeds up the process and allows you to crack on with the fun sewing - sewing the shapes together of course! 

And last but by no means least, pre-cut paper piecing templates. We sell a large range of these at Sew and Quilt, and they are certainly my preferred method. I have made my own shapes in the past which was fine, but I soon realised it took up so.much.time. and not fun crafting time - cutting time! Being a leftie, it really wasn't an enjoyable part. I also know when I'm using the pre-cut paper pieces they are die-cut so accuracy is spot on, which is critical for EPP.

How Do They Measure?

Pre-cut paper pieces are sold in various sizes to suit your design needs. Geometric shapes are measured by measuring one of the equal sides. This hexagon below is the 1" size.  

With the curved paper pieces we measure these slightly differently, they are measured across the diameter. The apple core shape below is the 4" size, and the clamshell is the 3" size. 

Almost any shape can be used for EPP, a wide variety of shapes in various sizes will fit together just like a jigsaw so the opportunities for creating individual pieces of patchwork is unlimited! You can finish a quilt made entirely of interlocking shapes or combine completed blocks with needle-turn appliqué to create endless possibilities for design. We'll go through step-by-step ways on finishing EPP quilts later in the series. 

So I figured what better way can I kick off the new EPP summer series than to offer a giveaway for some English Paper Piecing goodies! This is a fantastic starter pack of supplies from my shop Sew and Quilt. One lucky winner will receive a selection of five fat quarters, three packs of Paper Pieces and some needles to get sewing straight away! Oh and a Sewline glue pen!


How To Enter

For your chance of winning leave me a comment on this post telling me one (or more) things you would like me to cover during the series / or what EPP project you are working on.

For additional entries please share this on any of your favourite social media sites; Facebook / Twitter with an additional comment for every share. 

You can also find me on Instagram @messyjesse1 where I will be offering an additional entry.

Winner will be announced on the blog next Monday 28th July 2014. Competition closes Midnight Sunday 20th July. International entries welcome. Next week is all about the humble Hexagon and getting started! Hope you can join me! Have a great week. 

20 July 2014

Farmer's Wife Quilt: Week 123

Just in time for this week's Farmer's Wife Quilt blocks! I'm trying to keep up with my target for two blocks a week ;-) Today's blocks are #43 Garden Path and #44 Gentleman's Fancy. 
This is my first go at a Y-seam in all my year's of quilting! I've avoided it like the plague as it's always scared me! It wouldn't have been too bad had I not needed to un-pick the whole thing after realising I had pieced it together wrong; seem's to be a familiar story with this quilt… #44 came together easily, I've already done one of these blocks but I wanted to re-do it because I've gone off it. That's the problem when you're doing a quilt over such a long time period I guess. Hope fully there won't be too much repeating needed! Have a relaxing Sunday friends. xo

16 July 2014

50 States Stitching Project: Week 2

Hello! I've just finished this one in the nick of time for this week's installment of 50 States Stitching quilt project. This week is Pennsylvania, so we've been given a fun Liberty Bell motif to stitch up. The great thing about this project (aside from making this great quilt) is learning something new each week, I find myself googling the design to find out more. I didn't realise the bell was cast at the Whitechapel Foundry in East London, but the clapper ball cracked the bell on it's first use!? eek! I wonder if the bell maker back in London got a telling off!? 

I've always wanted to visit Philadelphia ever since I worked for Anthropologie in London a few years back - the headquarters were based in Philly so some of my friends in the office would visit quite often. Of course, it always sounded amazing - very cool with tons of quirky antique shops, flea markets, nice places to eat and historic architecture. Some day ... but for now this motif will have to suffice! xo

14 July 2014

Scrappy English Paper Pieced Stars + Upcoming EPP Summer Series

Carrying on with Americana theme from last week, I thought these scrappy red stars looked quite patriotic sitting on my dining table, don't you think? I've been working on these for a couple of evenings as a change from my other hand sewing WIP's. I happened to come across this Seven Sister's quilt top by Martha, over at Q Is For Quilter blog recently that I instantly fell in love with so I set about copying her exactly! ;-) I'm a big fan of Martha's work; like myself, she has a real passion for antique quilt patterns and fabrics. She makes the most beautiful quilts using traditional templates and true authentic vintage and antique prints, which I adore. Can't go wrong in my book.

I've used the Sewline glue pen method for the last couple of EPP projects I've done, and my gosh it's quick! After cutting the fabrics to use with the 1-1/4" diamond shapes they were all basted in no time at all.This is going to be a table centre or wall hanging using the layout below, adding in some white diamonds to join the stars together. It's so enjoyable to be doing a smaller EPP project, I seem to love taking on giant projects which take forever and a day to complete! 

In other EPP news, I'm in the midst of planning a run of blog posts for a 'Summer Series on English Paper Piecing'. The summer is a great time to play with EPP so I thought I would give a low down covering errything! From a little history, the basics; hexagons, diamonds, finishing EPP projects, patterns and more. Starting possibly 21st July if all goes to plan. Please drop me a comment below if there is anything specific you'd like me to cover and I will add it in ;-)

12 July 2014

Farmer's Wife Quilt: Week 122

Yes you read that right, I'm into my 122'nd week of being a Farmer's Wife! I actually bothered to count back from when I started. Yikes. If that's not a motivator to get my butt in gear I'm not sure what is!? This week are blocks; #40 Friendship Block / #42 Fruit Basket.

Since I'm now making the blocks in number order (as apposed to picking and choosing random one's previously) it's making it a lot easier to know where I am, next week I'll have a count up and see how many I've done! I love these two above, I used my first ever civil war print in the fruit basket block, it's so pretty! Notice the flowers all facing the same direction ;-) that was no accident… Hope you're all having a fun weekend. xo

9 July 2014

50 States Stitching Project: Week 1

Hi friends, happy Wednesday! I've started a new long term project last week and I'm so excited to share with you today! My family and friends in real life know I love all things American! and can talk endlessly about the many, many different places I want to visit! You only have to take a look at my Pinterest board 'places to see' and realise it's actually just the U.S. I want to see, ha! So of course I love all things Americana - those patriotic red, white and blue colour's always seem to draw me in. 

When I saw that Mollie from Wild Olive had started the 50 States Stitching Club it didn't take much thought other than to jump straight in and join! It's a one-year project that will honour each of the states in the union, while paying homage to state embroidery patterns, American quilts, and kitschy state souvenirs all in the delightfully cute Wild Olive style; so expect a lot of cute smiley faces ;-)  

Each week we get a little embroidery pattern, called a 'teeny weeny'. With a short blurb about that particular state, and why the said embroidery pattern has been chosen - which I completely love, as I get to learn a little fact about the different state's each week. And yes, I have already tried to casually bring into conversion the fact that Delaware was once described by Thomas Jefferson as a diamond, 'small but valuable'. lol.

At the end of the 52 weeks of sewing we should end up with a complete set of state star blocks, and alternating stripe blocks to make a quilt. What also caught my eye with this pattern is the use of English Paper Piecing techniques! Yay! Once you have embroidered the motif it's then mounted on a pentagon shape, with equilateral triangles for the points to form a star. The only snag with the pattern for me is the EPP shapes don't follow a standard size so I can't use my Paper Pieces shapes for them, doh! the 2" size is too big and the 1" is too small... so I had to cut out my own, which I didn't realise takes for-ev-er, and isn't always very accurate I came to learn. Oh how I've spoiled myself with pre-cuts! Mollie has suggested a decorate running stitch to applique the star to the block but I've gone a little more minimalist using an invisible slip-stitch. I've chosen to keep mine with a patriotic feel using traditional colour's, and Kona White for the stars - it just felt right!

I'll be sharing along my progress each week here on the blog to help keep me on track and motivate me to stick with it. If you fancy taking the plunge and joining in the fun you can sign up here. Next week Philadelphia! Hope you can stop by. xo