How to Enjoy English Paper Piecing Without Making 1,000 Patches

All Points Patchwork
[Today's guest post is from author, quilter and crafter Diane Gilleland. She will be visiting the store this Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm for an English Paper Piecing demonstration and we hope to see you there! More info here.]

English paper piecing (or EPP for short) is one of my favorite patchwork techniques. It's meditative, easy, and sewn entirely by hand. It's highly portable, lends itself to amazing design possibilities, and turns out perfectly-matched points every time.

You may be familiar with EPP in the form of those beautiful hexagon quilts, where hundreds or even thousands of small patches are hand-stitched together in a mosaic-like design. I love the look of these quilts, but I'll admit: even having written a book on EPP, I don't always want to embark on projects that will take years to finish. So in this post, I thought I'd share some of my favorite ways to make EPP projects without investing so much time.

 Try some applique

Applique EPP

Instead of embarking on a whole quilt top, you can always make a small piece of EPP patchwork and then hand or machine applique it to another item. Hexagon flowers or diamond stars look great on tote bags. Dish towels and ready-made throw blankets are perfect blank canvases for EPP borders. You can also decorate an existing quilt or duvet with EPP appliques - a real time-saver! As a bonus, when you make EPP appliques, their edges will always be perfectly turned under.

Make a bit of EPP fabric

Fabric from EPP

If you'd rather not applique, try making a smaller piece of patchwork fabric, and then using it as part of a sewing project. You can pin a pattern piece to a length of patchwork and cut the shape out, just like you would with any fabric. For the messenger bag above, I pieced diamonds together to make enough fabric for the front flap pattern piece. For the softie above, I made two pieces of patchwork and pinned my front and back patterns to them. The only thing to watch out for is the uneven thickness of the patchwork; have a sharp pair of scissors on hand for accurate cutting.

Make something little!

Little EPP

...And finally, think about all the smaller, non-quilt items you can make with EPP patchwork. A table runner can be pieced in a couple evenings. A zippered pouch or potholder, even faster. I can finish a coaster or a phone case within the span of a Gilmore Girls episode. Items like these are a such pleasure to use when they're beautifully hand-sewn, and they make appreciated gifts.

If you want even more ideas, take a look at my brand-new book on EPP, All Points Patchwork, or visit the book's website, I hope you'll pick up a needle and thread and give it a try! 

All images in this post are © by Alexandra Grablewski. Used with permission.

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