Friday 23 May 2014

English Paper Piecing ~ WIP...

Back in January, I showed you the English Paper Pieced hexagons I was working on. The hexies are still a work in progress, but in the meantime I've begun another English Paper Piecing project. In March I was lucky enough to attend the three day Autumn Quilting Triple Treat at Blackheath. Day 1 was English Paper Piecing, with Rachael Porter, from Stitches and Sew On.

Prior to the workshop with Rachael, my knowledge of English Paper Piecing was entirely obtained from online sources and thanks to my good grounding in hand sewing, the stitching wasn't hard. Perhaps it was a little easier to thread the small needle and to see the tiny stitches when I was younger, though... LOL!!!

I learnt so much that day with Rachael. Don't ask me why, but a couple of us were quite excited about learning a new way to knot the thread when hand sewing. Using a quilter's knot produces a much finer knot than the method I use for hand sewing on garments.

I definitely wasn't excited when I learnt we would be basting our fabric to the templates with GLUE!!! You've heard me say before that I avoid glue at all costs. I just seem to make a mess, so when others suggest a glue gun to make a hair accessory, I use a needle and thread. Or when there's talk of spray basting a quilt, I imagine glue all over the carpet and head for the pins instead.

However, what's the point in attending a workshop if you don't give new things a try. And so I used a fabric glue pen to stick the fabric to the template. Amazingly, I didn't make a mess!!! The photo immediately above, shows the back of the project, with the fabric glued to the cardboard templates.

It's a little hard to tell in the first photo, but the inside star is made from six pieces of fabric. What I think is REALLY cool, is the pattern that's created by joining those six pieces of fabric together. To do that, we used a fussy cutting mirror; something totally new to to me. When I show you the finished project, I'll take a photo of the fussy cutting mirror.

As with my hexies, I'm only working on my new project while watching TV, or sometimes when I'm out of the house visiting someone. Unlike sewing a garment, hand sewing takes a long time and I wanted to show you what I've been up to.

I was out yesterday and took took my paper piecing with me. I worked on both projects, sewing shapes together. I've decided that my hexies will one day become a quilt. The project from the workshop will be much smaller and so hopefully will be finished in the foreseeable future, unlike the quilt, which will most probably take years.

You can probably tell from its shape, but the reel of thread with the hexies is rather old. There's a couple of other clues as to its date of manufacture. It's made in Australia. All our thread is made overseas now-a-days. Secondly, the amount of thread is measured in both yards and metres, meaning it must have been made in the early 70s during the change from the imperial to the metric system, here in Australia. I've had this reel of thread for a long time!!!

I was curious about the term mercerised, as you don't see that on cotton thread now. According to Wikipedia, it's a treatment that gives a lustrous appearance and adds strength. There's a more detailed description of the process at O Ecotextiles.

Is our cotton still mercerised? I wouldn't have a clue, but I do know that all the old thread I have seems to be good quality, with less loose fibres than some brands have now. Back in the 70s I would have bought the cheapest thread I could, so my only conclusion is that the cheap thread that can be found now, didn't exist back then. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this if you have been sewing for a while.

At the quilting workshop, Rachael said that she always cuts a short length of thread to hand sew, as it is less likely to knot or tangle and the thread remains stronger. As a guide, she cuts roughly the length of the distance from finger tips to elbow. I'm lazy and try to get away with longer lengths and often pay for it with knots or broken thread, which invariably takes me longer than if I'd used shorter lengths.

Ha ha, when I came across the 70's ad for Sylko thread, it totally confirmed what Rachael had said. Click on the picture to take you to the source where it's easier to read... Cut your thread in short 16" lengths... about the distance from fingers to elbow.

This ad had almost exactly the same text, but I just had to show you the outfit. The other night I came across a photo of me back in the 70s, wearing a top almost identical in style to the one in the photo, except that I was wearing short denim shorts. Maybe I'll show you that photo one day. We'll see... perhaps after a glass of wine to give me confidence.

I am enjoying English Paper Piecing, as I find it quite therapeutic. However, it is a very slow process compared to sewing with a machine. I think the satisfaction of a finished English Paper Piecing project will be immense. I'll let you know...

... Pam


  1. The EPP and the hexies are pretty - thats a lot of handwork though - something I run away from whenever possible, lol. Leaving the paper in would make me crazy - I'd want to pick at it until it was GONE :D

  2. I catch myself cutting my threads too long also.

  3. Fabulous fussy cutting Pam! I have seen the fussy cutting mirrors in magazines but never actually seen them used, look forward to seeing yours in action. Love the outfits in the ads :)

  4. So pretty. I'm seeing alot of paper piecing these days and love it. Need to try it out sometime.

  5. First time I am reading about paper piecing. So finally are these made into a quilt ? or some patchwork project Pan. The print and color combi gel along well in the first pic :)

  6. Your EPP projects are so pretty. I love the fussy cutting. Isn't it great when you do a class with someone and learn so much. I too cut my thread to long, I know it should be about 30 cm but I always longer and then get tangled. It's fun seeing those 70's pictures.

  7. Good for you trying all kinds of new things! Your EPP works are sew pretty! I love seeing those 70's ads. Get some wine into you, girlfriend and give us your personally rendition!

  8. Love those ads! Your epp projects are beautiful. I'm nearly finished a hexie project and contemplating my next epp work. I'm thinking those diamonds are a possibility. I love the kaleidoscope effect.

  9. Love hexies, and your work is great!

  10. Love those hexies Pam! Beautiful fabrics too.I don't know if all cotton thread is still mercerized. I remember when my mom had her quilt shop in the 70's all the thread she sold was mercerized. Also that was before rotary cutters so all piecing and quilting was done by hand, lol!!!! I was curious too and found this posting: Apparently dyers say the mercerized thread dyes better.

  11. What an interesting post. I love your hexies and yes, they are restful. I invite you to hexie weekend. Link and you'll be in for 2 things I'm giving away. One are hexie paper pieces. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Beautiful hexies, Pam! This is an amazing work!
    Have a fabulous day!
    Hugs from Portugal,
    Ana Love Craft

  13. I used to love hand sewing patchwork like this but it must be 25 years since I've done any. I MUST find time to have another go. I have quite a lot of cotton that looks like that too (except mine says "made in england" on it) It's still perfectly good, I even have a few little bits left on wooden cotton reels - all inherited from my nan & mum, I come from a long line of "never throw anything potentially useful away" people!

  14. I recently started epp and I am addicted. It is great for taking with you and I find it relaxing.

  15. I'm always amazed at people who manage to complete full EPP hexie quilts. I marvel at the hours that are in the finished project! It is slow going but a very satisfying project and a good one to take on holidays :)

  16. I've been resigning myself to short lengths of thread for my EPP projects lately. I spend way too much time digging out knots!
    I love a fussy cut diamond star! Someday I'm going to give a try, thanks for sharing yours, it's so pretty!


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