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English Paper Piecing is a fun and easy way to learn how to quilt by hand – no sewing machine required! In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know on how to get started with English Paper Piecing.

What is English Paper Piecing?

English Paper Piecing is a method of using paper templates to sew pieces of fabric together neatly and accurately. You can use a variety of different shapes, such as squares, rectangles, triangles, and hexagons, all of which can be combined to create a wide variety of designs.

I discovered English Paper Piecing many years ago when I was trying to learn how to quilt by hand. I didn’t have a sewing machine at the time and I was frustrated trying to figure out how to sew patchwork squares together neatly and evenly. English Paper Piecing solves all these problems!

In English Paper Piecing {EPP for short} – you attach a piece of fabric to a piece of paper. This can be done by either using a glue stick to temporarily affix the fabric to the paper or you can use basting stitches to keep the fabric in place. I personally prefer the glue stick method – more on that in a bit!

Once your pieces of fabric are attached to the paper, the next thing to do is to sew the pieces together using a whip stitch. The whip stitch is one of the easiest stitches to sew by hand.

After you’ve stitched all of your pieces together, all you need to do is remove the pieces of paper, give your fabric a light pressing with the iron and you’ll have a professional-looking piece of work done in no time!

One of the reasons I like English Paper Piecing so much is that it is completely portable – it’s a great project to bring while traveling or you can do it in your living room while watching TV or even in bed on those kinds of days where you want to stay in bed all day. {Although if working in bed do take care not to misplace your scissors or needles!}

Another reason I like it so much is it is very easy to make your squares a consistent size and spacing. If you’re someone who struggles with regular quilting and getting all the seams to perfectly line up, English Paper Piecing might just solve that problem for you!

Getting started is relatively easy so in the next section, I will walk you through step by step through everything you need to do to get started.

How to English Paper Piece

These simple steps will have you English Paper Piecing in No Time!

Step 1: Gather Supplies and Materials

You don’t need a lot of fancy supplies or materials to get started. Here’s everything you’ll need:

Fabric in Assorted Coordinating Colors and Patterns: You don’t need a ton of fabric to get started – in most cases a quarter yard of 6-8 different fabrics is more than sufficient for a small project such as a pillowcase, tote bag, or journal cover.

Scissors: A good pair of dedicated fabric scissors are needed to fussy cut the fabric around your shapes.

Paper Pieces: You can use a wide variety of different shaped pieces of paper – for beginners I recommend using squares or rectangles at first. Any type of paper will work – I typically use standard copy paper I use for my everyday printing. Since we’ll be cutting up the pieces of paper you can also opt to reuse old papers – whether it’s junk mail, old books or magazines, your kid’s homework, etc. The important thing is that the pieces are uniform in size and will fit together like a puzzle – this can be done easily by using a paper cutter or even a Cricut, Sizzix, or Silhouette cutting machine.

Glue Stick: I like to use the glue stick method of attaching the fabric to the pieces of paper. Any cheap glue stick will work – the washable purple ones are perfect as you don’t want a permanent hold – just something that can work temporarily and of course wash out later.

Needle and Thread: I like to use embroidery needles when sewing – the larger eye makes it a lot easier to thread your needle. Any sort of cotton or polyester thread will work so it’s just a matter of what color you like to use and what you have on hand. While the stitches won’t be extremely visible, you may want to choose a color that will blend in with your fabric so they aren’t as noticeable later.

Now that you have all your supplies gathered, we are ready to start!

Step 2: Attach the Fabric to the Pieces of Paper

For beginners, I recommend starting out with 2 1/2 inch squares of paper, which you can then sew together to make a flat piece of patchwork fabric. This can be used for making placemats, pillow covers, totes, pencil cases, book covers, blankets, curtains and so much more.

While I won’t get into the specifics of making those items in this post, we will get you started with making a block of fabric in any size you like! You can then use that piece of fabric to make almost anything you can imagine.

Before you attach the fabric to the piece of paper, you will need to cut a piece of fabric so that it is about 1/2 inch bigger all around than the piece of paper. You can cut this by hand with scissors or if you can also opt to cut out the fabric squares using a rotary cutter.

If your piece of paper is 2 1/2 inches x 2 1/2 inches big, you’ll want a piece of fabric that is 3 1/2 inches x 3 1/2 inches.

Once your fabric is cut, you will simply fold the edges and lightly glue the edges to the piece of paper. I usually also glue where the corners meet.

Here is what your completed fabric square will look like:

Repeat this until you have the desired number of squares for your project.

Step 3: Sew The Squares Together

To sew the squares together, you’ll want to thread your needle and tie a knot at the end. I usually start sewing so that the knot will be hidden by one of the flaps glued to the fabric.

Place two squares right sides together and begin whip stitching along the edge. Stitch until the two pieces are together and then tie a knot. You’ve sewn your first two pieces together!

From there you will simply repeat this process until everything is sewn together, making sure that the right sides are always facing each other. I like to create rows and then later sew all the rows together.

Step 4: Remove the Paper

Once all of your pieces are sewn together, the next step is to remove the pieces of paper. This is done relatively easily by lifting up the folded edges and pulling the pieces of paper out.

If you find your papers are stuck in tight corners {which sometimes happens} you might find it useful to use a pair of precision tweezers to pull them out, but generally, it doesn’t take much other than a gentle tug.

Step 5: Iron and Admire What You Made!

One of the nice things about English Paper Piecing is the fabric does not wrinkle too much since it is supported by the paper. Still, it’s always nice to iron your finished patchwork block so that it will lay flat and be ready to be used in your project.

When ironing, try to press all of the seams flat in one direction – this will make it easier when you are joining different pieces later.

Once your patchwork fabric is the desired size, you’re ready to use it on any number of projects.

Do you have any questions about how to do English Paper Piecing? Ask any questions you may have in the comments section below!

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