I love having a handwork project to carry around in the summer. This summer it’s been a fun Sue Daley-inspired English Paper Piecing (EPP) project.
With kids at home and family outings, I don’t get as much time at my machine, but I love having a portable project that I can work on while watching movies with my kids (my boys have been bringing me up to date on Marvel movies), going on road trips (luckily I don’t get carsick), and even sitting through Traffic School. (You don’t need to purposely seek out this opportunity to make time for hand-sewing time.)
Last spring I bought the collection of Sue’s Round We Go seed packets. There are 12 different packets and each one contains enough sturdy pre-cut papers to make 5 blocks, for a total of 60 blocks . (Although the papers are reusable so you could theoretically make a lot more.) The collection also included the corresponding acrylic templates for tracing the fabric – making it easy to fussy-cut repeating patterns in the fabric (which I’m learning is the key to great EPP designs). It’s been SO handy to not have to look for and accumulate all of the bits and pieces and to have it all just ready to go in one place!
If you are new to English Paper Piecing, let me explain. This method of hand-piecing uses pre-cut cardstock papers as templates. Fabric is cut 1/4″ larger on all four sides and basted to the templates. The pieces are then whipstitched together before the papers are removed, creating a precisely-pieced intricate design.
Here is my little portable EPP kit that I’ve been carrying around this summer. I prep a few blocks ahead of time (glue-basting the fabric to the papers) so that I always have something ready to sew. I keep the pieces for each block in separate plastic bags so they don’t get mixed up. And isn’t that Union Jack zippy pouch perfect (and appropriate) for carrying an English Paper Piecing project? A sweet friend bought it for me at a Cath Kidston shop in London and I couldn’t love it more. (She knows me well!)
If you are looking to get started or to brush up your EPP skills, I highly recommend visiting Sue Daley for her very handy video tutorials (check out her YouTube channel) as well as the Riley Blake Imagine channel. She’s the EPP queen.
I’ve also become a fan of Sue’s notions for English Paper Piecing. Sue’s daughter, Shannon, introduced me to the size 15 Milliner’s Needles and I love them! (I was previously using a size 11 or 12.) The size 15 needles are super long, thin and bendy. I love the way they glide through the fabric, making my stitches smaller and more invisible.
I also totally recommend a very light-weight thread. I’ve been using the Aurifil 80 wt Applique Thread, but I do recommend a thread conditioner as the repeated dragging across the cardboard templates can wear out the 100% cotton thread. I just got some of Sue’s 60 wt polyester thread specifically for EPP. They’re a great price for a lot of thread and the polyester is a little more durable for the repeated dragging across the templates.
I recommend cutting pieces with an 18 mm rotary cutter – much easier to get around curves and sharp angles. Not essential for getting started, but if you find yourself doing more and more intricate and fussy cutting, I also recommend the round, rotating cutting mat. It makes cutting intricate pieces so much faster and easier.
I also recently got some of Sue’s latest fabric collection, Floral Hues, and I’ve loved using them in this project. It’s a really pretty, soft palette with light blues, grays, and pinks with a pop of pinky-reds and gold mixed in.
Floral Hues is produced in soft and drapey cotton lawns. They’re thinner and softer than traditional quilting cottons, but they’re a dream to work with. The drapey fabric is perfect for clothing – check out this tunic top made by Sachiko of Tea Rose Home.
The lawns are especially nice to work with for English Paper Piecing – they fit and baste so nicely to the different template shapes and they’re so nice to hand sew with. If you’ve never tried hand sewing with lawns, get small piece and test it out, just to feel the difference.
Here I’ve mixed them in with Sue’s last collection, Linen and Lawn – don’t they look dreamy all together?
Here are my Round We Go blocks so far. They measure 7″ across. I think the fun part of these blocks is the chance to play with colors and fabrics. I’ve had a fun time mixing Sue’s lawns with lots of wild stuff from my stash. Each block is like a mini quilt where I get to try new color and fabric combinations. I’ve decided I’m trying to channel my Jen Kingwell muse and use as many different fabrics as I possibly can to make it super bright and scrappy. To finish, I plan to applique the individual blocks on a variety of gray/low-volume backgrounds and piece the blocks together.
I think another reason I’m liking this EPP project is that I don’t have to hand-piece all of the EPP blocks into one large quilt like I’m doing with my Liberty Stars. I still really love that project and I’m excited to finish it one day, but as it grows, it is getting a little more unwieldy to work with.
You can find the set of Round We Go blocks including templates – enough to make up to 60 blocks – in a variety of shops on Etsy. But they’re no longer in production, so they will be gone eventually. Sue has a HUGE variety of paper-piecing kits, templates, papers and notions. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced EPP’er check out her website to see what she’s doing and all that she creates.
Speaking of channeling Jen Kingwell, I’ve been using my Amitie Textiles Stash Club bundles to give these blocks some kick. I love getting my bundles from Amitie. Jen is the queen of using wild, crazy fabrics in her quilts, which is what makes them SO magical. These bundles come every 2 months and contain 16 fat 1/16ths of a variety of curated fabrics. The best part is that most of them are prints I wouldn’t choose on my own and push me outside my regular fabric comfort zone.
Here’s a stack that I’ve accumulated over the last years. I’ve loved incorporating them into my Steam Punk quilt (still a work-in-progress) and now into these Round We Go blocks. I want this quilt to be as wild and cheerful as possible!
Here is one of my blocks with fussy-cut emus that came from one of my Amitie Stash club bundles. The emu’s are a subtle shout-out to my two favorite Aussie inspirations – Sue and Jen. You can see more of their quilts and why they’re so inspiring to me in this post with lots of pictures and video from a joint trunk show they did a few years ago.
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