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  • Irina

Secrets to productivity in English paper piecing

English paper piecing is often referred to as slow stitching. But in my opinion the stitching stage is not that slow even though it is done by hand. The most time consuming part (at least for me) is picking colors and prepping shapes for stitching.

Currently I have 2 epp projects in progress. One of them - Summer Blossom quilt (based on the pattern by The Strawberry Thief) had almost been forgotten and I didn´t touch it for months. I decided to take it out and work on it for 30 min every day. And after a week I can see a big progress. So I would like to share what works for me.

1. Work on your project daily

It doesn´t matter what you will do - pick colors, cut the templates, baste the shapes or stitch, everything will add to the progress of your work even if you can spare 15 min a day!

For me choosing the color combos takes most time, so I tend to leave it for the moment when I am not in a hurry and can have more time. But on the busy days I might just print out my hexies and cut them out or baste few shapes. My advice is not to stick to certain time of the day (there is always something that might interfere with the schedule) but rather work whenever you have time. Sometimes I work in the morning when my kids are still asleep, the other day it might be time after dinner or sometimes even lunch break at work.

2. Epp templates

I always print out my own templates with straight edges but buy the curved ones (like clamshalls and apple cores). I usually cut the shapes out with scissors I use only for paper. It is also possible to do it with a ruler and rotary cutter using a dull blade you can´t use for fabric any more.

There are many free printable templates on-line. If you would like to add you own twist to a pattern or design your own, there is a fabulous FREE drawing program on Google Drive that is easy to use. It allows you to create and print any epp shape in your size.

2. Basting the shapes

I prefer glue-basting. I have said it many times - it is a very accurate and quick method if you use the glue specially designed for epp. Sewline glue stick looks like a pen and you can apply small amount of glue on your fabric or paper template without making your hands sticky.

I prefer to do this stage in batches. For example, for 6 hexagon flowers I needed 36 1 3/4 triangles . First I stick 36 triangles with a dot of glue to the back side of the fabric with 1/2 inch between the shapes, cut them all out with 1/4 seam allowance and baste by applying not too much glue and not too close to the edge.

Or if I work on hexagon or pentagon flowers, I would prepare few of them at once. When I have all basted pieces for flower I put them in a pile one shape under the other (in counter clockwise order) with the center on top and clip together. Then I don´t need to remember in what order I need to stitch them.

3. Stitching

Whatever stitch you use (whip, ladder or flat back stitch), find the way of stitching what works best for you.

For example, when I work on a flower, it is much quicker and more convenient first to attach petals to the center and then stitch the petals together.

Or if I need to attach few shapes to the bigger piece (for example, in the photo below), I would stitch first a shorter straight seam 1 (marked in red), then the longer seam 2 (marked in blue).

I apply the same principles to my daily sewing when I work on orders. One day I might cut out and prepare all the items and sew them whenever I have time.

A picture is worth more than the words - here you can see the progress I made on my Summer Blossom quilt for 1 week of daily stitching ( I don´t count 2 hexagon flowers in the top picture as they need different centers). I started with 1 hexagon flower and 6 pentagon flowers. Now I have 5 hexagon flowers (+3 more ready for stitching) and 9 pentagon flowers (+2 more ready to stitch).

There is time till the end of Christmas break so you can try if this method works for you.

Wishing you a Happy, Creative and Productive New Year 2020!

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