Tiny epp basics and "Blooming heart" pillow
Updated: Sep 26, 2020
I have been admiring tiny english paper pieced projects on Instagram for a long time. How fascinating and inspiring to see a 5,5 inches rosette that has 200 pieces by Florence @flossieteacakes, adorable 1/4 inch hexies by Emma @vintagesewingbox or Krista`s @surrur_sunday tiny hexagon pouch in making. I love using scraps and those tiny shapes are perfect for precious Liberty bits.
I am used to 1/2 inch hexagons. Actually it is one of my favorite sizes that showcases Liberty fabrics in a perfect way and they are easy to work with. I always print and cut out my own papers for half inch hexies. But I thought going smaller would require pre-cut papers which are impossible to find here in Finland. One day I was lucky enough to see a post by Mary @marychadwick1750 who was giving away quarter inch hexagon and jewel pre-cut paper pieces. It was my chance!
Once I received the papers, I knew right away it wouldn´t be an easy project to handle as they seemed really tiny. But if there is a will there is always a way. You do need patience working with those tiny shapes, especially in the beginning, and and some basic epp skills. The more you do the easier it gets.
I mainly glue baste my paper pieces with Sewline glue pen. From my experience glue basting this size is the most intimidating part in the whole process. Even though the glue pen is not large it feels gigantic compared to the tiny pieces. But as anything else it requires just practice. I remember first time glue basting tiny jewel pieces - not only it took so much time but the frustration was the worst. But now I can do it much quicker.
First, put a tiny dab of glue on your paper piece and stick it to the wrong side of the fabric. Cut the fabric with approx. 1/8 inch seam allowance. Then apply as little glue as possible (that might be the trickiest part!) along the edge of paper piece and fold the fabric. With quite sturdy pre-cut papers you can feel the edge of the paper and can fold the fabric neatly and precisely.
This stage is rather quick! With tiny shapes you really need to use a very fine needle and thread. It would make the stitches less visible. Thread and needles are matter of personal preferences. I use Milliners Straw needles #10 Big eye and Gutermann Tera 180 thread.
3. Removing the papers
Once you have all pieces sewn together, iron your piece with hot steam iron on both sides to release the glue. Let it cool down. Carefully lift the fabric from the paper and remove the papers. If you applied too much glue, it might be difficult to remove papers. I used a needle (from the threading side) or a thin knitting needle to help to lift the fabric from the paper. Iron your piece again making sure that you have all seam allowances folded correctly.
On one of the first flowers I made, I applied too much glue and when I removed the papers the seam allowances on the upper unsewn parts were hardly visible. To restore the shape of a petal I inserted a paper piece without glue inside that petal, folded seam allowances again and carefully ironed with the paper in.
4. Tiny epp projects
There are so many possibilities for using those tiny epp shapes. In my opinion tiny hexie flowers look rather delicate compared to their larger siblings. They would make a lovely accent to a dress or shirt and look great on a pouch, drawstring bag or needle book etc.
I used six jewel pieces and a hexagon to make a star (finished size 1 3/4 inch from point to point) and it beautifully adorns Cute Cathedral Cube (pattern by Ali from @arabesquescissors).
5. "Blooming heart" pillow
In this project I combined 1/4 and 1/2 inch hexagon flowers.
It is a simple make and it doesn´t require a template. Just draw a heart with water soluble marker on a piece of fabric (mine was 16 x 23 inches). I made twelve 1/4 inch flowers and four 1/2 inch ones. Applique the flowers on the heart pattern.
I added simple running hand stitch in pink variegated Perle cotton along the marker lines before sandwiching the panel for quilting. I used Dream Wool batting, thin cotton for backing, Titanium top stitch needle 90/14, Glide thread at the top (color Linen), Auriful 50 in the bobbin. All ruler work and quilting were done on the domestic sewing machine Pfaff Quilt expression 720.
First I outlined the flowers with the small ruler and added lines echoing the heart (2 lines outside the heart and one inside). It made the running stitch pop.
It was fun to think of different quilting designs. As you know I like to stitch variety of patterns. So I decided to quilt outside the heart by machine in simple grid in three corners and do some circles and pebbles in the fourth corner. I think asymmetric designs add a lot to quilting. I used 9 inches straight ruler for quilting the grid, but it can be done with regular walking foot as well. Don´t be afraid to mark the design on the fabric with water soluble marker. It makes quilting much easier and you know where to move next.
I also added some double lines to the grid when I was quilting those half inch flowers on the sides of the heart.
The large circles quilted with a 2 inch circle ruler, pebbles and swirls are free motion quilting.
I hand quilted half inch cross hatch design inside the heart with white Perle cotton.
I am very pleased how this pillow turned out. I definitely see more tiny epp in the future. May be one day I get brave enough to stitch that fabulous rosette. But I hope this post inspired you to make at least one tiny hexie flower.