May 26, 2010

English Paper Piecing

English paper piecing is a style which has become very close to my heart over the last few years. Making a whole quilt in this way is very labour intensive, it's by no means a quick project, but I find making the hexagons very soothing. Especially sitting on the couch at night in front of the tv doing a little bit of sewing by hand, rather than stuck in front of the sewing machine in the other room being anti-social.The technique of English Paper Piecing dates back to the 18th century in England and quilts with the papers still intact are a valuable link to history. Often the templates were cut from newspapers and little snippets of life can be gathered from these pieces of newspaper. Unfortunately if you leave the papers in, your quilt has quite a 'crinkly' sound in the end!

English paper piecing differs from foundation block piecing or regular paper piecing as all blocks are the same throughout the quilt. History also refers to them as honeycomb quilts or six sided patchwork.The term "Grandmother's Flower Garden" refers to hexagons assembled in a particular style - with one green hexagon in the middle surrounded by 6 coloured hexagons and often then surrounded by a border of white or neutral coloured hexagons - giving the impression of flowers. Hexagon quilts were very popular around the time of the Great Depression and World Wars as it was (and still is) a great way to use up scraps of fabric.

The hexagons I'm currently working on for my 'Go With the Flow' family project are in the Grandmother's Flower Garden style. This style can also be seen in the World's Biggest Hexagon Quilt Challenge quilt. These hexagons have sides of approximately 1 inch.

The more traditional style of hexagon quilt, where there is no pattern of colour, can be seen here above. I completed this top using only 2 inch hexagons in predominantly green and blue fabrics. It measures 50 inches by 70 inches and took me about 18 months to complete (on and off). This is a stunning example of English Paper Piecing - completed by a French quilt artist. It's a very modern version of an old technique. This French quilt top was appliqued onto a neutral background. I chose to finish mine with half hexagons to give a flush side then adding a border (as in the first photo). I have seen some older quilts though that are left with the 'wonky' sides and quilted and bound that way.

I have compiled a tutorial to English Paper Piecing which will soon be available for download.

I'd love to see your hexagons!


Jo (sparkly green knickers) said...

I love to hand stitch my hexies in the evenings, too. I look forward to seeing how yours progress!

Lis Harwood said...

One of the joys of EPP is its portability. It's easy to pick up a few hexagons for tacking or for sewing together and pop them in the smallest bag and you have them with you for that wait at the dentist or while DH is in an electric drill shop. Love your tutorial.

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