Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for English Paper Piecing defines English paper piecing as

A technique that involves hand piecing shapes of fabric that are basted onto paper templates and then combined with a whipstitch on the fabric edges.

This is a direct quote and I think its a little confusing... the fabric is shaped around the paper template. You can trim the fabric to the approximate shape (allowing 1/4-1/2" all around) and it is more affective at times if you do but you don't have to.

The definition also leaves out the fact that after the pieces are whipstipped together first the basting stitches are removed and then the paper.

I have only completed one English paper piecing project. Not that's not right... its not finished yet although the top of the quilt is. (that is to say I haven't as yet made the backing, basted it, quilted it or bound its a long way from finished) so far only English paper piecing project is my hexie quilt... that is hexagon quilt.

I've been working on it since September last year so in terms of a hand pieced quilt top it has actually come together pretty quickly.

The making of this quilt top in brief
1. I found a web page (that I have since lost... sigh) that allowed me to calculate how many hexies I would need to make based on the size of the hexie and the size of the quilt. You might think that obvious but because of the layout of the hexies it involves complicated maths.

2. I found another website that had hexagon templates on it that I could print off. I was able to choose from a variety of sizes. I chose 1.5" sides, 3" across) There were only about 8 to an A4 page which annoyed me as I could have fitted more than that on the sheet. To save printing ink and time (mostly time) I put one printed page on top and several sheets of scrap A4 and cut multiple pieces at a time. I'd worked out I would need 1500 hexies to make the size of quilt I wanted.

3 I used my scrap fabrics. To start with I cut out hexie shapes but rapidly (as in after about 3) I decided that cutting out 1500 of them was going to take way too long. I worked out that I could just fold my precut 3.5" squares around the shape and that would work just fine. I had a heap of 3.5" squares already in my scrap drawers. I started sewing hexagons.

4. I started sewing the flowers together as soon as I had 7 similarly coloured hexies. I worked on making "flowers - a centre hexie with one hexie sewn on each side making a flower with a centre and 6 petals. I put the lightest in the centre and darker ones around the outside. 

However then I decided that I wanted to make the flowers from the same or very similar fabric if possible. At this point I went to my non scrap stash and chose some bigger chunks of fabric to cut up into 3.5" squares to use.

 I also decided I wanted to do some sort of design but I wasn't sure what so instead I made hexies and figured I would work out a design later. (I did a Joen Wolfrom workshop and I had dreams of making a landscape picture) So for several months I just sewed hexies and sorted them into colours

5. SO..... when I had made my 1536ish hexies I started to sew them into flowers, using same or similar coloured flowers.

my daughter's cats always supervised me carefuly

6 I knew I had to work out a design. I printed off several sheets of hexie graph paper, taped them together to approximate the size of the quilt I would make (well not the actual size but the design would be.... ) 

I got my coloured pencils and set to work to design the quilt. I decided to have it as a flower garden with sky and clouds up the top, a mass of flowers in the middle and grass at the bottom. 

No stems for the flowers... that was going to be way to hard to work in. I worked it so some of the flowers were peaking out behind others so weren't going to be full flowers. Also the design ran off the paper so again some of the flowers would be halves

7 Time to sew the flowers together, working in sky behind some flowers... I chunked the design - sewed batches of flowers together then sewed those chunks together. My design wall was invaluable for working out how to put them together. 
(The first photo is on an improvised design wall from when I was away)

Home again I had to extend my design wall with a sheet in order to be able to plan it out properly

When I had the centre piece - the main part of the flower garden complete for the width of the quilt I worked on the grass section- sewed it for the full width and then attached it and finally the sky and cloud section.

 When I completed a chunk I would remove the basting stitches and the papers for all the hexies except for the ones on the edge. This made the quilt easier to scrunch up as I did the top stitching. 

8. The edges of the quilt had to have half hexies stitched in to make them straight. I had planned to make half hexies specifically but in the end I had so many hexies (I miscalculated... or made the final quilt smaller ...) that I was able to use full ones and fold them over (sides) or cut in half (top and bottom)

My design changed as I went but the design on the graph paper was a great starting point.

Now the top is done and I have to work out what to do for the back.

Mind you I think that the back looks rather nice anyway with the sun shining through (and when you can't see the raggy edges and messy bits too well)

I plan to piece together all the left over hexies together and then appliqué them onto a backing piece. I do NOT intend to hand quilt it as I want the all over stipple I am planning to reinforce the had stitching on the front. That is the plan.... stay tuned!!

(If you want more photos and progress shots just search hexies on the blog and it should show you a heap of posts that this quilt gets mentioned)

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