Sunday, September 9, 2012

English Paper Piecing and Football

Yesterday was another long football game, but I was prepared with a small sewing kit and EPP supplies.

I had never heard of this technique until I saw it popping up around the blogosphere. It seems to be making a bit of a resurgence! After going completely stir crazy during last week's 3.5 hour game, I knew I wanted to give EPP a shot.  I spent all week trolling the web trying to decide what design/pattern I wanted to try. I really wanted to make Tonya's candied hexies, but they were frankly too intimidating. Christina is also doing a "sprocket" quilt-along, but those center hexagons look too big to be easily portable. However, Christina's blog linked over to a 60˚Diamond quilt-along led by Jessica, and I decided this was a perfect started project. Only one shape to cut, and infinite design possibilities.

My next step was to toy with design ideas. First I battled with photoshop for quite some time in order to get this nice blank template ready.
Then it was time to play! Below are all of the different iterations I tested out.
First: your standard colored stars on a white background

White stars on a colored background! Or perhaps white/off-white in tandem?

My boyfriend came up with this one. I think it looks weird.

hexgon flowers.

Colored stars on a white background but spaced out more

Went back to the first idea and tried out variegated stars...a little too busy.

An idea for yellow stars on a blue background, but it doesn't look that great.

This was my boyfriend's idea. He really wanted to incorporate white. However, I pointed out to him that using white would require me going out any buying white fabric instead of just working with scraps.

We filled in all of the whites for variegated stars. This was the winner!
 So the winning design is nice because each star can stand-alone, which makes it easy to use scraps for this project. Plus I don't have to worry too much about whether one star's scheme fits with the other stars, at least until I start sewing it all together.

Next step was the prep-work. I picked out three fabrics I liked for the first hexagon and started cutting out diamonds. Or attempting to. I knew I needed to cut a 2.5" strip, but then I was trying to cut it up along to 60˚ line in 2.5" increments, which led to parallelograms instead of diamonds.
This is not a diamond.
Whoops! This was one of those days when quilting reminds me of the importance of math in the real world. But instead of trying to calculate how big I needed to cut it, I just read the cutting instructions on Christina's blog, which told me I was supposed to be slicing it in 3" increments instead of 2.5".

Here is my planned design for the first hexagon:

My next step was to starch the heck out of all of these pieces. This way I could just fold them over the paper without having to iron the seam allowance down or anything.
Everybody drying out from their starching.
I then decided that I wanted to try out some of these techniques at home before football, while I still had a computer in front of me to look to for help. I mainly followed all of Christina's great tutorials about how she stitches. I used her method of basting along the back instead of piercing the paper. Christina also doesn't bother with knots in the basting stage, which makes it very quick and easy.
 Above I'm doing my first basting. I took waaaay too many stitches. The paper clips were great for holding things together, but I had to be careful not to push them too far down or their little ends would get caught under the seam allowance and they would be a pain to get off.

 Here's the first on all basted. I didn't turn the ends right because they both ended up facing the same way.

Okay, then it was time to try stitching pieces together. Here I am trying the ladder stitch that Christina uses, right sides together.

You can see below that the stitching is somewhat visible. I wasn't completely pleased.

So then I tried a whipstich, which is the standard.

 You can still see the stitches but at least they are more consistently visible and they are more subtle.

 I then re-read Christina's blog and realized that she recommends trying the ladder stitch with wrong sides together. I gave this a shot at football.

 That series of photos was mainly to prove that I really did do this at football. :) Doing the ladder stitch wrong sides together definitely hid all of my stitches.  Here is a zoom of the above photo to show my seams. The left side is ladder stitch, the right is whipstitch.
Now the ladder stitch did lead to a slight and subtle rippling, but in general looks really good.  Here is my challenge though (and I would appreciate advice):

By putting wrong sides together, the ends stick out while I am trying to stitch. I show an example below where I am trying to put together the two halves of my star. I can tuck them down (second photo below), but then I get a big bulge, and my stitching in those areas where I go over the bulge has looked noticeably different from the top. I need to find out how Christina handles this issue. Anyways, any tips on how to get over the bulge are appreciated. I may just have to go back to right sides together if I can't figure it out.

Anyways, I brought all of my little pre-cut supplies to football in a small zipper pouch. I had it on my lap and would stitch during the 75% of time that nothing was going on, and would pause and watch when things were actually happening. It was very easy to stay organized and especially for the basting portion, precision was not required, which made it easy to do while only partially paying attention to my sewing.

This was a game where pretty much everybody left the stadium at the start of the fourth quarter because we were so far ahead, but we stayed until the bitter end and I am proud to say that it was through my sewing that I was able to last that long. :)

Side note: I have a couple of spools of this gutermann thread that isn't very good. It just snaps if you tug on it. It's 100% viscose (what the heck is viscose??) so I guess I need to avoid buying it again. I really wish I knew more about threads. I try to buy cotton but it turns out almost everything I own is polyester. In the end I usually just pick spools in whatever color I want and don't look at the thread type. But here it seems I clearly got the wrong thread type...
darn thing just snapped!


  1. If it helps Viscose is Rayon thread, very weak and usually used for embroidery and embellishment. You really don't want to use it for piecing.
    Cotton thread is preferred because it doesn't have much stretch like polyester thread so it's easier to get a tight and even stitch that is strong without bunching up your fabrics like you can with polyester thread.

    1. Thanks for the tip. I really need to look at thread type and not just color in the future...

  2. Love how you describe your thought process and and the issues you encountered, really helpful! You have a lovely blog and a new follower in me! =)

  3. Hi Heather. I love your diamond stars. I thought I would drop you a note and introduce you to Inklingo in case you have not heard about it. I did a 7 Sisters quilt using Inklingo (it is on my blog at
    Instead of templates, with Inklingo you print the stitching and cutting lines directly on your fabric using an ordinary inkjet printer. I think you would like this. I have no affiliation, just a happy user. From one quilter to another!