From across the pond…

England.  Great Britain.  The UK.

English Paper Piecing.

EPP Sweetgirlstudio - sweetwatercottonshoppe

I love this picture from the Sweetwater Cotton Shop on Instagram – @sweetgirlstudio.  They’re Aussies – they love EPP. 

The first thing most of us probably think of with English Paper Piecing is hexagons – a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt.  Hexagon-based patterns became popular in England in the 1830s and when Godey’s Lady’s Book published the first hexagon quilt pattern in 1835, it became very popular in “the Colonies”.  It was often called “English Paper Piecing” because anything British was deemed very elegant.

Even though it’s remained popular, it has become very “hip” to EPP.  I think there are several reasons for that, not the least of which is the portability of it.  (Says someone with a sewing machine that weighs 38 lbs. in it’s case.)

Do you EPP?  I do… or I have.  I really enjoyed it and I’m trying to get back to doing more of it.

Tammy helped.  She’s been working on this the past month or so, it’s one of three she’s making for her grandkids.  (If I wasn’t the same age, I’d probably see if I could get on that list…)


Linzee helped too.  At Quilt Market, she told me about a Schoolhouse presentation she’d been to by Diane Gilleland for her new book, All Points Patchwork.

CT All Points Patchwork

Of course I had to get it and it’s one of the best “quilt books” I’ve bought in years.  What I love most about it is that on the second page of the book, Diane states that this is an “idea book” and not a project book.  Her goal is to share tricks, tips, ideas and methods, the kind of information we need to create our own designs.  By explaining how to draft the pieces and create patterns, she’s giving us the freedom to incorporate EPP into designs we already like and use.

I also love that she takes the time to talk about tools – what she uses, what she recommends, and lots of options.  Of course I took that as an excuse to raid search the warehouse look through my workroom in search of tools.


Some of the basics – from top left in a roughly clockwise order:

  • Good, fine thread.  I like Aurifil 50 wt.  Neutral thread for stitching pieces together and a brightly contrasting thread for basting is you’ll be removing your thread after joining pieces.  The bright contrasting color makes it easier to see the thread while removing it.
  • Thimbles – hand-sewing with a fine needle… some fingertip protection is in order.  Right?  Any thimble will do but this Nimble Thimble is my current favorite.
  • A seam ripper because yes, pieces do still get sewn together incorrectly.  This Clover white seam ripper is my all-time favorite.
  • Needles.  Diane recommends Sharps for basting and Quilting/Betweens for joining pieces.  She also suggests trying different sizes to find the one that works best for you.
  • Applique pins – used to secure the paper to the fabric while basting or to pin to pieces together for stitching.
  • Wonder Clips – very popular to keep two pieces together while stitching adjoining pieces.

And that’s why I love this book – it presents options instead of “this is what you will use and you will love it”.  I like straw needles – quilting/betweens are too short for my clumsy fingers.  Thimbles?  I’m trying – really.  The Nimble Thimble shown above is nice and I’m getting used to it – slowly.  But because I don’t like stitching through the paper, I usually do fine with Thimble Pads.  (They’re always in any stitching kit/bag I have.)


More options:

  • Templates.  If you like them, use them.  I use them because I love being able to cut an entire mini charm pack into hexagons in a minute or two.  Then it’s just a matter of basting them to the pre-cut papers.
  • Hole punch and crochet hook – they make removing the papers a lot easier.  I knew about the hole punch but not about the crochet hook.  Genius!
  • Glue sticks.  Even if you’d never glue-baste the edges, a glue stick can be very, very helpful while  basting.  The Sewline Glue Pens are my favorite but I always have a few Elmer’s School Glue Sticks on hand.
  • Pre-cut papers.  While Diane shows you how to draft your own pieces, she also discusses how to use and combine pre-cut papers to make original designs.  Many of the projects in the book were made with Paper Pieces templates and papers.


This is one of my favorite things about English Paper Piecing, the back of the quilt is almost better than the front.

Okay, now that I have the tools, I’m going to make this…


Lucy Boston – the Patchwork of the Crosses by Linda Franz.


Or not.  I love the quilt, it’s an “eventually” project.  I know I’m going to be tempted though, a friend has half of her blocks done and it’s quite wonderful.  While the quilt and book have been popular since it was published a few years ago, it seems like more and more quilters are diving in every day.

The variety of fabrics being used is amazing – it’s not just for Reproduction fabrics.  Bonnie & Camille?

Lucy Boston B&C ThreeHoneyBees - Kylie Seldon

This is by Kylie Seldon – @ThreeHoneyBees on Instagram.

The best thing about designs that work well for English Paper Piecing is that they can be found anywhere.  A book I’ve had on my work table for a few weeks is Hexagons, Diamonds, Triangles and More by Kelly Ashton.


It’s billed as a skill-builder with techniques for 60-degree patchwork by hand or machine, and all of the designs could be done with English Paper Piecing.  Paper Pieces has the pre-cut papers in the shapes required to make all three of these blocks.

The funniest part of all this is that this all comes back to geometry.  Another one of those subjects I avoided in school because I was never ever going to need it or use it in my lifetime.  Given what I do for my work and hobby, I find that just a wee bit ironic.

So do you do English Paper Piecing?  Do you have any tips or tricks to suggest?

Have a terrific weekend!

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Starts with an “S”…

One of the things I always find so interesting at a quilt show is the response that people have to what they see.  Spend thirty minutes in front of a single quilt and you’ll see people glance at the quilt, smile briefly and continue walking while others will stand there for a very long time examining every possible detail with a look of awe.  Much of the difference is surely about personal taste, and perhaps some of it is about preference or bias – hand-quilted vs. machine-quilted.

It always makes me think of the nature of inspiration.  More specifically, to the meaning of “inspire” as being “to animate” – to bring life to, to make alive.  Just as it is with any kind of art, something in the work shows a vision… of color, of possibility, of an emotion.


Fabric.  Wool.  Thread.


Stitching.  Sumptuous stitching.  Stunning stitches.  (You knew I was going to get to the “s” thing at some point, right?)

Stitches to Savor.  Sue Spargo.


You had probably already guessed that… you’re sychic.  (Spell-check didn’t like that one either.)

When it comes to Sue Spargo… I might also need to add “stalker”.  Super-fan.  Slavish devotee.


While some of this might be a bit silly, one thing is true – I love Sue Spargo’s work.  LOVE.  (I might have mentioned it before but a workshop with Sue Spargo is on my “stitch-y bucket list.”)

I first heard her name at Quilt Market in 2002.  She was one of the “Missouri girls” doing amazing work with wool, stitching and quilting in the Primitive and Folk Art style – a group that included Jan Patek, Alma Allen, Renee Nanneman, Lyn Hosford and others.  You might even have some of their collaborative books, Fat Quarter Foursome, Simple Stitches and the early Threads titles from Need’Love.  (While she currently resides in Ohio, Sue isn’t originally from Missouri – and no, she’s not Australian.)

I don’t know if it was simply an evolution of style or access to more variety with materials but Sue’s work became so much more vibrantly colorful, mixing a wide variety of fabrics, threads, stitches and motifs.  It seemed like every time I’d see her work at Quilt Market, on blogs – they were the new thing back then, or in magazines, she’d invented some new stitch or thread.


And where did she find that rick-rack?

(Just so you know, almost all of these pictures were found on Pinterest or Sue Spargo’s Instagram.)

So when I learned earlier this year that Martingale would be publishing a purely-eye-candy book of Sue Spargo’s work, I made sure that “folks I know” were aware of my extreme interest in obtaining a copy of the book.

This is it.  Stitches to Savor.


There is also a calendar – Stitches to Savor.  It’s gorgeous.  (It’s in the back in my “Sue Stash” picture.)

This isn’t a project book or a stitch book – there aren’t any diagrams.  What you’ll find are beautiful pictures of stunning stitches – eye-candy for your stitch-y soul.  Inspirational – aspirational.


Some of the quilts are travel journals for the places stitching has taken Sue…


Other pieces are studies in color and texture.


Some might just be showing off… can you believe those knots?


Me?  I’d just have a knotted mess of thread to untangle.

Every time I get a new book, a sweet friend asks “do I need this book?”  While I like to think that everyone is going to want the same books I do, I know that isn’t really true.

Except with this one.

It’s for people like us – people who like playing with needle and thread, who love color, who love variety and texture and whimsy.

People who just like looking at pretty pictures of truly spectacular work.

I know that doesn’t describe just me.

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Market-inspired English Paper Piecing

Carrie’s shared with you so much of the amazing-ness of Quilt Market. It’s a sight for sore eyes (and it creates sore feet, unless you’re like me and refuse to wear anything but comfortable shoes).

Moda celebrating 40 yearsWhile it’s mostly delightful, it also creates frustration. And that’s because, no matter how much we wish it weren’t true, we can’t do it all. Seeing myriad fabrics, gadgets, and techniques, taking in all that color, texture, and design, provides endless inspiration. If only there was a Quilt Market vendor who offered special deals on endless hours of sewing time!

Since I have yet to stumble across that booth at Market, I’ve decided to take a new tack. I’m going to focus on just a couple of new things I want to learn.

Diane Gileland sharing EPP

Author Diane Gilleland sharing EPP

The first is English paper piecing, or EPP as those-in-the-know call it. I realize I’m late to this party but it’s something I’ve been dying to try, and a Schoolhouse presentation further whetted my appetite. Jess Finn of Paper Pieces teamed up with author Diane Gilleland to share Diane’s new book, All Points Patchwork. The book is filled with great tips about paper piecing in general, as well as what she calls “project inspiration”—ideas for ways to use paper piecing that won’t take years to complete. That’s my kind of sewing!

Different shapes that work together are labeled by package color. These (yellow) 1" diamonds will work with the (yellow) 1" hexagons.

Different shapes that work together are labeled by package color. These (yellow) 1″ diamonds will work with the (yellow) 1″ hexagons.

I was also really intrigued by the way she combined different shapes of EPP. And this is where Jess Finn comes in. Paper Pieces offers packs of paper templates in shapes from the tried-and-true hexagons to kites, pentagons, clamshells, and Dresdens. And to make putting them together simple, the pieces that match are packaged in color-coded packages: yellow for 1” pieces, purple for 2” pieces, and so on. It’s ingenious and takes the guesswork out of making sure selected templates work together. That kind of coordination reduces stress for newbies (like me). I also like that the 1″ pieces work with Moda candy—like these new lines by Leila Boutique and April Rosenthal.



If I decide to try fussy cutting, which creates so many fantastic secondary patterns, PaperPieces offers acrylic templates. And since last year I’ve been intrigued by these Kathy Doughty Hex Essentials. But one thing at a time…I’m trying to avoid Market overload!

The back of this EPP is almost as pretty as the front.

The back of Diane’s EPP is almost as pretty as the front.

If you enjoy English paper piecing, I’d love it if you’d share any tips to get me started successfully in the comment section. I need all the help I can get!

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Quilt Market: A Different View


I introduced myself last May, just as I was on my way to spring Quilt Market in Minneapolis. Now I’m prepping to head to Houston, (on a jet plane, just like Moda’s crates, though I’m coming from Iowa).

My visit to Market this time around will be a bit different, as I’m going to be the sole representative of the shop where I work—Home Ec Workshop in Iowa City. Our shop owner had a baby in September, a baby who wasn’t due until Christmas. Little Leola Elizabeth (isn’t that a great name?) weighed in at only a pound and a half, but she’s doing quite well and has gained nearly a pound. Naturally her mom doesn’t want to leave her, so I will be winging my way to Texas alone and looking for goodies for the shop.

Little Leola's tiny hands.

Little Leola’s tiny hands.

I’ve been instructed to take lots of pictures and collect armloads of catalogs, brochures, and samples so that orders can be placed after I return. We live in a university town—the University of Iowa is here—and we have lots of students who come into our shop looking for a little stress relief and a break from the books. So I’m always interested in projects that can be completed in an evening or weekend afternoon class, like patchwork pillows or tote bags, and I’ll be on the lookout for those kinds of patterns and projects.


Aprons, skirts, and pillows in Joanna Figureroa’s Fig Tree Quilts fall 2014 booth provide great ideas for class projects.


Another great class project—Vanessa Christensen’s Honeycomb Pouches, featured in her Fall 2014 booth.

Along with stitching quilts, bags, and home dec items, our customers love garment sewing, so I’m especially excited to check out new clothing patterns. (The Everyday Skirt is a perennial favorite at our shop.)LC005ES-Dv2-570x800


Embroidery is hot in our shop—I’ll be on the lookout for new patterns and projects with stitching accents. (I love French General’s patterns, like Joyeux Noel, and embroidery floss.)


We’ve also had some great projects, including Madeline Oberg’s Budapest rucksack, made with Kraft Tex and I’m hoping to find more ways to use it, too.


This cute pattern uses Craftex, which looks like leather.

And did I mention that I can’t wait to see all the new fabric? Well, I can’t.

While I’m looking forward to the eye candy, I also can’t wait to see old friends (I hope Sandy Gervais and Jan Patek will still speak to me after I called them Moda’s “oldest” designers) and meet some of those folks who I’ve talked with on the phone (or via email, like QuiltJane). I always sneak a peek at attendee’s name tags, in hopes of saying hi to shop owners I’ve “met” through interviews. If you’re at Market and see me, say hi—I’d love to meet you, too.

Finally, I look forward to touching base with Carrie and making plans for The Cutting Table. Speaking of which, are there things you’d be interested in reading about? Leave a note in the comments and I’ll put them on the “agenda” when Carrie and I touch base.

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Think Pink!  Think Market!

Think Something – Anything – But Market!


This is an antique Drunkard’s Path quilt I found on Pinterest.  It’s pink.  It’s pretty.  It’s in!

I think you can guess that given a choice of subjects for today, I’ll go with the first one.  It’s October and since 1985, it’s been celebrated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  But did you know that the pink ribbon symbol didn’t come until several years later?

In the fall of 1991, The Susan G. Komen Foundation had given out pink ribbons to participants in it’s New York City Race for the Cure.  Two years later, Evelyn Lauder of Estee Lauder Companies founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as it’s symbol.  If you watched any National Football Games over the weekend, you probably saw lots and lots of pink.

We were laughing about that this morning and that led us to asking how much “pink” we had in the office – meaning in the sample room and notions building.  There is some pink fabric – but pictures of pink Bella Solids didn’t seem as interesting as notions.


Sewline.  They’re easy – everything they do comes in pink packaging.  Thank you, Sewline!

That’s the Sewline Gift Set, it comes in a pretty pink case.  Do you use marking pencils?  Someone asked me recently if I did and I have to confess that I don’t.  I use the Micron fine markers for drawing lines and unfortunately, they don’t come in pink.  Red, but not pink.  (Who do I see about correcting that?)

I do like glue pens and Sewline’s is my favorite.  I’ve been using them to hold zippers in place while making zippered-bags, and for turning under edges for machine-applique.  (I’ll show you the circle quilt I just finished this weekend when it’s back from the quilter.)


There were a lot – more than I would have thought.

In no particular order:

Just so you know, the Peels, Tulips and Bobbinis only come in packages with blue, green, orange and pink.  I just pulled out the pink ones.

Do you know what this is?


I know.  It says it’s a Simple Seam Wheel.  They used to be pretty common in quilt shops… back in the day when templates were used for piecing a lot.  They’re not so easily found now but Jen Kingwell uses them all the time so she found a source and now sells them.  They’re very nice – heavy, thick and with a big enough hole for most pencils to fit into easily.

What’s it for?  It’s used to mark a 1/4″ seam allowance with templates – the sort used to make quilts like these…


These are from Millefiori Quilts  by Willyne Hammerstein.  The quilt in the upper left corner is the La Passacaglia quilt – fussy cutting required, templates required.  There’s also a gorgeous Millefiori Quilts 2 book… that Willyne is a busy girl.

That’s enough fun for me… I’ve got a binding to finish for Karen and some log cabin strips to cut.  And a backing to piece.

Pink is good but I need to think about that middle thing now.

Which reminds me… in addition to pictures of new things from Market, is there anything I should put on my list as a “look for”, “must see”, “get a picture of”?  (I need lists these days of I forget things.)

Happy Tuesday!

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