If this is your first or second time trying English Paper Piecing (EPP), there's one thing I want you to take from this - play!
My first attempts at English paper piecing involved printable templates that I cut myself and thread basting which I found awkward and slow. It was only once I decided to play around with different methods of getting my pieces ready to stitch that I became hooked on EPP!
Supplies for Taking Your First English Paper Piecing Stitches
I use Bohin Milliners Needles, size 9 (I have size 10 on hand too, but I prefer the 9s). Needle size number go UP, the SMALLER they are. So size 8 is wider and longer than size 11. I find size 9 goes smoothly through the fabric, has a hole big enough for my thread, and creates a hole in the fabric big enough that I don't have to yank it through. I've played around with a few different brands and have found these one don't bend or tarnish. I love them!
For thread, I use Aurifil 50wt. Thread is one of those things that is definitely a matter of preference. Lots of people swear by Bottom Line thread. It's a 60 wt polyester thread. (Thread is another product where the numbers go up, the finer the thread.) I like cotton because I like the feel of it while I'm stitching. Polyester has a bit of a bounce which makes me queezy. But it tangles less. I always recommend trying what you have on hand first, and if it's frustrating you, spend a bit of money on new products.
My favourite colour thread is 4651. It's a variegated cotton of lavender, lemon and cream, and blends beautifully with lots of different fabrics. There's also a nice variegated grey. I also end up using a lot of cream, mint or butter because it's what I have on hand.
TIP: The absolutely essential thing that's going to keep you happy stitching with cotton is: thread your needle with the end that comes off the spool first. If you like, thread your needle, then snip the thread off the spool, so you can remember. Cotton thread is directional, and this little tip will prevent tons of tangles and thread breakages!
English Paper Piecing Whipstitch Tutorial
My English paper piecing stitches are generally about 10-12 per inch. This is further apart than traditionally taught, but they hold together and wash just fine. Make sure you just stitch through the fabric folds. If you stitch too deep, you’ll go through the paper and they’ll be harder to remove.
I stitch away from myself and use my thumb nail to push the needle through the fabric. Lots of people stitch towards themselves or from one side to the other. Being a self-taught quilter makes me a little unconventional, but it works for me!
1. Make the Knot
Place the two pieces you wish to stitch together right sides together, and put the needle in through the corners of both pieces. Leave a little tail and hold it to the side. (I use my thumb that it holding the pieces together for this.) Stitch through the same section again and pull tight. Stitch again, and this time, put your needle through the thread loop before you pull tight. This makes your knot.
2. Whipstitch the Seam
Whipstitch along the seam until you come to a corner. Stitch a couple of times in the corner to anchor the stitch. If your seam ends here, knot as before.
If you're joining the next piece, like in a hexie flower, open out your hexies, and then place the next petal over the centre hexie. Line up the next seam, and stitch a couple of times in the corner of both pieces. Continue joining pieces around the centre hexie.
If you want to see my stitches for English paper piecing in action, you can watch this video on YouTube.
Additional Resources for EPP Stitches
I personally love seeing the stitches in my English paper piecing projects. Lots of practice has made them neat and regular, and I love that it shows off how handmade my quilts are! But, If you hate seeing your stitches or want to try something different here are a few videos and tutorials you can check out from other stitchers.
Ready to take your first (or next) English paper piecing stitches?
I created a FREE Hexie Banner pattern so that you could dip your toes into the English paper piecing ocean before taking a deep quilt sized dive. You can have that free pattern delivered right to your inbox by clicking the button below!