EPP Quilts for Beginners
Do you know that I first took up English Paper Piecing (EPP) because my sewing machine was in for a service that took 5 months? My sewing machine repair guy got a call from his daughter who had broken contact with him 20 years earlier, and said she wanted to get back in touch. He dropped everything and flew to Brisbane, leaving my machine locked in his house. Even though I was part glad for him and part peeved at the time, I will now always be grateful to that daughter for calling, and that father for abandoning his work and going to be with her.
I had dabbled in small EPP projects before, but it had never really stuck. But when I decided on a quilt to get me through my machine-free time, I found that sewing a whole EPP quilt suited me well. I could prepare little quilt blocks in batches and take them to my weekly staff meeting, or sit by the fire in the evenings rather than relegating myself to the cold sewing room. I got into a groove, and that groove has never left me.
Below are my top 5 beginner EPP quilts. Some of them are good because they're made of hexagons, and hexagons are available anywhere. Some are beginner friendly because the blocks are small and simple, and some will be just what you're after because the blocks finish square, and you can machine sew them into a quilt top.
Read on and choose your favourite to get started!
1. Eden Quilt
Eden Quilt, by my friend Lucy Bath, is a very old EPP design that we've made scrappy! It was blocks just like these that I started making that winter without my machine (but they became a different quilt).
Eden is great for beginners because:
- the block construction is simple.
- the blocks are small enough to be comfortable in your hand, but big enough that sewing the rows together isn't too awkward.
- there's no points in the centre of the block to match up.
2. Willoughby Quilt
If you're after something less floral or hearty (see the next quilt), Willoughby could be just your man! Based on a traditional block pattern, Willoughby uses EPP to make 8-point star blocks that finish square. Once you've finished the blocks, you take the papers out, press, trim, and machine sew the square blocks together!
Willoughby could be your perfect match if:
- you feel overwhelmed by hand sewing long rows together.
- you're happy to practice getting your points to match up rather than needing them perfect first go.
- you like putting colours together at random rather than making a new choice for each step of the block.
3. Warm Hearted Quilt
These hearts are so simple and fun, I've made 3 versions of this quilt! Each block has just 2 pieces from the same fabric, so once you've decided which fabrics you'll use, there's no more decisions to make! Just baste your pairs and start sewing.
Choose Warm Hearted Quilt if you:
- are after something super portable.
- get overwhelmed by making fabric choices in multi-coloured quilt blocks.
- don't mind settling in for long sessions of sewing the rows together at the end. (It's perfect for a good book on Audible, or your favourite Netflix binge!)
4. Small Change Quilts
The Small Change Quilts pattern is actually 3 quilts in one PDF! It features three popular hexagon designs, which are appliquéd to background squares and machine sewn together.
Grab a copy of Small Change Quilts if:
- you've been oggling over hexagon quilts for a while but just couldn't start a quilt with that many small pieces.
- you want to start with something small and simple. (There's nothing simpler than a hexie flower!)
- you'd like to get a small packet of shapes from your local quilt shop, rather than invest in a big project before you know if you enjoy it. (1" hexagons are available almost anywhere.)
5. Cherish Quilt
Cherish is probably the most complex of the bunch, but I add it here because the pieces are relatively big and easy to sew together. Most of the sewing is in the block, and then there's not many rows to sew up.
I recommend Cherish Quilt for beginners who may have been quilting a while but want to try EPP because:
- you probably have a stash of precious fabrics that you're too worried to cut into. Cherish is perfect for spending time with them and letting them shine.
- you're comfortable choosing colours/fabrics for 4-colour blocks.
- you understand that it's completely normal to have various quilts on the go, and this can be the quilt you enjoy over a longer period rather than rushing through.
Choosing a Beginner EPP Quilt
In essence, all English Paper Piecing uses the same method of construction, which makes almost all EPP quilts beginner friendly. So, it's worth taking note of which quilts capture your imagination, even if they haven't made this list.
What makes different EPP quilts trickier, or suited to different people, might have more to do with how big the blocks become (I prefer working with small blocks because they're easier to hold in my hands), or how many colours you need to choose for a block (it's super fun, but takes time to grow in confidence).
Take a moment to tune into what kind of project you're after. Do you just want to baste a whole bunch of the same shape, and then steadily grow your stack of blocks, or do you love to sit and consider your colours, while the rest of the world fades away? I keep my basted scrappy shapes in a big tub and take them out as I choose them, and it's strictly a home project. But for 3 or 4 colour blocks, I prepare the pieces, and then store them in a zip-lock bag, which makes them perfect for grabbing on my way out the door if I'm taking kids to dance or to have a play at the park.
Want to give English paper piecing a try for free?
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I started with smaller projects, but eventually realized that I loved making larger sized quilts. So, I created a FREE Hexie Banner pattern so that you could dip your toes into the EPP ocean before taking a deep quilt sized dive. You can have that free pattern delivered right to your inbox by clicking the button below!