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Wisecraft Handstitched English Paper Piecing Pillow

My finished English paper piecing pillow

After a long day at work, picking the kiddo up from daycare, fixing dinner and doing the dishes…I like to relax by doing English Paper Piecing.  I started my EPP journey before Gemma was born by sewing up La Passacaglia (pattern by Willyne Hammerstein).  I’d pick my fabrics in the morning before I went to work (this was when I was still teaching high school), then when I got home, I’d cut the fabrics out as quickly as I could, make dinner, etc., then start glue stick basting all the papers on the couch.  I’d organize all my rosettes into little zip lock baggies so I could just grab and go.  I also had color coded templates I made so I wouldn’t get my little papers confused.  I’d throw a prepped ziplock into my purse when I knew I’d be travelling with students and had some time alone at the hotel at night and sew when I had a chance.  That project really hooked me into EPP.

Fast forward to now…I sew full time and any extra time in the morning is spent prepping for the day’s work ahead.  Now I have a sweet & sour toddler who demands most of my extra time in the evenings, and I’m so wiped after she goes to bed that the last thing I want to do is think about anything.  That is…until I got Blair Stocker’s Wisecraft Quilts book.  It’s such an organically creative book about repurposing and it really pulls at my creative heartstrings.

Wise Craft Quilts
Wise Craft Quilts

There’s an EPP project in Blair’s book called “Handstitched” that made me fall in love with English Paper Piecing all over again.  It’s a project I was confident I could complete, even with my never ending checklist and a needy toddler.  If you’re so inclined, you can pick up a paper template kit from Blair’s website HERE.  (Full disclosure-none of these are affiliate links.  I don’t get anything out of you making a purchase other than the satisfaction of knowing you’ll love this project as much as I do!)  Below is a picture from Blair’s book of the project and my beginning planning phase of the EPP.  Anytime I do EPP, I always sketch out a “map” of the project with a key for what fabric goes where.  I can’t ever remember what my original plan is without writing it down!

Handstitched EPP planning
Handstitched EPP planning

You can see in the finished/progress pictures that I didn’t end up using some of my fabric selections.  I’m a die hard Anna Maria Horner lover, and I ended up mainly using one print of hers that I’m a sucker for fussy cutting.  There’s so much going on in the pattern of that one fabric that you can basically fussy cut it all over and get dozens of different looks.

Handstitched step 1
Handstitched step 1

I started by assembling the center with my fussy cut pieces.

Handstitched step 2
Handstitched step 2

I absolutely LOVE incorporating stripes and straight lines into EPP.  I’m always surprised by the outcome.  See above.

Handstitched step 3
Handstitched step 3

There’s just something about those dull gold and maroons working with that magenta and mint that make them almost glow.

Spray basting onto my pillow front
Spray basting onto my pillow front

So I decided this project would be a perfect throw pillow.  Once I started it, I knew I needed to see this EPP on a daily basis and not just hanging out in my sewing studio.  I grabbed my favorite spray baste and cut a pillow front a little larger than it needed to be finished so I could quilt it as well.  I used Chaco liner to mark the pillow front into quarters to easily find the center and centered the English Paper Piecing piece on the pillow front.  After I used just a smidge of spray baste, I hand appliqued it to the fabric (also AMH fabric-loominous).  All while sitting on my cozy couch with the husband 🙂

applique
Appliqueing the EPP to the pillow front

I used Wonderfil 100 wt. thread to hand stitch.  I quilted some simple straight lines on the pillow front to add a little texture.  The Loominous fabric already has a grid motif on it, so I only did straight lines one way to save me some time.

Quilting
Quilting

 

My finished EPP pillow
My finished EPP pillow

I could have just stitched up the project and made a mini out of it, but we’re a pillow household.  I love how you have to really look at the center to see the English Paper Piecing template shapes.  The stripes really break it up and make you have to search for it.  I’m really hoping to start another of these soon once I get some other projects off my plate because it is so enjoyable to sew.  I put a lot of thought and even auditioned some of the fabrics before I started sewing, but you could just as easily make a scrappy version that would look outstanding as well.  I believe Blair’s version in the book is all Liberty (insert all the heart-eyed emojis here!!!).

Basically, I love this project.  I can sit my fanny on the couch and relax while my fingers do all the work.  And it makes me still feel like I’m being productive (while not actually having to do anything strenuous).  Win-win, right!?

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English Paper Piecing – Double wedding ring style!

Good morning!  So many milestones going on in our household this week–our little girl turned 6 months last week (How has it already been half a year???) I celebrated my first mother’s day, started the baby on her first solid foods, and it’s my husband’s birthday this week.  Needless to say, it’s been super busy, and I feel like I’ve been to the grocery store almost every day this week.  Do they give frequent flier miles for multiple grocery store trips in one day?  I should also mention we live 12 miles from the nearest grocery store…  I’m sure you can relate to the feeling that you’re flying by the seat of your pants on household chores and checklists.  Laundry, dishes, etc., etc., but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

One of the many reasons I love English Paper Piecing is the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the process of hand sewing.  I also love combining multiple parts of the sewing and design process and planning out a project from start to finish.  There is something so satisfying in making something completely from start to finish…even if it sometimes feels like you’re recreating the wheel.  


I started by sitting down with my EQ7 software and designing a mini quilt for our local Modern Quilt Guild.  We recently had our first silent auction event and mini quilt show (SO FUN!).  Then I printed templates onto cardstock for the EPP pieces and started thinking about my fabrics.  I had a great charm pack of Kaufman Kona Cotton Solids that I had been holding onto for over a year, and thought this would be a great opportunity to use it.  I traced and cut out my fabrics, and then had to pause when I selected my background fabric. 


I knew I didn’t want white, and I really like the effect black and white patterned fabrics have with solids.  So I auditioned a few different fabric choices–I really thought I wanted to go with a black and white stripe, but I opted for a more solid-reading print instead.  I pieced together a few of the DWR pieces and then placed them on top of my background fabric choices.  Pictured below is what I thought I was going to go with, but I instead selected a Tula Pink True Colors black and white print.  Because…Tula!!!


From the basic design in EQ7 (They already have the blocks drawn up…I just sized them to fit my needs), printing the cardstock, then cutting the fabrics, I got to take a breath and piece in my leisure time.  HA.  Leisure time…You know what I mean.  The semi-quiet moments in the house when my hair wasn’t on fire 😉


Then I loaded the mini on my longarm and did some simple stitch in the ditch around the wedding rings and some loopy swirl combos on the black and white background that blend nicely.  It may seem kind of dumb to longarm a mini quilt, since you need a little bit more backing fabric than you would if you were to quilt it on a domestic, but I figured I paid for that huge machine and I’m going to get my money’s worth!  Plus, I had just taken a fresh quilt off of the frame, and I had to take advantage of it before I loaded my next quilt.  It made for a slightly quicker finish than if I’d done it on the domestic sewing machine.

I was thrilled with the results, and playing with the color gradation and high-contrast background was really a lot of fun.  But mostly, I was able to really enjoy the process and each step along the way.  I don’t know about you, but from the day I started sewing, I’ve always eyed the double wedding ring quilts.  I’m not sure I have the patience at this point in my life to see a full-sized quilt through, so this mini quilt was the perfect opportunity for me to cross a DWR quilt off my quilting bucket list.  I had also never taken the time to hand piece curves before, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.  Really, I had built it up to be this super scary moment, when all you really need to do is take a little extra time and carefully mark the centers of each EPP piece prior to piecing it, and make sure you line the centers up while adjusting the curves.  

I hope your sewing adventures take you somewhere awesome this week, and try to slow down and enjoy the process behind what you’re doing.  I know I really enjoy the projects where I can slow down a bit and take a break from the hustle and bustle of life.  Happy sewing friends!