I’m Down with EPP (English Paper Piecing)

October 5, 2011 at 9:25 am 1 comment

(What can I say, I was a college sophomore when that song came out, so it’s permanently imprinted on my psyche.)

Another new project I’ve been dabbling with is entirely Bonnie Hunter’s fault! (Didn’t I start following her to help me finish my UFOs?) She’s been posting on her blog about her English paper pieced hexagon project that she works on for handwork during all her travels. As I’ve been feeling a little uninspired by hand applique lately, and my counted cross-stitch projects are in a woeful state of disorganization at the moment, I’ve been in a bit of an uncharacteristic handwork drought myself. So when I saw a lovely display of English paper piecing projects and die cut papers for sale at Back Door Quilts outside Indianapolis in August, I thought I’d give it a try. If I didn’t like it much, I’d only be out $3.75 for the bag of 250 3/4” hexagons and a little stack of scraps.

EPP taupe diamondsI’ve never been much one for traditional hand piecing a la Jinny Beyer, so I never really contemplated making a hexagon quilt. I think they’re lovely, but the necessary step of basting in the papers seemed like it would be tedious. So far, I’m enjoying it far more than I’d ever imagined I would. (I am thinking I need a thimble for my thumb when I baste, but I haven’t seen Roxanne thimbles at a show lately, and I’d want to be fitted in person.) I learned a quick method of chain basting hexagons from a YouTube video by Jackie Willis, so the preparation stage doesn’t take quite so long. And it’s remarkably satisfying to take the papers out once each hexagon becomes completely surrounded, kind of like a quilting version of playing Minesweeper.

I’m using scraps left over from cutting out Taupe Winding Ways (you know, the same scraps I used for Ronan’s quilt? and for my circle applique block? and there are still more of them?) The whipstitches used to put the hexagons together are so far much less susceptible to my perfectionism than my applique stitches usually are. Rather than making typical Grandmother’s Flower Garden shapes, I’m piecing elongated diamonds like in the Martha Washington’s Flower Garden quilt:

Permanent collection of the DAR Museum

"Martha Washington's Flower Garden," by Hannah Wallis, 1800-1849

The beauty of this project is that it’s self-limiting: I’m planning to make diamonds until I get sick of them, and then I’ll join them into whatever size they make. It could be a bed quilt, a hot pad, or anything in between. I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far at the speed at which they’ve been going together when I really have a chance to focus, though; I finished an already-started diamond and basted a respectable baggie-full of hexagons while sitting at my most recent quilt guild meeting. And I’m certainly honing my reflexes for hiding the scissors every time Ronan pulls himself up to my table while I’m working on them!

I’ve certainly seen many hexagon quilts over the years, especially examples from the 1930s at Documentation Day, but I had never really studied just how many possibilities a hexagonal grid leads to. The English tradition means that they show up all the time in Australian Patchwork and Quilting, and the handwork aspect means they’ve become popular among Japanese quilters as well, so I’ve been looking through some of my old magazines with new eyes. My starting this project seems to represent such a perfect example of the odd juxtapositions inherent in being a quilter in 2011:  I was inspired to start doing a style of hand piecing that’s been around for nearly 300 years, by a blogger, and I learned how by watching a video on the internet. Oh, Miss Bennet!

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Entry filed under: New Projects. Tags: , , .

Triumph Over Tension Headaches! Classes at Quilting with Machines 2011

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. kathy  |  October 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    that might be OEPP, I enjoy the posts and your descriptive style.

    Reply

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