English Paper Piecing Patchwork

This is a traditional technique that in our modern times may appear slow as it is all hand stitched. However it is a very portable patchwork and this allows you to use up time that would otherwise be wasted such as travelling by train or whilst having a coffee break. Every piece is tacked around a paper template and this means there is very little chance that you will make an error with the seam allowance. It also allows you to undertake complex designs using hexagon, triangles,diamonds and other shapes with mitres that could be difficult to piece together by machine.

As I haven't completed my patchwork I don't have a photo of my own work so I have downloaded this from Google images. To view more just type English paper piecing patchwork into your search engine.

To  start you need a template of the shape you wish to make. Hexagons are the easiest shape as they have 120 degree corners which means the seam allowance can be neatly tucked in. You can buy metal or plastic templates that you can draw round onto you paper but I downloaded hexagonal templates from 'snippets and blabbery . Download the size template you want and save it to your computer. Print from your saved file and make sure the printer is set to print actual size as this will ensure the template is the correct size. Printing direct from the web page can cause the template to be too small. Remember to cut out the individual templates using paper scissors not your best fabric scissors as the paper will blunt them. You need a paper template for every piece of the patchwork you are making. Your paper template needs to be cut accurately as this is what makes the finished size of the patch.

Next you need to pin your paper template to your fabric and cut 1/4 inch away from the fabric to give you the seam allowance. Pin the template to the reverse of the fabric  and once cut you are ready to tack the fabric to the template. If you want to fussy-cut pin the template to the right side of the fabric having positioned it over the area of pattern you want to use. Once cut you will need to re-pin the paper template to the reverse of the fabric.

Tack the fabric to the paper template, sewing through the template. Make sure you fold the fabric neatly around the paper, finger pressing it over the paper as you go and neatly tucking in the fabric at the corners.

With right sides together pin the two hexagons together to keep them in the correct position whilst stitching. Oversew or whip stitch the edges together. You can start and finish with a knot but I prefer not to. Start sewing a about 6mm or 1/4 inch from the corner of the patch and stitch back towards the corner before stitching along the length of the patch. At the other corner stitch back 6mm or 1/4 inch to finish. Don't use long lengths of thread as this type of sewing puts a lot of wear on the thread and it will break. I cut the thread having finished the one side. This helps make it easier to remove a patch should I need to replace an individual patch in the future because of wear or damage.

The next piece is attached in the same way.When making a flower out of hexagons the first layer all attach to the centre patch. To keep the project small and portable make up the individual 'flowers' and stitch together in sections. The sections can all be sewn together to form the quilt. Alternatively an individual flower can be used to appliqué onto individual blocks by hand or machine.

Leave the papers in the patchwork until it is completed. This helps keep the seams open and makes the seams lie behind their own patch. When the patchwork is complete press and remove the papers.  

Hope this helps and that you enjoy trying English paper pieced patchwork. Once finished I will add a photo of my quilt to this tutorial.  


  1. Hi Lyndsey! Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day. I thought I would check yours out too! You have a new follower now! Anyway, I was wondering, have you found a full page of 2 inch (sided) hexies that is printable for cutting out? The ones I used are 2 inch but I traced them around cardboard so they are a little irregular and sometimes the sides don't match up so perfectly :( I have found the 1 inch and 1.5 inch pdf's from texas freckles' blog. When I was drawing the 2 inch ones I could fit 6 (I think) on a page. I prefer the larger ones because I make large quilts usually.

  2. I love EPP! We have had an exhibition here in our city's Art Gallery of quilts from the V&A museum...beautiful quilts and so many of us list the one made with the tiniest hexies as our favourite! (it was made from woollen fabrics that were used in military uniforms)

  3. I have just started EPP and I love it as a traveling project. I bought hexagon paper punches for my pieces, quicker and easier to just punch, for me anyways. I look forward to seeing more of this method!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. As I'm new to all this, I fear I'm asking a really silly question. How do you remove the paper if sewing through it? Please

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.