Julie Zaichuk-Ryan from Button Button embroiders, knits, makes lace, sews and she loves English paper piecing! Today she’s here to tell us more about paper piecing, and she has a new project to share as well. Take a look at Julie’s embroidery design shop Little Dorrit & Co. (where they are currently having a Valentine’s Sale!) and her knitting patterns too. Enjoy!
English Paper Piecing (EPP for short) is at an enormous peak in popularity right now; if you haven’t been stitching fabric hexagons together yourself, you’ve probably seen some of your crafty friends doing it. But where did it come from?
English Paper Piecing, also called “mosaic patchwork,” appeared in Britain in the 1700s and grew in popularity as new printed cottons became widely available. It eventually took a backseat to quilting with velvets and silks in the Victorian era, but EPP reappeared in the 1930s, when feedsack fabrics and the Grandmother’s Flower Garden layout were widely used, and then again in the 1960s and 70s.
Paper piecing was surely a fairly painless way to deal with precise fabric cutting and seam allowances in the days before self-healing mats, rotary cutters and acrylic quilting rulers; virtually any shape or design can be patchworked with paper templates. But the hexagon is definitely the most consistently used paper piecing shape. Hexagons are EPP magic; they are quick to baste and fit together flawlessly every time.
Inspired by a quilt from the mid-1800s (in the International Quilt Study Center & Museum’s collection) and the idea that past quilters often used the hexagon as a design base even while piecing other shapes, I’ve tried combining plain hexagons with hexagons that contain a six-pointed star. This tutorial is perfect for paper piecing enthusiasts looking to add a little zing to their hexies! And the best thing is that one template will give you all the pieces you need. So let’s get stitching!
Here’s what you’ll need to make one Star Hexie:
- Star-Hexie Template
- Card or heavy paper
- A few tiny fabric scraps
- Standard hand-sewing tools: scissors, needle, thread, etc.
- If you’ve never EPP-ed before, see Sew Mama Sew’s previous Paper Piecing Hexagons tutorial for basic instructions.
1. Download and print your template on card or heavy paper. Cut one hexagon out, then carefully cut along the inside lines to create twelve separate diamonds:
2. Decide on your fabric layout. I used two mid-contrast prints per star and then a darker, high-contrast fabric for the outer diamonds to accentuate the finished hexagon shape. Each Star Hexie uses only very small amounts of fabric, so break out those precious scraps!
Baste the twelve diamonds in whatever way you like best; for this design, I like to baste by hand, through the papers, but any method will work.
4. To assemble the inner star, whip stitch two sets of three diamonds together, with right-sides facing each other:
5. Then whip stitch your two star halves together in the same way, followed by your outer diamonds between each star point:
6. Yay! You’ve completed one Star Hexie! Now you can combine it with others, or with plain hexagons. Simply use the template as a whole (ignoring the diamond lines).
For a modern look, I randomly scattered a few Star Hexies in with plain hexagons, which is shown at the beginning of this post squared up and ready to turn into a mini-quilt or pillow top. But of course, in the end, we’re just working with hexagons, so there’s no limit to the possible layouts!