Carley Biblin has spent a good portion of her life in Coastal California crafting and creating. Carley learned the basics of sewing from her mom when she was a kid, but it wasn’t until her then-fiancé gave her a used sewing machine for Christmas that she picked up sewing as a regular hobby. Since then she has made it a goal to put her own spin on everything she makes; she also aspires to design her own sewing patterns. Carley posts sewing tutorials and other fun stuff on her blog Making It Up as I Sew Along. You can get behind the scenes looks at her life and projects via Twitter and Instagram.

Carley showed us How to Embroider Wool + Fur in our Six Weeks of LOVE for Softies. She’s back to show you How to Make Your Own Paper Pieced Designs! Start with a geometric coloring book or look online for easy geometric shapes. All you need are a few simple tools, Carley’s easy how-to and an adventurous, creative spirit!

When I first saw a fussy cut English Paper Piecing project, I was in awe of the time, skill and patience put in by the maker. After browsing more projects, I became mesmerized by the complex designs that could be created. The process of EPP is actually quite simple, requiring only the barest of tools and supplies to get started. I began my journey into EPP as just about everyone does: with hexies. After making a couple of hexie flowers I decided to try my hand at creating my own patterns.

Starting from scratch seemed daunting so I chose to adapt a design from a coloring book instead. Today I’m going to share my technique with you. It’s a great way to try out EPP and make something uniquely you.

You’ll Need:

  • Geometric coloring page
  • Whiteout pen
  • Straight edge
  • Ruler
  • Sharp pencil
  • Colored pencils

1. Find a design. Geometric patterns are perfect for EPP. Dover Publications has several coloring books that are great for this. Although some of the designs can be used “as is,” others require a bit of tweaking before they can be used as a pattern for EPP. You can also search the web using terms such as these: geometric, vector, tesselations, repeating, pattern, coloring pages, clipart. Mix and match the search terms until you find a design you like. It’s easier to use a design that is already a black and white line image. If you don’t find the “perfect” design, read on to learn how to alter one that is close to what you want. Once you find a design, print or copy it.

2. Find the repeat. This step can be difficult. If you’re having trouble finding the repeat, try rotating the page 45 degrees so that one corner of the page is towards you. In the example here, the pattern appears complicated when viewed head on. Turning it slightly reveals that it is basically a square with some points sticking out. I’ve outlined the design in purple to make it easier to see.

3. Cut out the design. Accuracy is important, so keep the edges as straight as possible. Make sure to leave some of the black outline around the edge of each unit. Cut out at least four whole designs.

4. Alter the design (optional). You can leave the design as is or change it up to suit your skill level or desired look. For this, you will need whiteout, a pencil and a straight edge. To simplify it, white out lines to create fewer shapes in the overall design. You can make the design more complex by adding lines within the printed shapes. The image here shows a couple ways a design could be altered.

5. Make the design compatible with EPP. If your design has any inward facing angles (as in the original design here), you will need to divide the shape so that all angles are pointing out. Use a straight edge and pencil to draw a line from corner to corner as shown.

6. Make copies. Once you have decided which lines to white out and which lines to add, repeat the process for the rest of the units so you have four identical designs. Lay them upside down on a photocopier and copy at 100% (you’ll enlarge later, but keep it small for now).

7. Play around with color. Use the copies to test out different color combinations for your EPP design. Try juxtaposing light and dark colors, make a rainbow or use neutrals to make a focus color pop. Have fun with it and make more copies if you need to.

8. Enlarge your design. There are two things to consider when deciding how much to enlarge your design: 1) how small of pieces you want to work with and 2) how big you want a finished unit to be. Start by measuring the shortest side of the smallest shape. Let’s say that it measures 1/4 inch. If you want it to be 1/2 inch (or doubled in length), copy the design at 200%. If you want it to be one inch (or quadrupled in length), copy at 400%. Lay one or two designs upside down on the copier and set the enlargement percent.

9. Make the templates. Select the weight of paper you want to use for your templates. I prefer the rigidity of 110 lb. cardstock, though not all copiers can handle the thickness. Make several copies. Cut individual shapes from the design. Cut as close to the center of the black lines as possible. This ensures that the fabric pieces fit together properly when you assemble them. If you are worried about the pieces fitting together, you can number the template pieces before copying; just make sure to keep one design uncut so you know what order they go in.

10. Assemble and sew. Use the templates as a guide to cut out fabric pieces. Cut about 3/8 inch from the edge of the template. Baste the fabric to the templates then stitch the fabric shapes together using one of your copies as a guide. Your first unit should fill the copied design. If you are new to EPP, check out this beginner-friendly information.

11. Make more units (optional). If you want your project to include more than one unit (a repeating pattern), cut out enough fabric shapes for the area you want to fill. Keep in mind that one or more of your shapes may be linking pieces. In the image here, you can see that the small squares in one unit fit into an adjacent unit. If this is the case for your design, simply leave out the redundant shapes when assembling additional units.

I’d love to see what you make with this tutorial. Feel free to tag me on Instagram or tweet me. I can’t wait to see some projects you come up with! And, if you have any questions, you can contact me through my Making It Up as I Sew Along blog.