Carley Biblin is a blogger and pattern designer living in the small town of Fairfax, California. She writes tutorials and sewing book reviews, shares helpful tips and posts progress on her many projects at Making It Up as I Sew Along. Her most recent designs include English Paper Piecing patterns for beginner and intermediate sewists.
Take a look at her blog, Etsy shop and Instagram to see what’s new on her design table. We think you’ll love learning how to make your own English Paper Piecing (EPP) pattern templates with Word, and we’re so happy Carley was willing to share her tips!
Carley has a special offer for Sew Mama Sew readers. Use the coupon code “EPPfun” to get $2 off any pattern in her Etsy shop. Check it out!
One of my favorite things about English Paper Piecing is that you can so easily alter existing patterns or even design your own. Today I’m going to share with you how to make EPP pattern templates using a computer program you have at home or can access at your local library: Microsoft Word. Whether you want to create new, never-before seen patterns, or recreate traditional motifs at the exact size, scale and style you want, this tutorial will show you how to get started.
Open a new Word document: Open Word. Click “File” at the top left of the window, then click “New.” If you are given options for what type of document, select “Blank Document.” Click the “Full Screen” icon on the top right corner of the window so all of the toolbars and options are visible.
Insert your first shape: Click the “Insert” tab at the top of the window (Arrow #1). Then click the “Shapes” button (Arrow #2).
Select a shape: A box will appear showing all the different shape options. If you want to create a repeating design, the easiest shapes to start with are a triangle, hexagon or any four-sided shape. Don’t worry if you don’t see the exact shape you want. You can edit the line length and angles of the shape later. For now, just pick the one that is closest to what you envision. You can experiment with all the shapes in the box, but remember that EPP templates should only have angles that point away from the center (such as a square or hexagon). Other shapes (such as the plus sign) can be altered with additional lines to make them work.
Draw your first shape: Left click and hold with your mouse (for PC-users) and drag the mouse to draw a shape. While continuing to hold the mouse button down, you can press the “Shift” key on your keyboard to constrain the proportions of the shape to have equal side lengths (though I’ve noticed some shapes are more “equal” than others). Remove your finger from the mouse button when your shape is the size/dimensions you want. This first shape should fill most of the page to make it easier to see, though you can change this in a later step.
Format the shape: With the shape selected, click the “Format” tab at the top of the window (this tab should be the default after drawing a new shape or highlighted when the shape is selected). Change the shape to a black outline by scrolling up in the fill/outline box indicated by the arrow. Select the black outline option. You can also change the weight– or thickness– of the line by clicking the “Shape Outline” drop-down box to the right of the fill/outline box.
Add shapes to create a design: Now you will add shapes within this first shape to create a design. Follow steps two through five to draw another shape. Place the shape where you want it and resize it as necessary (again, using the “Shift” key if you want to constrain the proportions). Make sure the sides of the new shape touch the sides of the existing shape(s) to avoid gaps. Continue adding shapes until your design is as complex as you want it.
You can create a more custom shape using one of the shapes from the drop-down list of pre-programmed options. First, select and draw the shape you want to alter. Click the “Format” tab at the top of the window, then click “Edit Shape” from the toolbar. When the list pops up, select “Edit Points.” The white circles at each of the points will be replaced by black squares which you can click and drag to change the shape. Although this gives you more options, it is difficult to create symmetrical shapes. If you opt for custom shapes, I also suggest you use “negative space” (rather than another custom shape) to create your design.
Group the shapes: The next step is to put all your shapes into a group so you can resize and move them as a single unit. To do this, hold down the “Ctrl” key (for PC-users) and click each shape in your design with your mouse. Once all are selected, you can remove your finger from the “Ctrl” key. Select the “Format” tab, then click on the “Group” button on the top left side of the toolbar. When the list pops up, select “Group.”
Resize the design: While dragging one of the corners to resize your design, press the “Shift” key to constrain the proportions. When deciding on a size, consider the fabric you will be using and the scale of the print(s). You can use the rulers along the top and left of the document to give you an idea of scale.
Repeat your design: Once your design is the correct size, you have two basic options. You can 1) print it as is or 2) make a more complex design using your repeatable design. The first is straightforward. Here, I will outline how to repeat your design for more complex designs. Select your design, then copy and paste it using your preferred method. Click the copied shape. Hover your mouse over the rotation arrow at the top of the shape, then left-click and hold while dragging to rotate the shape. Holding the “Shift” key while dragging will force the shape to rotate a set number of degrees at a time. After rotating the shape, drag it to its new location next to the first shape. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the shape more precisely. You may need to fine-tune its placement by rotating the shape a bit more. Note that Word’s programming allows shapes to “magnetize” to one another. This can be a help or a hindrance depending on what you’re trying to do. Moving shapes away from each other reduces the magnetizing effect, which can make adjustments to the shape easier. Make as many copies of your original design as you want, adding them to the new design as outlined in this step.
Group the units of your new design: Hold down the “Ctrl” key and select all the shapes in your new design. Click the “Format” tab, then click “Group” on the right side of the toolbar. Select “Group” from the drop-down box. Make any adjustments you want to the size or shape of your new design.
Adding a border: You can also add a border to your design, and there are two ways you can go about it. The first way is to draw a shape (or insert one from a file or web image) that matches the outer line, but make it larger and centered around the design. After inserting/drawing the shape, and with the new shape selected, click on the “Layout Options” icon to the top right of the shape (Arrow #1). When the menu appears, select the “Behind Text” option (Arrow #2). This will move the new shape behind your design so that both are visible.
Adding a border, method two: The other way to add a border is to build one with individual lines. Click the “Insert” tab at the top of the window, then click “Shapes” on the toolbar. From the “Lines” section of the list, select the straight line without arrows. Draw a line. With the line selected, move it so that one of the end points touches one of the angles of your design. Click and drag the opposite endpoint to adjust the length and angle of the line. If your design, like mine, has lines that extend from angle to angle within the design, it is simpler and more accurate to draw one long line that follows the existing line and extends beyond it at either end. This will be called the “angle-extender line” in the next step. Repeat until you have all the lines you need.
Finish the border by drawing a line as before. Place the line so that it creates a border of your desired width (using the rulers along the left and top for scale) running it parallel to the outer edge of your design. Copy and paste the line you just drew and place it so that one side crosses through the intersection created by the first border line you just drew and one of the angle-extender lines beside it. Continue pasting and moving lines until the rest of the border is complete. You may need to fine-tune the placement of the lines as you go.
Once you are happy with your design, it’s ready to be printed on your desired paper. When cutting the templates, be sure to cut along the center of the black lines.
Baste and sew the shapes using your preferred method.
To give you a bit more inspiration, and ideas for what else you can create, here are a few other examples I whipped up. I can’t wait to see all the beautiful designs you make. You can tag me on Instagram (@carleybiblin) or Twitter (@asisewalong) and share with #eppword for all to see.