English Paper Piecing

English Paper Piecing fabric  is a very easy, pleasant, relaxing  project for taking into the garden or on holiday.  You can make lots of different shapes which when sewn together can be then appliqued onto a bag or quilt or garment when you are inside again!

For one of my lap quilts I decided to make a flower applique from paper pieced hexagons. Three rounds of ‘petals’ using three different fabrics.

English paper piecing technique

Three rounds of the flower sewn

It is very easy to do and also a very light project to carry round! I carried mine down to my swingy seat in the garden which is a shady spot surrounded by flowers.  It’s my little escape-to  place  – with a mug of tea or coffee and a book in the daytime and a glass of wine in the weekend evenings when the solar lights pop on and I light candles!  Taking my hand sewing there is wonderful as it makes me feel chilled out yet creative and industrious all at the same time!

So to prepare back at the ranch….

Firstly buy or make a hexagon shape and then draw round it several times on an A4 piece of paper. Then photocopy the paper several times depending on how many shapes you need.   Alternatively you can print out a few pages of hexagon shapes.  Cut out all the shapes you need for one project.  It is possible to remove the papers carefully and use them again but for the first project just make sure you have enough.

For the fabric flower above you need 1 hexagon of your centre fabric, 6 of the middle round and 12 for the outside round.

Now either get a large piece of fabric or select some fabric scraps or cut some fabric into pieces which are roughly about an inch bigger all round than your hexagon shape.

Pack your project bag with:

  • paper shapes
  • large piece of fabric or several fabric pieces
  • a dozen pins
  • a couple of needles (just in case you drop one and lose it!)
  • a reel of any thread – (basic white basting thread will do)
  • a small pair of scissors
  • chocolate/snacks (optional)
  • bottle of water/soft drink/wine (optional)
  • your glasses (if you need them)
  • your mobile ‘phone?  (Boo! – but only if you must remain contactable for some reason!)
  • hand wipes and tissues if you brought the snacks 🙂

Now get yourself down the garden/to the beach/pool/park etc!

English paper piecing technique

pin shape on fabric


Start by placing hexagon papers onto the reverse side of the fabric and pin in place with one pin through the middle.  Pin papers all over the reverse side of your fabric, about 2 inches apart or pin one shape to your small pieces of fabric if you have already cut them up.






English paper piecing

cut fabric same shape as paper

Cut round your shapes leaving about a 1/4 inch border


English paper piecing technique

Fold over the fabric edges












Now fold over the fabric, one edge at a time and hold it in place with your finger and thumb while you sew the fabric to the paper.  You could pin right round instead before sewing if you prefer or have dexterity issues.


English paper piecing technique

Fabric sewn round paper shape






Sew the fabric to the paper with quite big stitches as they will be removed eventually when you are assembling the applique.

English paper piecing

Sew two hexagons together










Once you have sufficient papers covered in fabric together you will sew them together.   Start by placing the centre one and one of the second round right sides together.  Sew along one edge of the shapes with very small stitches – trying to only catch the two fabric edges and not the papers inside.

English paper piecing technique

Align the third shape for sewing



Now line up your third hexagon and then placing it right sides together onto the centre piece as before sew the sides together leaving the other five sides free.


English paper piecing technique

Middle ring sewn in place









Once all the middle ring are sewn to the centre piece you then sew up the sides between each centre shape so that each hexagon has three sewn sides and three unsewn sides. Don’t worry about bending the fabric shapes to get them to fit right sides together for sewing as any creases can be ironed out later.

English paper piecing technique

Three rounds of the flower sewn together then sewn to a plain background.


The 12 shapes of the last round are sewn in the same way, taking care to only sew fabric and not paper.

You could now finish here and complete the rest inside, depending on what you intend to do with your completed flower shape.   If the flower is to be included in a quilt block and you have brought out your block fabric you could now pin it in place and sew it around the outside edge.

Once the completed flower is sewn to the backing fabric you can remove the basting stitches.   Now turn the fabric over and cut away a circle of backing fabric almost as large as the flower – large enough to be able to reach inside and pull out all the pieces of paper from inside the hexagons. If you have accidently caught some of the paper when you sewed the hexagons together you will have to rip that shape and leave a little bit of paper there.

If you want to applique the flower to a bag you are making you should sew it in place before the lining is attached so that you can cut the hole at the back which will be hidden once the lining is in place.

And there you have a nice little portable project!   The same method is used to sew diamond shapes together in three different shades to give the effect of blocks stacked in a triangle shape.

Here are two of my quilt tops with blocks made from the English Paper Piecing method


red cotton patchwork quilt

4 block lap quilt

6 block sample quilt

Sampler Quilt

One thought on “English Paper Piecing

  1. Pingback: Penrose Tiling! | The Patchwork Fairy

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