December Island Batik Project: EPP

Here’s what Island Batik had to say about the English Paper Piecing Challenge:

It’s time to limber up your fingers! Nothing does that like hand sewing. English Paper Piecing is a technique practiced by many who find the hand sewing process wonderfully relaxing.


English Paper Piecing (commonly called EPP) is a method of stabilizing fabric around a heavy paper shape before sewing the pieces together to create intricately pieced designs. It provides excellent accuracy and precision piecing. English Paper Piecing originated in England and was called Mosaic or honeycomb patchwork. In the late 1700’s, when all things English became popular in the U.S., the term English Paper Piecing was coined. The most popular shape has always been the hexagon because it makes good use of fabric scrap and is easy to assemble. The most recognizable hexagon pattern is Grandmother’s Flower Garden, which became popular in the 1920-1930s.

English Paper Piecing is often referred to as Hand Piecing or hand sewing and is a traditional sewing method that utilizes a running stitch to sew fabric pieces together. The hand sewer sews a ¼” seam allowance with needle and thread by, beginning a ¼” from the end of the shape, loading stitches on the needle and finishing ¼” away from the end of the shape by pulling the needle through the loaded stitches.

OK … so now I know what is expected but ….


When I saw this challenge, I almost started to cry!!! Seriously!!! English Paper Piecing??? That means hand sewing! When I sew by hand, my hands hurt! Big time!!! After about 10 minutes, it hurts … by 15 minutes it’s really hurting and after 20 minutes, I’m in agony and my fingers are numb. Oh my … how in the world am I going to be able to do this challenge?

I figured that I best start early. So in January, I ordered a bunch of paper piecing books from the guild library.

The guild librarian is a gem … during Covid, she has stored all the books at her home … a simple email or 2 and within a day, you can go pick them up!!! Awesome service!!

Anyhow, with a bag full of reading material, I attempted to see if anything appealed. I didn’t want to do a traditional Grandmother’s Flower Garden, or stars … One of the library books was “The New Hexagon” from a Canadian author that only lives 4 hours away from me! Bingo! If I have to endure pain, I will make what I want. I promptly ordered my own copy of the book.

I was given a 10″ stack of Island Batik‘s “Cabana” last year and decided that this would be the perfect fabric collection to use. I love the blues and the florals … it’s going to be pretty!

I copied the designs for a table runner from the book. It’s fun with all the blocks named after different women! Unfortunately ‘Gail’ is not one of them!

A friend of mine suggested using Elmer’s Disappearing Purple glue stick to turn the fabric under 1/4″. I tested it on the regular printer paper and it came off pretty easy. Here’s how I organized my pieces once they were glued/pressed into place, ready for sewing. (This was the “Sarah” hexi.) It was super handy to have the diagram of how the hexi went together without going back to the book.

Blue is my favourite colour, so I made sure that each hexi had at least one blue fabric in it.

Here is a picture of gluing the 1/4″ sides down on the joining black triangles (Island Batik black solid).

In the picture below, I’m working on the table runner. I used Aurifil Thread #2370 – Sandstone to do the piecing.

With working on the table runner at least every other day, I found that I was able to hand sew for longer periods of time. I could work on it for about 30 minutes before my fingers started to ache. That made it nicer to spend time stitching!

The borders are on and now, I’m taking out all the paper … lots of little pieces of paper!

I used Hobbs Batting, black 80/20 batting for this project. It was a perfect choice!

After all the hand sewing, I knew I didn’t want to hand quilt this runner. I decided to use my domestic machine (Janome M7) for the quilting! I quilted it with Aurifil 100% nylon (Invisible) on the top and Aurifil #2370 – Sandstone in the bobbin using Schmetz Needles. I tried to do some swirly quilting, but that stitching didn’t fit, so out came the seam ripper and out came the swirly stitching. I settled for “In the ditch” quilting which turned out to be the right choice! After months of hand sewing, it was great to finish it quickly on the machine!

And some close-ups of the table runner …

Disclosure and a Thank you!

Disclosure: The fabrics, thread, batting and needles were generously supplied by the following companies:

This is the final Island Batik challenge for 2021. Stay tuned: in a few weeks, I’ll have a blog post showing all of the projects that I have made with wonderful Island Batik fabrics!

One who sleeps under a quilt is covered by LOVE!

Happy Quilting! 

33 thoughts on “December Island Batik Project: EPP

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  4. You really took one for the team. I’m so sorry your hands give you so much trouble but the outcome is wonderful. Love that each design has it’s own name!

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  6. Bravo Gail,
    Your table runner is beautiful,! This is one you must keep and cherish. It’s amazing to see what we can do when we work outside our comfort zone. This was way outside! Now treat your hands to something wonderful that will make them feel good!

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    • Thanks, Kimberly!!! Yes, you are correct … this is one I must keep.
      As for treating my hands to something wonderful – do touching and eating chocolate chip cookies work? 🙂


  7. I don’t do as much hand sewing as I used to, but I am lucky not to have real pain. I think now, it is more of an issue of muscle memory loss. You did a phenomenal job overcoming the obstacle and learning that work/pause/consistency maybe made it tolerable. Hooray for machine quilting and why not? It is an awesome runner!

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  8. That’s a beautiful finish, Gail!! I’ve never done EPP but I do like hand stitching and cross stitching, so I might be able to survive this challenge! LOL I did see today the AccuQuilt has an EPP Qube! Who knew?! Great job. I would definitely have to start early on this challenge as well, but you rose to the task beautifully!

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  9. Hi Gail! What a labor of love, literally. I’m so sorry to hear that hand stitching bothers your hands so much. I imagine that impacts other areas of your life as well, beyond sewing. You did a fabulous job and your fabric choices make all that work worth the effort. You’ve made those IB colors shine. {{Hugs}} ~smile~ Roseanne

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    • Thanks, Roseanne!
      Interestingly, the fine motor movements in my hands don’t seem to affect me unless I’m hand sewing or knitting. Perhaps it’s the repetitive motion? I can sew at my machine and fmq with no problems (THANKFULLY!!!). Hugs back at ya! 🙂

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  10. So pretty! I love that the blocks are named after women, though too bad that Gail wasn’t one of them! Great choice of fabric. While I’m sorry hand sewing hurts you, it’s great that you’ve worked up to being able to do it longer. Love this finish!

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