All Points Patchwork: English Paper Piecing beyond the Hexagon for Quilts & Small Projects

All Points Patchwork: English Paper Piecing beyond the Hexagon for Quilts & Small Projects

by Diane Gilleland


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All Points Patchwork: English Paper Piecing beyond the Hexagon for Quilts & Small Projects by Diane Gilleland

The key to perfect patchwork is getting all of the points to match up — which is no easy feat! Set yourself up for success with the rediscovered technique of English paper piecing. Using paper templates to guide your pattern, you can expertly fit your quilting shapes together before you even start sewing. All Points Patchwork takes you far beyond traditional hexagons and accommodates triangles, diamonds, octagons, and even curved shapes. Simple instructions for decorating clothing, bedding, and home decor open up astounding possibilities for quilters of all levels.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612124209
Publisher: Storey Books
Publication date: 05/19/2015
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 209,418
Product dimensions: 8.90(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Diane Gilleland is a prominent contemporary craft writer, designer, and teacher with an aesthetic that appeals to both traditional and modern quilters. Gilleland is the author of All Points Patchwork, and her work has appeared in CRAFT, Stitch, Threads, CraftStylish, Womans Day, and Parade. She's also been featured on numerous blogs and websites and maintains active presences on Twitter and Pinterest. Diane lives in Beaverton, Oregon.

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Tools and Materials

Let's begin our journey into EPP by learning about the supplies you'll need. We'll talk about different kinds of templates, how to choose fabrics, and some tools that make EPP easier and you more comfortable. More than likely, you have most of what you need to get started just sitting in your sewing room right now!

EPP in a Nutshell

If you've never seen EPP in action, here's a quick overview of how it works. (We'll cover all of these techniques in depth in the coming chapters.)

1. Begin with some fabric and shaped templates. Attach each template to the fabric and then cut around the edge, leaving a margin.

2. Fold the edges of the fabric over the template, and baste them in place with a little hand sewing. Repeat this process to make as many patches as you need for your project.

3. Sew the finished patches together by hand.

4. Finally, remove the basting stitches, and then pop out those templates. What remains is a beautiful piece of patchwork!

Choosing Templates

All EPP begins with some kind of template. Traditionally, these templates were made from scraps of household paper, but these days, there are many more options available. Strictly speaking, any kind of template should be just fine for EPP, but I've definitely found that different templates work best for different projects. So I'll get a bit nerdy for a moment and share the pros and cons of the most commonly available types. I recommend experimenting with several kinds of templates and seeing which you like best.

Scrap Paper

Originally, EPP templates were cut from saved bits of paper, such as old letters or catalog pages, and you can certainly continue this tradition. I save misprints from my home printer for EPP, and sometimes I cut templates from magazine pages and junk mail. You can trace your template shapes onto scrap paper, draw them by hand with a ruler, punch them with craft punches, or print them from your computer. (We'll talk more about making your own templates inchapter 3.)

Best used for: hexagons, tumblers, octagons, pentagons, or any shape with wide-angle corners.

Less great for: diamonds, triangles, jewels, or any shape with narrow-angle corners.

Reusable? Sometimes. Scrap paper templates are a bit prone to damage during basting and sewing, but some will survive to take on another project.

Pros: Scrap paper is free (your recycle bin is full of it), and it's very easy to pass a needle through this material for basting. Paper-based templates are flexible and easy to manage as you sew the patches together.

Cons: Paper can bend easily when you fold fabric over it, and this can distort shapes as you baste them. Working with paper requires paying close attention to this tendency.


If you like the idea of using up your scrap paper for EPP, you might want to look into paper punches for cutting your templates. Interesting shapes and sizes are coming on the market all the time. With these, you can easily punch out as many templates as you need, using any paper you have lying around. (See Resources - for more information.)


I use cardstock templates for the majority of my EPP projects; their crispness makes precise fabric folding so easy. As with scrap paper, you can print your own cardstock templates on your home printer, or trace, punch, or draw your shapes.

You can also buy packets of precut templates online or in craft stores. I use these all the time and love them. Because they're machine cut, you can be sure they're all the exact same size and shape, and this makes it a breeze to match up patchwork points. (See Resources for more on these templates.)

Best used for: any shape, especially those with sides measuring about 3" or less.

Less great for: shapes with sides longer than 3"; large templates are best made from paper so they're more flexible and easier to handle.

Reusable? Cardstock templates are very resilient. Just press them with a warm iron after use to flatten them back out. I usually get about five to seven uses from each one.

Pros: Cardstock won't bend during basting, so it's quite easy to get precisely shaped patches that fit together well.

Cons: Basting through cardstock can be somewhat hard on your hands and needles over time. Some EPPers also find stiff cardstock patches challenging to wrangle as they sew.

Freezer Paper

You can draw or trace your template shapes onto freezer paper. Many grocery stores carry large rolls of this material, which is designed to be a watertight wrap for meats but is also great for EPP. One side of the paper is coated with plastic. If you place that side against fabric and press it with a hot iron, the plastic will melt and lightly stick the paper to the fabric. When you're done piecing, you can peel the paper away from the fabric easily, with no residue left behind (see Using Freezer Paper).

Best used for: shapes with wide-angle corners, especially those with sides longer than 3".

Less great for: diamonds, triangles, jewels, or any shape with narrow-angle corners.

Reusable? You can usually get at least one reuse out of freezer-paper templates before the plastic surface is gone.

Pros: Freezer paper bonds fabric and paper together very securely, which is helpful in making precise patches. Freezer paper is also flexible and easy to baste through, making it a great choice for working with large patches.

Cons: As with any paper template, it's easy to accidentally fold narrow points while basting, so you'll want to watch this tendency as you baste.

Reusable Plastic Templates

These templates are made in several shapes and sizes. They have holes so you can pin them to fabric for basting, and lines scored across them where you can fold them while sewing. Personally, I find them a bit thick and slippery to work with, but many EPPers love them.

Best used for: These templates are manufactured primarily in hexagon and diamond shapes, and in sizes that are optimal for the plastic.

Less great for: any shape or size the templates aren't manufactured in!

Reusable? You can reuse plastic templates more times than any other kind.

Pros: Stands up to repeated reuse, and the stiffness of the plastic creates very precise patches. A great choice if you like working with specific shapes very often.

Cons: Plastic templates can be rather expensive and take some practice to get used to. If you want to make a large project with them, you'll have to invest in a lot of templates, or keep removing them from your work to make new patches to add.

Making Templates vs. Buying Ready-Made

I like to use both manufactured templates and templates I've made myself. It's really a tradeoff because manufactured templates have a wonderful precision that makes accurate piecing very easy, but of course they limit me to using the sizes and shapes that are available for sale. When I make my own templates, they can be any shape and size I can dream up, but I do have to cope with a little bit of inaccuracy in my piecing. (A die-cutting machine will always make more exact templates than human hands can!)

If you're new to EPP, I highly recommend trying some manufactured templates. Their precision makes the process a joy to learn, and even your very first project will look beautiful. Once you're comfortable with EPP, try branching out and creating your own handmade templates. All that said, if you're itching to get started right away, you'll find some basic template shapes in Sample EPP Templates. Photocopy these onto some paper or cardstock, cut them out, and start piecing!

Choosing Fabrics

Most EPP is done with quilting cottons; they fold crisply, resist stretching, and offer an endless variety of colors and patterns to play with. I like to seek out cottons that aren't too tightly woven. EPP involves taking tiny stitches through multiple layers, and this can be hard going with tightly woven fabrics. (If you're in doubt about a particular fabric, try passing a sewing needle through four layers. If it's hard to pass through, then the fabric isn't a good choice for EPP.)

I also love using linen fabrics in my EPP. Linen creases nicely with your fingers, and it's a bit loosely woven so it's very easy to stitch through. The texture of linen is also a pretty foil to the smoother quilting cottons. The only downside is its tendency to shrink, so think about whether your finished piece needs to be washed frequently and choose fabrics accordingly.

You can also scour your local thrift stores for vintage fabrics in the form of old garments, table linens, bedsheets, and curtains. If an item is stained there's still plenty of EPP fabric between those stains! And of course, if you keep scraps of leftover fabric from your other projects, you'll love using them for EPP.

Should You Prewash?

Debate seems to rage in quilting circles as to whether you should prewash your fabrics or not. I've made EPP projects with and without prewashing and had no major problems, but I do think carefully about how my finished project will be used when deciding whether to prewash or not. Here are a few examples:

* If you plan to make a project that will be laundered often and you don't want to give it any special handling, then it makes sense to prewash your fabrics so there's no major shrinkage.

* Any time you use linen in a project that will be laundered, be sure to prewash it and thus shrink it before you sew it.

* It's also wise to prewash fabrics that have lots of saturated color. You don't want them bleeding when you launder the finished project.

If you decide to prewash, follow the care instructions on the fabric bolt. If you don't have access to that information, use a cold-water wash with gentle detergent for quilting cottons, and tumble dry on regular heat. For linen, use a cold-water wash and tumble dry on low heat. Give all fabrics a good pressing once they're dry, as wrinkles can add lumps and bumps to your patches.

If your project won't be laundered often (or at all), then you can use fabrics right off the bolt for EPP. If you need to launder the finished project, use a cold-water wash on a gentle cycle, and either dry it flat or tumble dry on a low- or no-heat setting.

Choosing Colors and Patterns

Before I say anything on this subject, I want to make one important point: choosing colors and patterns for a project should be fun! Color is a subjective thing, so I don't want to give you any specific color-choosing advice. But I do think that EPP presents some special challenges in terms of using fabrics effectively, so I'll share my thoughts on that. At the same time, I'm handing you an engraved invitation to ignore everything I'm about to say if you want to. Above all, I hope you'll choose fabrics that make you happy.

Patch Size and Scale

For many EPP projects, you'll be working with fairly small pieces of fabric — smaller, in fact, than you might use for machine-sewn patchwork. So it's a good idea to think about the size of a fabric's design compared to the size of the templates you plan to use. How much of a fabric's pattern will be visible on the patches, and how much might be cut off? As you can see in the example below, a lovely large-scale print could appear rather lost in the form of small patches.

If you're in doubt about the scale of a fabric, try making a fussy-cutting guide like the one here. Move the guide around over the fabric to get a sense of how well the design works with the EPP shape you're planning to use.

There's another important element of scale that might factor into your fabric choices: the size of your finished project. A full-size quilt, for example, is quite large, and you tend to view it from a distance so you can take in the whole thing. A coaster, however, requires closer viewing. Try looking at the fabrics you're considering at the distance that's appropriate to your project. How do they look together from that perspective?

Breathing Room

So many times, I've picked out a group of fabrics for an EPP project, feeling excited about how they look together as a stack of neatly folded yardage. But when I cut those fabrics up and turn them into EPP, I end up with patchwork that's just too bright or busy.

This happens because EPP (as I mentioned) usually involves smaller patches, and those patches are arranged in a fairly complex configuration. Not only do your fabrics end up being very close to each other, the design of the fabrics can actually end up competing with the design created by the patches. In other words, if every fabric you use in a project is contrasting, bright, and bold, you can end up with something quite jarring! This is why it's often a good idea to choose one or more "breathing room" fabrics for your projects: solids or subtle prints that provide a nice opportunity for the livelier fabrics to shine.

This same breathing-room idea also applies to color. I'm something of a color junkie; put me in a fabric store and I'll fill my basket with all things bright and saturated. Over time, though, I've learned that when I work with EPP's smaller shapes, all those brights so close together can end up being a little hard on the eyes. So I make sure to include one or more subtle or neutral fabrics in a project. That way, I can better enjoy my colors together.

Fabrics and Value

Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a fabric. For instance, you might have three green fabrics side by side, but one is a dark forest green, one is a medium grassy green, and one is a pale pastel green. I think value is an important consideration for EPP projects because (again) all those small pieces of fabric will be so close together. Contrasts in value will really show up and, in some cases, can create patterns within your EPP pattern. Sometimes you can use that to your advantage, but sometimes, as you can see in the example (above, top), those contrasting spots can throw off the overall harmony of a design. If you're working with fabrics that contrast each other strongly, it's wise to give some thought to how they'll be placed in the patchwork, even if your design is somewhat "scrappy" and random.

Your Fabric Tendencies

Here's one last interesting fabric-choosing idea you may want to consider: Do you have any tendencies when it comes to selecting fabrics? Are there any colors you find yourself buying all the time, even though your stash is overflowing with them? (For me, that's pink.) Do you gravitate to striped fabrics, or tiny checks, or florals? Do you seem to always have more solids than prints in your stash?

It's very helpful to know what your preferences are, so you can do a little "corrective shopping" once in a while. Since my tendency is to load up on bright, saturated colors and prints, every few months I go on a fabric-shopping trip where I only allow myself to buy subtle prints and neutrals. That way, my stash stays more balanced, and I can build more effective palettes for my EPP projects.


Any cotton or cotton/polyester all-purpose sewing thread will work fine for EPP. Hand sewing is a pretty individualized thing, so some hands will like working with cotton better, and some will prefer a bit of poly blended in. Experiment and see what you like best. You'll need two colors of thread for any project:

* One thread for basting that contrasts with your fabrics. Since you'll need to remove the basting stitches in many cases, you'll want them to be very easy to see.

* One thread for sewing patches together that matches or blends with your fabrics. Many EPP projects involve lots of different-colored fabrics, so if you can't find one color to coordinate with them all, try a gray or beige. I keep on hand spools of these two colors in several light and dark values, so I'm prepared for any combination of fabrics.

Your EPP Toolkit

One of the things I love about EPP is that it doesn't require many specialty tools. Below I've broken the tools into two lists: the basics you'll need to get started, and optional tools you may want to invest in once you are captivated with EPP.

The Basics

A. Fabric scissors. You'll be making mostly small fabric cuts in EPP, so look for a pair of sewing shears with about a 5" blade. You'll find them lightweight and mobile.

B. Paper scissors. If you plan to cut your own EPP templates, keep a pair of paper-designated scissors on hand. Never cut paper with your fabric scissors, because that causes the blades to dull over time.

C. Appliqué scissors. These small, very sharp scissors are handy when you need to clip into the edges of your fabric, and they're nice for clipping threads as you hand-sew. If you don't have appliqué scissors, any small, sharp pair will do.

D. Needles. The most common needle for EPP is called a sharp. Sharps come in a range of sizes (which are basically different lengths). I use sharps for basting patches. For sewing patches together, however, I tend to use quilting needles (also known as betweens). This type of needle is smaller and thinner than a sharp, so it passes through multiple layers of fabric a bit more easily. Betweens also come in several sizes (or lengths). You can really use either type of needle for basting and sewing. Both types of needles are available in packs containing many sizes, so you can experiment and see what feels most comfortable to your hands.


Excerpted from "All Points Patchwork"
by .
Copyright © 2015 DIANE GILLELAND.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Hello, EPP!

Chapter 1

  • Tools and Materials
  • EPP in a Nutshell
  • Choosing Templates
  • Choosing Fabrics
  • Your EPP Toolkit
Chapter 2
  • Basic Techniques
  • Getting Ready to Cut
  • Cutting the Fabric
  • How (and Why) to Baste Patches
  • Sewing the Patches Together
  • Managing All Those Patches
  • Finishing Your EPP
  • Using EPP in a Project
  • Cutting EPP to Sew
Chapter 3
  • Building Your Own EPP Patterns
  • Inspiration for Your Own Designs
  • Building Patterns by Computer
  • Hand-Drawing EPP Patterns
Chapter 4
  • Making Patterns with Hexagons
  • Transforming Hexagons
Chapter 5
  • Working with Diamonds and Jewels
  • Making Patterns with Diamonds
  • Making Patterns with Jewels
Chapter 6
  • Working with Triangles and Tumblers
  • Making Patterns with Triangles
  • Making Patterns with Tumblers
Chapter 7
  • Working with Octagons and Pentagons
  • Making Patterns with Octagons
  • Making Patterns with Pentagons
  • Transforming Octagons and Pentagons
Chapter 8
  • Working with Curved Shapes
  • Special Tips for Curved Shapes
  • Making Patterns with Curved Shapes
Sample EPP Templates

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All Points Patchwork: English Paper Piecing beyond the Hexagon, for Quilts & Small Projects 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jenib320 More than 1 year ago
Fantastic resource for anyone interested in EPP! I love that All Points Patchwork goes beyond the hexagon and explores all kinds of different shapes. What makes this book so unique is that it is an idea book vs. a project book. It's full of great project ideas, but the focus is on technique and exploring the process. It is a true resource, and I felt really inspired after reading through it. I will have no problem making room for it on my bookshelf for a long time. I am thankful that I made time to do something outside of my comfort zone, and it was all because of the support of this book! I felt confident in drafting my own design, and stitching it up successfully!
JuneMJ More than 1 year ago
MY REVIEW: THREE STARS * * * "I LIKED IT!" This book covers the technique of English Paper Piecing (EPP) in detail. The author states at the beginning of the book that this is an 'idea book' versus a 'project book'. While there are many sample templates included in the book, the projects shared do not include patterns or instructions. Ms. Gilleland shares ideas for using Google Drive and other software to draw patterns using a computer along with tips on how to draw patterns by hand. The author includes introductory tips regarding fabric shopping, fabric color value, contrast in fabrics, and items essential to the EPP toolkit. She tells what one needs to work with this technique and why it is needed. One of the best tips I found in the book was under the 'Optional Tools' list -- the author suggests using a crochet hook to remove the paper templates from your shapes. Machine applique and hand applique instruction is detailed so readers will know how to attach their EPP projects to a ground fabric. I read a lot of quilting and sewing technique books, and I design my own projects. I found the lack of instructions for the projects in this book to be disappointing. I've had many people over the years tell me they love to quilt and sew, but that they need (and want) designers to tell them how to make the projects. I enjoyed the author's friendly, witty, encouraging writing tone. If you want to learn about EPP, this is a great resource. I recommend this book to quilters and sewers who are interested in practicing this technique. NOTE: The publisher granted me digital access to the ARC of this book through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation for reading the book or for posting this review here or on any other site.