Category Archives: modern quilting

English paper piecing (EPP)

Last night, while watching a wonderful MQG webinar featuring Anna Boenish, I was reminded of the many benefits of English paper piecing.

photo courtesy of Anna Boenish
photo courtesy of Anna Boenish

First of all, it’s portable. I keep my kit ready to go and it’s the project that I throw in my bag when I know I’ll have spare moments waiting for an appointment, riding a ferry, watching a ball game or being a passenger on a road trip.

English paper piecing kit of Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Ready to go: paper pieces, fabric strips, scissors, thread, thread conditioner, clips, needle book, thimble and a pouch by @sew_fantastic

Secondly, because you only need  a few materials and hardly any space, it’s ideal for stitching in any location. Indoors or outdoors, you can literally use this technique anywhere!

plus units for epp plus quilt laid out on the sofa of our horse trailer
Starting my epp plus quilt, viewed here on the sofa of our horse trailer while camping in Arizona

Another great benefit is that EPP, like other handwork, lets you be social and visit with friends and family while still making headway on your project.

EPP is also a slow process. Now this could be seen as a benefit or a drawback, but in my opinion, slowing down is often a good thing.

If you have a design that requires precise or intricate work, EPP is definitely a way to accomplish this. It is also well suited to fussy cutting.

i-spy-web
My “I Spy quilt”, still a work in progress

I had never really thought about it until I listened to Anna’s talk, but another thing that appeals to me is that you can begin without a plan. In fact, some of my traditional quilts were actually improvisational using this technique.

English paper pieced star quilt by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Star quilt English paper pieced with 30’s reproduction fabrics, pieced in the 90’s, hand quilted and finished in 2011

I often make units and just keep putting them together until they morph into something.

stack of epp plus units by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Stack of plus units ready to assemble

That’s how my current project is evolving. The template pieces for my epp plus quilt were created by Mollie Johanson and she provides a free template and tutorial on her blog Wild Olive. Check out  #eppplus on Instagram for photos of folks using this pattern. You might even see pics of me basting in the truck while heading over Snoqualmie Pass.

Getting ready to add some more plus blocks
The current state of my epp plus quilt,  May 20, 2016. Getting ready to attach more plus units.

If you are interested in learning how to English paper piece, just do a search of the topic. There are great resources and tutorials available.

And, if you’re a MQG member, but missed Anna’s webinar, log into the Community section of their website. Under the Resources tab, you’ll find a list of all the past webinars available. Just one of the perks of being a member! You can also find her work, and the unique ways she uses English paper piecing on her website Quilting Queerly or follow her on Instagram @quiltingqueerly.

summer dyed

Our weather  has been perfect for dyeing fabric! Here are a few photos to share  from some recent dyeing sessions.

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First, the fabric is “scoured” by washing in warm water with soda ash and Synthrapol. It is then dried in the dryer.
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It’s helpful to refer back to notes from previous sessions.
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A journal (complete with fabric swatches) helps to inform choices for new color experiments.
A dust mask and rubber gloves are necessary safety precautions.
A dust mask and rubber gloves are necessary safety precautions.
Some beautiful fabrics waiting for the soda ash fixative to be added.
Some beautiful fabrics are waiting for the soda ash fixative to be added.
Each pie was placed in a plastic bag while it cured.
Each piece was placed in a plastic bag while it cured.
These fabrics were first rinsed outdoors in cold water to get most of the excess dye removed.
These fabrics were first rinsed outdoors in cold water to get most of the excess dye removed.
Then they were given another rinse indoors with hot water.
Then they were given another rinse indoors with hot water.
Ready for the final wash and rinse in the machine, adding Synthrapol to remove excess dye.
The final wash and rinse is in the machine, adding Synthrapol to remove excess dye.

And what could be more fun than sharing the experience with great friends?

I can’t wait to see what everyone creates with their new fabric choices!