English Paper Piecing Basics



English paper piecing (EPP) is a wonderfully peaceful and relaxing form of patchwork. It is great for using up scraps and it’s portable, so perfect for taking on holiday or doing on train or bus journeys.


English Paper Piecing Basics

There are many different ways to execute paper piecing and different people prefer different methods such as plastic templates or freezer paper. Described here is a standard technique that utilises paper pieces along with thread tacking (basting).

1. Place your paper piece on the wrong side of the fabric, using a fabric glue pen to stop it slipping if you prefer.

2. Cut around the paper piece leaving at least 1/4″ fabric around the edge of the paper piece for your seam allowance (I prefer slightly more than 1/4″).


3. Fold your fabric over the paper piece, taking care that the fabric doesn’t slip and that the corners are tucked in nice and snug (this will make your paper piecing more precise) and tack in place, folding as you go.

**If you use a contrasting thread that shows up well against your fabric, it will be easier to remove at the end**

Fold your fabric in the same way each time and tuck in the same direction so that the ear’s all point the same way. If you do this, you ears will ‘nest’ and fit together more easily.

Once you’ve tacked all the way around your paper piece, just snip the end of the thread and leave the end free. Don’t bother to knot it and then you can just pull it out when you are ready to remove the paper pieces.


4. Once you’ve got your patches all tacked/basted onto your paper pieces, it’s time to start sewing the patches together.

5. Holding the patches right sides together and pick a corner to start at. Make a knot in your thread and secure the knot in the fabric near the corner then slide your needle into the corner so that it pokes up out of the tip of the corner (this will ensure your knot stays on the wrong side of the fabric and doesn’t pull up out of the corner).


6. Line up your two patches and use a whip stitch to sew along to the next corner. Usually, a thread that blends with your fabric is recommended unless you particularly want your stitches to show up (I’ve used a contrasting thread here so you can see the stitches).



7. When you reach the end of your line of stitching, make a loop and put your needle through twice to secure the thread then make a couple of stitches a few millimeters away from the place you’ve stopped to keep the end of the thread from creeping out between the seam.

8. Leave your paper pieces in until all edges of a particular piece have been stitched. Once a piece is ‘surrounded’ you can remove the tacking stitch and pop out the paper piece. If you like, you can make a hole in the center of the paper piece using a hole-punch – this makes it easy to remove the paper piece using a crochet hook.


If you want to ‘target’ a particular element in the fabric pattern, ‘fussy cutting’ will help you achieve this. The easiest way to ensure the bit of pattern you want is precisely lined up with your paper piece is to cut yourself a plastic template the same size and shape as the paper piece you want to use.

Fussy cutting 2

If you are cutting multiple pieces and want to line up your template in the same place each time, you can draw in pencil on the template – just pick out a few lines of the fabric pattern and trace them onto the plastic. This way you will be able to line up the template in the same place each time.