New Thoughts on English Paper Piecing

Happy New Year Everybody!

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My ‘Tulips and Roses’ baby quilt, the last one I made in 2016

I love the new year, seeing it stretching ahead of me, so full of potential.
I can’t believe I have been blogging about English Paper Piecing for a whole year! OK, there have only been one or two posts a month, so that’s not really very many, but when you sew by hand you can’t post a whole lot faster, because it takes ages to complete things. If I am to post more, this year may be more about works in progress that I return to at intervals. We’ll see how it goes.

So what have I learned from my year of posting?

I’ve learned:

  • To hand quilt using ‘Utility’ or ‘Big Stitch’ quilting, which is much more fun than you would ever expect.
  • Several basic embroidery stitches and oh, how I love them!
  • How to use stencils and I adore them. I got some wonderful ones for Christmas.
  • How to thread the sewing machine that my kids bought me two years ago. Well, it’s a start!
  • That the secret to combining colours and fabric patterns in a quilt is to work with fabrics that DON’T match each other. This is because individual fabrics have to read differently from each other to show up in the composition. This has been a recent revelation since, like many of us, I tend to select fabrics that blend. This has led to predictable, safe looking quilts and I want excitement in them!
  • My tastes have changed rapidly as I have learned. I collected fabrics and patterns furiously when i started, only to find these tame and uninteresting now that I am bursting with my own ideas.

I’ve decided:

  •  I much prefer to use cotton rather than polyester batting for all of my quilts. It drapes beautifully and is easy to hand quilt.
  • Craft fairs are definitely not for me.
  • It might be ok to use my sewing machine just for borders and binding.
  • Although the craze in English Paper Piecing at the moment is all about fussy cutting for La Passacaglia and Millifiore quilts, or Lucy Boston quilts, these are a least a progression from simple hexagons. They do look amazing and, like most EPP quilts, require countless hours of hard work but I long for something more pictorial and hope it will come, eventually. I feel quite alone in this but will see what I can create without straying from the basic technique.
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‘Town Square’ mini quilt on a small inside window sill

I’ve come to understand that:

  • Craft fairs are expensive to set up and you need to commit to several if you are to get a return on your initial investment.
  • Handmade things cost more than anyone is prepared to pay for them.
  • People might like them but that’s not the same as wanting to buy them.
  • The market out there seems more conservative than the ideas I have and want to share, so I haven’t been as adventurous as I want to be. That has to change.
  • None of this actually matters because I sew to please myself first and foremost, because it brings me knowledge and new skills as well as peace and joy into my life… though of course I love it when someone tells me they like something I’ve made

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    My children’s pillowcases got the most compliments

And what of this year? I definitely want to:

  • Discover much more about how colours, tones and shades work in fabric compositions.
  • Finish at least five of the larger, more traditional quilts that I started a couple of years ago. Perhaps I can add a new twist to them.
  • Experiment with plaids and stripes and improvised patterns.
  • Move on from simple patchwork towards applique, especially stuffed work.
  • Learn how to print and dye my own fabric and make my own stencils.
  • Work on creating some fabric pictures based on my Indian childhood.

BUT FIRST I have to finish making something for a poet, who kindly gave me a book of her poems in return for illustrating one of her poems.

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Anne’s moving collection of poems

I have the fabric and the ideas and photocopies of my sketches and I’m ready to begin.

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Scraps of this and that, ready to sew

With Christmas and New Year out of the way and all the extra washing and putting away that comes with it, at last I can get on and finish this project.
I hope to have a post showing it to you alongside the poem but I will have to ask for her permission first.

So, until next time……

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