Your EPP Box of Tricks
On this page I will be listing equipment used by English Paper Piecers. However, I will also include other useful tools and equipment suggested for quilting, appliqueing, embroidering and any other way of creating and embellishing EPP projects.
Your Basic EPP Toolbox will consist of many of the following:
- Needles, thread, needle threader, thimble and seam ripper
- Pins and a pin cushion
- Quilting rulers, cutting mat and rotary cutter
- Fabric, paper and applique scissors, fabric clips and fabric pens
- freezer paper, paper, card templates and/or plastic templates, glue stick
- Iron and ironing board ( or mini iron and portable board)
- Low tack painter’s masking tape and lint roller
Needles best for EPP
Needles seem to be about personal preference and when you are just starting out there is nothing wrong with using a regular hand sewing needle. I have heard good things about Sajou hand sewing needles. My favourite is a Milliners needle, a long needle with a round eye because I find them easier to thread (I hate using needle threaders). They are good for hand sewing and basting as they don’t damage the fabric. They can also be used for embroidery and needle turn applique. Other people love to use short, fine needles such as a No 9 Gold Eye Quilting needle by Clover. Sizes 8 or 9 are the most popular. Some people use a size 10.
Clover black gold needles are recommended as are Clover gold eye Miliners needles, but they are larger.
A needle should be the right size for it to pass through fabric with minimum abrasion but not so large that the needle leaves a noticeable hole around the thread.
The higher the number the smaller the needle. They come is sizes 1-12.
I have heard that Sajou hand sewing needles are good.
Between Needles – These are best for quilting your finished EPP project – very short, fine needles with a round eye. Their diameter is the same as a sharps needle but they are shorter in length to allow quick and even stitching. Sizes range from 5-12 but size 7 or 8 are best for a beginner. It is possible to get a Big Eye quilting needle in a size 10.
Thread for EPP
50 weight Aurifil thread is good for piecing and a favourite among a lot of EPP stitchers. Most stitches done in EPP are very slightly visible so choose a colour to blend in with your fabric background. There are people who want the stitches to show and choose a completely different colour to make it obvious that the project is hand stitched.
Superior Thread’s Bottom Line is also a favourite with some people but I have heard that the 60 weight, though strong, has a tendency to twist.
I have also heard Mettler thread recommended.
My favourite for appliqued items is Gutermann’s silk thread which is strong enough, not too fine and is available in a wide variety of colours.
Some EPP stitchers feel that polycotton threads are a good choice as they don’t shred or break in the same way as cotton. However, I have been warned that when you wash your quilt the cotton fabric will shrink, but the polycotton thread does not and can pull at the fabric in an unsightly way. If anyone has found this to be the case I’d love to hear what they have to say. If you are making a wall quilt that you don’t plan to wash then you can use whatever thread you like. Apparently Polycotton is preferred by a lot of people because the threads do not shred or break. I only use cotton so I can’t say.
Here are further lists of possibly useful tools and equipment for Applique, Quilting and Embroidery that I have seen recommended in books and online. They include brand names where they were given in the original source. I find it helpful to see them all in one place than to try and remember what I read. If they seem to contradict each other it’s because people have different opinions as to what is best. Try one or the other and see what works for you.
Your Applique Box of Tricks
Prewashed fabric. This removes dye and chemicals and shrinks it before sewing. It will fray less, to. It also removes the finish that causes fabric to slide around.
Needles for Applique
Sharps – regular household needles but they are good for applique and easier to use than Betweens. Small needles make finer stitches for hand applique:
Size 10 or 11 Milliners/Straw needle from Richard Hemming & Son or Clover size 12 Black Gold Sharp needle. A No. 11 sharps needle can be used for all hand applique. Or a size 9-11 Milliners. 9 is sturdier.
Jeana Kimball straw needles are recommended. Straw needles have long thin shanks that glides through any fabric . Use 10 or 11 size. 10 straw needles for cotton but 11 for batik which has a higher fibre count.
Roxanne applique needles are slim but sturdy.
Use different pin cushions for different needles
Needle threaders – Clover Needle Threader or Sewline Needle Threader.
Threads for Applique
For hand applique DMC cotton 50 is durable , fine and comes in lots of colours.Or try Aurofil Mako cotton thread 50 weight or Superior Masterpiece 50 weight 2 ply cotton available only on bobbins.
For basting – 100 cotton on cotton. Use white
Silk thread is good, fine with a reflective quality that easily blends with cotton fabric. It buries itself and is hardly seen. Use a fine weight thread which is a 2-ply 50-60 wight. The higher the thread number the finer the thread weight. YLI silk thread or Kimono Sil thread. Match colour to fabric
Mettler Metrosene silk finish cotton thread 60 weight (green label)
Wool thread that is a blend of wood and acrylic sold as Lana by Madeira, Genziana and Aurifil, fluffier than average sewing thread and good for sewing raw edge wool applique by hand.
Beeswax or silicone wax is available in a block form and is used to coat threads to help prevent tangling and knotting. You can also get silicone coated threads.
A large pair for cutting fabric.
Karen Kk Buckley Serrated large scissors are good for cutting out – the serrated edge prevents raw edge from fraying. Their large handles are comfortable.
Gingher 4” hand emb scissors have a very fine point for clipping
Use 2 different pairs of embroidery scissors for applique paper and fabric to allow for precise cutting
Half inch applique or sequin pins.Foxglove Cottage 3/4 “ pins or clover applique pins.
Flower head pins are flat and don’t get in the way when holding an overlay in place
Glass headed pins don’t melt with heat of iron.
Ones with rounded eged prevent catching
A magnetic pin holder is useful but keep it away from electronic sewing machines.
Finger Gloves can be used instead of thimbles to protect your finger. These are a light latex.
Clover make a rubber thimble with metal tip. It doesn’t slip off when your hands get cold
Flexicurve – rubber tool to bend into curved shapes and for measuring curves
Plastic circle stencil
Needle grabbers stop rules from sliding
A clean steam iron and a padded surface (white towels on ironing board padded surface helps to keep it smooth) Press pieces from the back and do not hold the iron in place for long. Gentry press
A Table top ironing board or pressing mat made from non stick Teflon to protect delicate fabrics from the iron and the iron from sticky fusible web residue. A sheet of silicone based parchment paper can be used.
A Mini Iron with small pointed plates for precision pressing especially for bias strip applique. A Travel iron can be used but is much larger.
A portable ironing surface
Press cloth – use muslin as you can see through it.
A Teflon pressing sheet for ironing. This is non stick and protects your iron and ironing board from sticky residue.
A stiletto is useful to hold pieces in place while you iron (or glue) them
Generals Pastel chalk pencil in dark grey or white is great for tracing onto background fabric A mechanical chalk pencil with a 9mm refill made by Sewline or Bohin also comes in white and grey. Use these to draw around templates onto fabric. Test on a scrap.
Sharpie ultrafine works on clear or frosted vinyl
Faber Castell quilters pen Set from C&T publishing are erasable on vinyl.
Scotch removable magic tape to tape fabric to pattern while you trace design on to background fabric. It will not rip the paper or fray your fabric.
Pattern Ease is lightweight transparent interfacing material that works well for tracing the pattern.
Light box – useful if you are appliquing without templates as it makes tracing and design marking easier. Or you could use a window on a bright day or a glass table with a small lamp underit. Globox makes inexpensive light boxes
Make templates from clear single sided heavyweight self -laminating sheets for office supply sores. Not the pocket type.
Perfect Circles made of Mylar (Karen Kay Buckley)
Circle templates by creative Grids
A compass is useful for making your own circles
Freezer paper is useful for stabilising fabric and for creating templates and stencils. Waxy side down it will adhere to fabric when lightly ironed. Available in a roll as well as in 8 1/2 x 11″ sheets that can be run through the printer which eliminates hand tracing.
Tweezers to remove freezer paper after it has been appliqued to a background.
Clear vinyl, or frosted, flexible medium weight from Upholstery fabric stores online or Quilters vinyl for positioning overlay. Frosted is transparent on fabric. If it comes with tissue make sure you keep it.
Fine Vilene stitch no tear can be put underneath a foundation fabric to stabilise and prevent puckering.
Wash away applique sheets are transparent enough to applique designs onto – washes out or can be left in for dimensional look.
Use a liquid glue with an applicator for double thick applique such as bias stems.
A Mini tack gun will hold applique pieces.
Most useful is a water soluble glue stick from Sewline or Lapel Stick, a temporaray fabric adhesive in stick form
Spray and Fix adhesive for fabric,to stabilise and prevent fraying and to allow repositioning of motifs.
Mary Ellens Best Press spray starch
Other Useful Tools
Sandpaper Board to grip your fabric and stop it moving while you trace onto it – Essential Sandboard from Piece O’Cake Designs. You can make your own by using a sheet of very fine weight sandpaper glued to a board
Bias maker in various sizes to make stems and vines – it makes great bias strips as the edges emerge turned under.
Wooden toothpick for turn under at points and curves. The texture of wood holds fabric.
A seam ripper
Bohn fabric eraser
Zip top bags for keeping pieces organised and clean.
A Notebook for your ideas and designs
Small pillow to put in your lap under your work.
Portable table light -portable table top Ott-Lite also comes as floor lamp
Linen holds its shape well.
Have something behind your fabric to stabilise it, like muslin, cotton solid or a light weight tearaway stabiliser such as 360 E-Z stitch by Pellon . Can be used for hand and machine embroidery.T o use cut a piece the same size as the fabric you are embroidering on, place it under the fabric and secure each corner with a safely pin. Once your embroidery is finished you can tear away the excess.
Hand wash your fabric, lay it flat to dry and follow with warm iron.
Needles for embroidery
Embroidery needles are also known as crewel needles. They are long needles with a long oval eye that can take multiple strands of thread.
Choose a size where the eye fits the thread and pulls easily through the fabric. A size 7-9 is useful if you are starting out.
John James have ‘pebbles’ of embroidery needles.
Foxglove Garden is a good brand for Milliners needles
Crewel needles have sharp points and elongated eyes for most surface embroidery. Try Pony Crewel needles in 11-12 size for fine embroidery
Straw or Milliner needles are long needles with a round eye which makes them easy to thread. Their eye and shaft is equal in thickness – these are good for French or Buillion knots. These are more frequently used for needle turn applique but Sizes 3,5,6, & 7 have large eyes for ease of threading when using embroidery floss and the smaller sizes 10 + 11 are suitable for more fine, decorative stitching and smocking.
Embroidery needle 1 = thread size 3
Embroidery needle 5 = 1 or 3
Needle 8 = 3 or 4 (most versatile for fused art quilts)
Needle 12 = thread size 5.
For hand embroidery use 60/2 embroidery thread
Sashiko thread £2.99 per skein (40 metres)
Size 22 Chenille needle can also be used which are like tapestry needles but with sharper points.
Threads for Embroidery
Embroidery threads are for used embellishment, surface couching and for sewing. Bouche, viscose knits, metallic rayons can also be used especially for crazy patchwork.
Stranded Cotton – DMC floss ‘ Floss is 6 stranded cotton that can be separated or combined. You can use one strand or all. Usually comes in skeins. It all needs to be colourfast. Start with basic colours and neutrals.
Stranded silk or viscose rayon = more shine. Silk thread is fine and almost invisible. More expensive but does not need to match the fabric closely because it is so fine. Gutermann 100% silk is £3.40 for a spool )
Perle cotton – tightly twisted thread of many strands that is used as one thread and not separated. – available in variegated colours. sizes 12,8, 5 and (thickest) size 3, for couching.
Bamboo hoops are best for embroidery. These are not the same as quilting hoops which are made from much wider strips of wood.
Oval hoops are good – plastic ones have lips.
All sizes are available from 3″ to 21″.
You don’t need to use a hoop. Some people like to use one, some don’t.
For tracing – Pilot Frixion pens – heat activated marks disappear with a quick iron
Sewline Fabric pen that washes away with water
Writing on Fabric
Permawriter has a fine tip and Copic Multilines 07 for writing on fabric.
Fell Roller ok but thicker nib
Prisma pen good for tracing – does fade over time on labels
Sulky Iron on transfer pen (permanent)
Can tint embroidery with a sharpie 1 small.
Try using hand dyed and batik fabrics.
You can use pale blue as a neutral
Betweens which look like milliners needles but much shorter, to make the fine hand stitches favoured by quilters.
Thread for Piecing – Cream, white, beige and grey in good quality cotton to start with. Use beige or grey for mulicoloured fabric ; it will blend into the background.Thread for hand sewing 50 w in soft green gray or beige is useful to have. White 100% cotton Essential Thread by Connecting Threads is good for QAYG
Thread for Hand Quilting – Gutermans cotton hand quilting thread.
Perle No 8 cotton (not the traditional quilting thread) is used for Utility Quilting so that the stitches stand out. Can take stitches up to quarter of and inch. Use a larger, thicker needle. Use Perle cotton in sizes 16, 12 for bigger visible stitches.
Quilting wax to coat thread prevents tangling and raying
A seam ripper is useful to hold down pieces as you sew and to keep heat from your fingers.
Quilter’s pins are extra long so they are easy to handle. The short applique pins are useful to hold pieces together when hand piecing.
Pinking shears – these help prevent fraying
Snips – short scissors for stray threads and dog ears
An accurate 4 inch, 6 inch, 12 inch and 18inch ruler.
Wedge rules are available in a variety of degrees.
3×34 or 6×24 for cutting batting and fabric
9 1/2 or 12 1/2 to square up blocks
Tape measure with imperial and metric measures (one that will not stretch).
Cutting Mats & Rotary cutters
45 mm rotary cutter for cutting fabric
60 mm rotary cutter for cutting batting
Fiskars cutting mats are good. Biggest and best is 18×24”. Store away from heat and light and keep flat.
Hera marker to crease lines on fabric
Hard pencil for fine clean line around templates
Soft pencil for marking quilting patterns.
Fine permanent fabric pen for writing labels
Masking tape – low tack for marking straight lines
Tailors chalk works but it can blur – it washes out easily, though
Fabric Glues come in liquid, solid (as in glue stick) and spray form and can be used for attaching embellishments, as a temporary adhesive for basting fabric together, or for holding the layers of a quilt together temporarily while quilting.
Templates can be made from Freezer paper, plastic, card or plain paper
Templates can be bought made of thick paper, coard or Mylar
Graph paper is useful for planning and designing your own blocks and shapes