How to do English Paper Piecing with Leah Day
How to do English Paper Piecing with Leah Day

Hello my quilting friends. Leah Day here with a new Quilty Box video. Every month I challenge myself to use the materials that come in my Quilty Box to make something cool. Let’s check out the box and see what came this month for January. In case you’ve never heard of Quilty Box, it’s basically a box of fun gear that comes every single month for a subscription fee of between $40 to $50. Every month it’s put together by a different person or company. This month: Paper pieces. The paper-piecing company,, put all of these materials together and they selected some really fun things for us. The first thing we’ve got is Stars at Night. It is this little template and paper pieces. It’s those little cut-out pieces of paper that we can easily use to do some hand English-style paper piecing. It can really create some very unique quilts. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty time-consuming so I’m hoping that there’s something else in this box to make it a little faster. We’ve got some beautiful fabric here, this is Textured Solid by Kathy Hall. They’re very textured. You can really feel the texture on the surface of the fabric. That’s kind of cool. You’ve got a Little House on the Prairie fabric, another fabric from Kathy Hall. They’re very small prints which is kind of important because these paper pieces are really really tiny. Something like that green is such a tiny print, it will really work with those tiny pieces. I really like that blue, too. That’s very pretty. This looks like a—I think this is a fabric organizer. I’m pretty sure that you take this and you’re able to wrap your fat quarter around it to organize it. That’s kind of neat. I’m always needing new methods of organizing my fat quarters. Then here is the book that’s included this month. It’s called 𝘈𝘭𝘭 𝘋𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘜𝘱, and I’ve flipped through it. I’m so excited—it actually does make English paper piecing a little faster because it’s tiny projects. I guess that makes it faster. This is the project that they kind of planned out for us this month. You could take the kit that comes, the little paper-piecing template and these little pieces and the fabric, and make up this cute little quilt. The reason it’s fast is because it’s very tiny. That’s going to be a very very small little doll quilt. I think that’s super cute. I’m not quite sure that this is really what I’m feeling like doing this month so I’m going to take a minute, play with my paper pieces, just see what I feel like doing, and I’ll meet you back here when I’ve figured out what I’m going to do for my Quilty Box challenge. I’ve decided to give a little bit of paper piecing a try. I’m going to cut up one of these squares of fabric to create some shaped pieces. What you do is just lay this out and leave about ¼” to either side. You can just put your rotary ruler on top and see through it and make sure that you’re leaving at least ¼” on both sides of the shape. I’m just going to cut this straight through. Keep in mind, it looks like it’s cutting at about 1½”, maybe a little bit bigger, so I’ll just cut all the strips 1½” and that should be plenty. Maybe a 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 bit bigger; 1⅝”. There’s very minimal waste with these little charm-pack squares. Now I’ll take my little template and lay it out. I’ll be able to cut out these diamond shapes just exactly right. I can cut using either hand, but if this feels awkward to you, definitely flip it around however you need to. You can just turn it around and cut from this angle, too. You’ll notice my ruler wiggled a little bit when I cut it, but it really doesn’t matter. You can even leave the little pinked edge on the side of your shape because the seam allowance really doesn’t matter in this situation. We’re going to take that little paper piece and place it in the center of the shape and pin it so it’s secure. Then we’re going to take the seam allowance and start folding it over. You just use your fingers and feel the edge of the paper and give it a little finger crease. I like to just run my fingers over it a few times. Then grab a needle and thread. You’re going to baste it down, so use nice big stitches. I was doing maybe 2 stitches per side. It’s more than enough. I chose a gray thread that unfortunately kind of blends in a little bit, but they’re really big chunky stitches. Look, I’m already ready to turn this corner. I’m just going to turn the corner and do the same thing: Just finger-creasing, feeling that edge of the paper, and firmly finger creasing the fabric over, and then I’ll take my next basting stitch. Nice, big stitches here. You don’t want to take too much time when it comes to basting because this is only one part of the process. We’ve got to put these pieces together, too. Now usually at that this point, after I get two edges in, I just go on ahead and take my pin out because it can be in my way. Now I’m going to fold over this edge. I was reading in the book that you can leave these little flappy bits out just like this when all the pieces are going to be pieced with other things next to them. If you’re going to use it as an appliqué, of course you’ll want to fold that in. Be a little bit more meticulous about hiding it if you’re going to be turning this into an appliqué instead. I’m going to piece at least six of these into a little star. So that’s held in place. Now two big stitches down the side. I did a lot of paper piecing back in 2013, these tiny, tiny little hexagons. They were itsy-bitsy I think they were ⅜” in diameter. They were just so so tiny. They came out great, though, and I used them to make the face of a goddess in a goddess quilt. It was really really cool but definitely time-consuming. It was a slow handwork project all summer long. Now I’m finishing up, coming to the end. I’m just going to take one more stitch and make sure that that corner is nice and secure. Again, you’re going to have these two little flappy bits. Looks like a crab. Looks kind of funny, but these edges will be hidden. They will be covered up whenever you piece this with other things. Now I’m just going to tie an overhand knot and that will hold everything nicely in place and you can “wash and repeat” this with as many pieces as you want to make. The cool thing about this yes, it is time-consuming. However, this is such a 𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘺 little handwork project. You can bring just a small little rotary cutting mat or just a pair of scissors to cut out the shapes from your fabric. The paper pieces don’t take up any extra space. Then you can set and just make them and put them together. This is how half of the star would look. To put them together here’s what you do. You figure out your placement. I want those two to go just like that. Now you’re going to hold them together and whipstitch them in place. So I’m holding these rightsides together and I’m just going to insert my needle into the green and pull it up right at the tip. Now a whip stitch: I’m just coming down from the top through the purple and the green at the same time, right across the top, and pulling my thread through, making sure it’s just running. See, I’m catching the fabric right there. Just pulling right through. I’m just going to make tiny little stitches. I tend to have very tiny stitches because I did beadwork for years. My idea of a tiny stitch is the size of a seed bead. I know not everyone has stitches that are that tiny, nor do you even need to make stitches that are that tiny. I’m trying to make these just a little bit bigger. The book said to do stitches about 6–10 per inch. This is an inch-long diamond so I’m aiming for 6 stitches from corner to corner. Again, I’m inserting my needle, I’m making sure to go through both the purple and the green. My thread’s a little long. That’s something that you want to watch out for. As you get more practice you can work with a longer thread, but I’m finding it’s tangling up on me quite a bit. You’ll know if you accidentally pierce through the paper. You’ll feel the resistance of the paper and it really doesn’t matter if you take a chunk out of it, but it can be a little bit more challenging when you go to take the paper out. When you have the pieces all stitched up all the way around then you can take the paper pieces out and use them again. Here I’m on the corner. I’m going to make two stitches here in the corner and then open it up. You can see just how pretty that is. If you see your stitches, give this a tug to tighten it up a little bit. Then you can start playing with connecting your diamond shapes together and figuring out speedy ways of doing it. The thing that I like to do the most is minimize my thread breaks. Here I’m starting to connect together three diamond shapes. I would start right here and whipstitch, connecting these two diamonds together. I’d get down to the tip and go on ahead and connect the third diamond, stitching right across, so it would be only one thread break to do two seams. That’s really efficient, so that’s what I did with both of these: I stitched both halves. You could then take one seam to stitch right down the middle to create a little star. Here’s what this looks like in purple. It’s really cute. This one’s really really cute fabric. The trick with being able to take the paper out: All the edges of a piece have to be surrounded by other pieces in order to take the paper out. Here’s what it looks like when you do that. Here I’ve got that same star shape in the middle, and I’ve started expanding it with this orange fabric. All the edges of that center star are stitched against. You can see all the edges are connected to something else, so I can take those basting stitches out. What I’m going to do is just pull on some of my basting stitches. I’m going to pull on one of the knots and clip it off. Now find my other knot. Here’s a tip: When you’re basting, come up with an efficient method. Either have all of your knots on the top or all of your knots on the back so that you always know where they’re at. I like all the knots on top because then I don’t confuse what is a knot for my basting stitches, and what is a knot for my real whipstitches. If they’re always on top then you know you can just clip everything on the surface. Here I’m just picking out the basting. This is why we didn’t want the basting to be super tiny or delicate. We wanted these to be big chunky stitches so they would come out. This is the piece I just removed. I’m just going to get in here and pull out the paper. Yes, there will be holes in the paper after you stitch through it, but it still feels very firm. It doesn’t feel wobbly. The edge is still nice and sharp so I know for a fact that I could still use this. I can put this back in the bag and use it to baste another little piece. So that’s how you take the paper out. You can see it will definitely make your quilt feel softer and you’ll be able to get a better idea of what it’s going to look like. This little project, what I’ve decided to do is create a cute little Rainbow Star. I’m going to keep expanding it until it has all the colors of the rainbow. But I am not going to finish this for this video. Paper piecing is a time-consuming thing that I want to be able to take my time and enjoy it. I just really hope that this inspired you to give English paper piecing a try and see if it works for you. So that’s it for this Quilty Box video. I challenged myself to make something with English paper piecing, even though it’s a little time-consuming, and now I’m going to have a fun project to work on for the rest of the year. This is going to be my travel project. Any time that Josh and I are hitting the road going somewhere, I’ll have all of the materials that I need. I’ll keep them all organized in a ziplock baggie. I just put them all in a gallon-size bag and that way I can grab that bag, throw it in the car, and I have everything I need. It’s a really great handwork project. You don’t have to bring a machine, you don’t even have to have a rotary cutter and mat. You can cut the pieces with scissors and it’s very easy. It’s very relaxing to stitch this way and you end up with absolutely perfectly pieced units because you can see what you’re creating as you go. I definitely encourage you to give English paper piecing a try and have a lot of fun with this cool Quilty Box project. If you’d like to join Quilty Box and get an awesome box of fun gear every single month, definitely subscribe at Until next time, let’s go quilt!

15 thoughts on “How to do English Paper Piecing with Leah Day”

  1. Sunshine Cook says:

    great video, the diamonds were to tiny for my big hands so i gave up and using the pre cuts for something else lol

  2. winterzee says:

    Do you have a picture of the goddess quilt where you did the hexies?

  3. Marlene Scraders says:

    Thanks so much for the preview. I should be getting my box on Monday and  can't wait to start. I really enjoy your tutorials. I am also a newbie at quilting.  Thanks again.

  4. Ewa Stieglauer says:

    Hello Leah, take a little fabric glue by Clover or so and it goes much faster and you don´t need to pre-sew it… Hugs, ewa

  5. qtmarg144 says:

    Thanks leah. I got my box this week and thought oh no….even though I love hand work…I do art quiLts. But now I'm inspired to make a crab to add to one of my mixed media under water art journal pages and to make a garden for another. If I use them in my mixed media..I can basre in a beautiful complimentary thread and keep it and the paper!

  6. RV Hobo says:

    I am new to quilting (well making my own quilts) and this sounds so great.

  7. rachael7099 says:

    I love English paper piecing I always have a project on the go

  8. matknit321 says:

    dear leah my stitches on my quilting come out skipped do you have any ideas please
    thank you very much.

  9. Jennifer Farsh says:

    So that is paper piecing… thanks for the great tutorial. I could see doing this if I had to sit somewhere and wait a long time… DMV, Doctors Office, Carline, Airport,,,(ooh, no needles there) but only if waiting somewhere…At home, I might go nutty with all that hand stitching 🙂

  10. Shirley Williams says:

    Thank you Leah for the video. You have helped me so much and I'm encouraged to try paper piecing at my next Doctor appointment.

  11. khricket says:

    Paper piecing is my favourite 🙂

  12. Claudette Faglie says:

    wow… am very impressed at all the work. Nice video.

  13. Jenny Callahan says:

    if you use a glue pen or just use Freezer paper and iron them on, if you lay a bunch at a time on the fabric and then cut them apart it goes much much faster. if you use a glue pen there is no need to baste. Hope this helps!

  14. Jenny Callahan says:

    also they still pop right out if you use just a thin line of glue with the edge of the glue pen.

  15. Stephanie Toponce says:

    You dont have to baste through the paper. If you make little tack stitches in the back corners, if the piece isn't too big, you dont need side basting. Then you can just pop the paper out with no snipping needed.

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