The sun is out in Scotland (at last!) and the garden is looking very fiery at the moment with red flowers on the Rhododendrons and my orange and red Acers looking spectacular. And for the first time I have a dark flower on my young Tree Peony. I have waited a few years for this but it has been worth the wait. There are two more flowers to come by the look of it.
In this post we are going to be looking at some potentially indespensible tools, consider whether books are telling us all we need to know and touch on what directions Modern EPP might take us.
I have listed, in my Pages section, some basic EPP tools that are useful to have when starting out. However, when you have been doing EPP for a while you tend to find additional tools that you wouldn’t want to be without. I am sure you will have several, different from mine, that you find indispensable. If so, please do tell us about them so that we have more to choose from. In the meantime these are:
My ‘Most Favourite and Indispensable!’
From left to right, top row:
Appliqué pins – I love these tiny Clover appliqué pins because they never prick my fingers and they don’t buckle fabric like that larger ones do. They are particularly useful when you are working with small fabric shapes or appliqué pieces.
Clover Wonder Clips – I use these for holding my fabric pieces onto their paper shapes until I have basted the first side, to stop the papers moving. I also use them for holding two shapes together at each end while whipstitching, leaving my fingers free to guide my needle. I am sure they have many more uses if you knit and crochet as well.
Magnetic Needle/Pin Holder – I find that my needles disappear into pincushions, never to be seen again, so I find this magnetic holder perfect for keeping my needles where I need to find them. Also, if I drop a needle or pin, I just skim the holder over the area where it dropped and the missing pin or needle jumps right onto it. This one is made by Prym and I found it on Ebay.
From left to right bottom Row:
Sewing or Hemming Gauge – This has so many uses aside from helping to measure hems (in inches and metric). It helps keep binding width even (super useful here!) and measures intervals between things such as embellishments (or pleats and buttonholes if you are person who sews clothing as well as pleats or buttonholes. And the ones with the horseshoe shape at the bottom, like mine, can be used to create a button shank). The point at the top can be used to poke out corners and the tiny circular opening at the top can be used to draw a circle.
Water Soluble Marker – My soluble marker is made by EZ but there are several on the market all as good as each other. If are new to these, try it out on a scrap piece of your fabric first, so that you feel happy with how it works. I use it to draw inside stencils, to rule on quilting lines, to draw patterns for embroidery, even for text.
Hera Marker or Finger Presser – The one shown in the photo above is a Clover finger presser and I find it great for making creases in fabric that are not as permanent as a pressed crease would be. Clover also make a version of the Japanese ‘Hera Marker’ for marking and creasing fabric which is a sort of S shape. I prefer the finger presser as it has a small indentation on the top which I find comfortable to use.
Water Spritzer – My water spritzer is made by Derwent that can be found in art departments and is fabulous for spritzing away the blue lines made by your water soluble marker. Just spritz along the blue line, dab with a pice of kitchen paper and allow to dry. Make sure you empty it after each use, or it will turn green in places like mine has done. Also, don’t put your fabric in a warm place to dry, or the lines will reappear and you will have to spritz them again.
Perle 8 thread – I use this thread for Utility or Big Stitch quilting because it comes in a huge range of solid and variegated colours, it has a slight sheen to it which enhances the quilting and it just the right weight for quilting cottons.
Thread/Spool Huggers – These strange looking twirly things are for winding around thread spools to stop your thread unravelling. They are made in China and can be bought in different amounts. I found a small bag of just a few useful. I don’t use them for all my spools because they are quite bulky and awkward in the way they take up space when storing your threads but you could if you wanted to. My spools are tightly packed in a box and I use these only when I am working on a quilt using a couple of different coloured threads. While I use one thread the other is secured in one of these and if I get up to do something, I wind one around the spool I am currently using, so that if the cat knocks it off my desk it won’t unravel.
My ‘Certainly Useful Extras!’
Glue Pen – I sometimes use this when I am binding and then instantly regret it but I have included it here because I know some people find it preferable to glue baste rather than thread baste. There are several with different coloured glues, which dry to white. This one is by Sewline.
Small Ruler – especially useful if you quilt on the go
Tweeezers – Great for picking out basting stitches once they have been cut, without soiling your fabric or pulling at your design.
Fray Check – I find this most useful when I attaching applique pieces to a background, or when I have cut out a fussy cut design and there is very little space between my design and the next one, leaving me with a seam allowance that is much narrower than I would usually want to work with. I expect it has multiple uses. This one is made by Prym.
Silicone Thimble – I almost never use a thimble. I feel as if I am wearing armour on my finger (I suppose that is what it is really!). However, if I ever feel a need to protect my finger or grip a needle more firmly, I use a silicone thimble. They are so light, I hardly feel them.
Plastic/Acrylic Stencils – I love to use stencils on my quilts. I use them for quilting stitches and for embroidery. You can use even mix and match parts of them for decoration, like waves, or smoke from chimneys, a heart here or a leaf there. They are simple to use and the result is very effective. There are so many designs available. I would start off with a narrow I” one and try it out along your borders. Try Prym or The Stencil Co., or look on Amazon. They are fairly inexpensive until you get to the much larger designs.
NB – I have left out obvious things like needles, rulers and scissors but if it would be useful , we could talk about which ones might be most useful for EPP in a later post? And perhaps discuss useful online sources of EPP materials as well.
EPP Books – What they Don’t Tell You!
Information on the contents of these books can be found in my Pages section. What is interesting to me though, is what they don’t contain i.e. detailed instructions about how to bind, either by hand or machine (preferably both); how to hang, display or frame anything; how to fix common problems that are not just to do with wrapping shapes; how to embellish a quilt in various ways; how to do some simple Big Stitch quilting or even how to tie a quilt. How are new EPP’ers supposed to figure out how to confidently finish something that it has probably taken them ages to make, and display it? Not all quilts are for beds and new quilters often start smaller. Have you come across any EPP books that cover these things?
If not, maybe we can go into some of them in future posts. Would that be useful? If you have a specific question that you haven’t found an answer to, please flag it up and if I don’t know I will try and find out.
EPP Blogs – Are Any Exclusively EPP?
I would love to find more blogs that are EPP only. Has anyone found one? I have come across several posts which are introductions to EPP, or include a series of small EPP projects (though these are almost always about hexies), and there of course posts about specific kits or patterns that have become really popular, like Lucy Boston and the fussy cut Passacaglia patterns. I am delighted to see that EPP has ventured further from the simple hexagon into fussy cut patterns that are so much more beautiful and sophisticated. The down side is that although no one’s quilt looks the same due to their fabric choices, the patterns are often the same or similar. Where are the people taking Modern EPP in totally different directions with their own designs and embellishments? Perhaps they are on Instagram?
Many of the modern EPPers referred to in ‘Flossie Teacakes Guide to English Paper Piecing’ work mainly with hexagons of different sizes, which is no surprise since the hexagon has become almost synonymous with EPP, though it doesn’t have to be. Dittany Mathews gravitates towards Arabic geometric patterns and reworks these to her liking, while Jodi Godrey is inspired by bathroom tiles, finding it useful to stick to 2 or 3 repeating shapes for maximum effect. Sandra Cassidy similarly uses limitations for effect, in her case by limiting her colour palette. However, it is Lorena Urierte that interests me most as she likes to mix techniques in a single piece.
EPP is based on tessellating shapes which can create an endless array of different patterns which is the reason why hexagons, diamonds triangles and squares are the most commonly used. But curves can be used too, as well as long strips and circles and a whole host of invented shapes.
I often find patterns stressful to look at, especially very busy ones which is why I gravitate more towards pictorial designs which are calmer, or ones with simple appliqué designs or stitch patterns on the surface; An embellished EPP quilt perhaps, on the way to a textile picture.
Sharon Blackman makes textile pictures with a very EPP’d-quilted-and-appliquéd look to them, though I don’t think they are quilted or EPP’d. It looks as if they are intended to be framed. I love them because they are so joyful. If you haven’t seen any of her work check it out at Sharonblackman.co.uk or https://www.facebook.com/SharonBlackmanTextiles. They are a great tonic if you need cheering up!
I’ve digressed a bit there, so back to EPP:
Why do people gravitate towards EPP?
I wonder. In fact, why hand sew a quilt at all. Once it was about necessity, or Community, but now? What is the motivation now? Is there still a desire to make an heirloom that can be passed down through generations? I would imagine this is less the case in the UK than abroad. Could it be simply to try a new technique before moving on; to connect with an old tradition; to create an ‘art’ rather than utility object; or is it about mindfulness, that slow stitching that is so good for the soul? I expect it could be quite a few, if not all of the above.
And how many EPP quilts does an EPP’er go on to make make? Just a few? Dozens? And what do they do with them? Are they given away to loved ones? Sold? Kept as satisfying records of accomplishment? I really would love to know these things.
Till next time….