Larger EPP Quilts and Labels

A lovely photo of a dry bright day in our local area taken by a friend of mine, Sally Hinchcliffe.

Hello Everybody,

I have some great news! My work has been accepted to be displayed and sold at the Barholm Arts and Crafts shop in Creetown, not far from my home in south west Scotland and I am delighted! I took in four different pieces, two with Scottish theme, one humorous, and one Indian. All of them were in frames. On Friday I heard that there is an envelope waiting for me at the gallery and that means I have sold something but I don’t yet know what. I have wanted this for so long but couldn’t imagine anyone liking my designs enough to want to buy one and use it in their home. When I began this journey about nine years ago, my dream was that one day some of my quilts might decorate homes in different places across the country and bring people pleasure, or make them smile. This coming Thursday I am going to take a few more quilts into the gallery. This time none of them are framed, most are smaller and a few have a Christmas theme.

Since I was invited to take work to the shop I have been madly sewing labels on to my stack of quilts. There is a lesson here. Please add a label to the back of your quilt each time you complete one, because sewing on close to a hundred all at once is not fun. Labels look much neater sewn into the binding, rather than stitched on like an afterthought.

When something has taken you hours to make it is important to put your stamp on it as being your work and no-one else. Also, all of my quilts have names that make sense of the pattern on the front and give them personality. I want my label to display that name, where there were made, who by and when. Who knows, one of them could be discovered a century later and still bearing your name. I’m all for the immortalisation of quilts. That said, I still find myself wanting to avoid doing them.

I have made some observations about labels this week. I began by buying labels because I didn’t know how to make them. Some fabric designers do sets of them in panels though there is not often much room between the images to allow for a decent seam allowance. They are often black and white but sometimes they are coloured. Some have vines and flowers around the edges that you can colour in with a coloured marker.

Labels cut from a panel. I don’t find them hugely exciting.

You can colour labels with markers, inks, crayons and coloured pencils but make sure it is colour fast if your quilt is to be washed.

I would avoid the more sentimental ones with ‘Made with Love Just for You’ or ‘To a Special Person’ type wordings if you want to sell your work and go for plainer ones, which are harder to find. Other designs available (often on eBay) have blank centres and coloured edging which can be useful but are often too large for mini quilts. They could be cut smaller though.

Labels from Ebay, thin enough to trace some printed out handwriting in a font you like

It’s taken me a long while and a lot of “meh” labels to realise that the best labels are ones you make yourself. The best fabric to choose for a label is the one that best fits the colour and style of the quilt it is attached to. The best fabric designs for labels are tone on tone fabrics that read as solids, or just simple solids in not too dark a colour, because these look good as well as clearly showing the writing on the label (either in permanent pen or in stitch). Embroidered labels are more do-able on large quilts; with smaller ones it is easier to stick to a waterproof permanent marker with archival ink that won’t run or fade. If you hate your handwriting you can trace a font that you like online. For more detailed information on the making of labels, see my previous post on “An Easy Way to Label your Quilt’ in October 2020.

Another very good reason to add your label before completion is that a triangle shaped label fits well into the the corner of a quilt with the ‘ears’ of the triangle disappearing neatly into the binding at either edge. If you sew the label on afterwards, it is a devil of a task to hide those ‘ears’ by folding them inside the triangle points. Too big and the point looks bulky, but cut away causes them to fray.

The photo below has been magnified so that you can see the difficulty with the corner on the left hand side, where there is so much bulk with the ‘ears’ turned in that the stitches struggle to close the gap.

In the photo below you can see how much better the label looks sewn into the binding (and it’s more difficult to remove, too). However, remember to leave enough space to add the binding at each side, or some of your writing may be covered up, as in the example below. Luckily this one is not for sale.

I think I may have another solution for the added-on-later label, an idea that popped into my head a few nights ago when I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t tried this yet but I think an EPP fabric hexagon with the print facing front, its backing fabric folded over the front and stitched down, and a slim piece of interfacing inside between back and front, would make an attractive label that could be appliquéd on and would avoid all the previous problems I have encountered. It is actually what’s called a Quilt-as-you-go hexagon and looks like the ones in photo below. The centre area would hold the writing, ideally on a paler background. I will give the idea a try and let you know how I get on.

Borrowed from to show as example only.

So, enough about sewing on labels. However, because I have had to sew so many lately, I have not managed to complete any EPP work in the past month. However I have made a little progress with the piecing of three separate quilt tops, all larger than my usual mini quilt size and intended for frames. I bought the fabric years ago when I was just starting out but wasn’t brave enough to try anything that big. I had just moved here and fancied some Scottish hand made fabric pictures on my wall.

They are both Lewis and Irene patterns and fabric. The first is ‘Country Life.’

‘Country Life’16 inches square

I really wanted to like this one but I am not a fan of triangles and getting a whole bunch of them to meet in the middle is asking for trouble. They are all supposed to nest together at the back and they do, sort of, but not very neatly and they are still uneven at the front. There are five pieces to each block and once these were sewn together to make four separate blocks, I then sewed one block to another going around the quilt in a clockwise direction. I think this is where the mistake occurred. It seems to me that sewing the top right and left block together first, then the bottom left and right, and then sewing the top and bottom strips together straight across the middle would have avoided this problem. I am considering picking it apart and re-doing it. Oh joy.

The second is another Lewis and Irene pattern and fabric, ‘The Glen’. I have joined the grey centre to the on-point red triangles and joined the smaller pieces that make up the large corner triangles,. Now I have to sew it all together.

‘The Glen’ – 18 inches Square

The third is a quilt that you will have seen in an earlier post when all the pieces were laid out on the table, ready to sew together. This is what it looks like now. I called it ‘Once Upon a Chicken’ at first but have changed that to ‘Once upon a Hen’, in memory of a much loved golden brown hen called Speckle that I once had as a pet.

‘Once Upon a Hen’ 15 inches square

The octagon in the centre is not right but it will be easy to redo that. It’s just appliquéd on. I have found some fun fabric for the back, with more hens!

I have found some fun fabric with hens for the back of my quilt,

The clocks have changed overnight and now, at not quite three o clock today, there is very low light and it’s beginning to rain. Despite the wetness though, there is some lovely colour in the garden. Many of our trees are changing, tor red and gold, there are still a few flowers lingering in the greenhouses and some black grapes coming along. For October it is surprising warm and but a very long dry spell, there is now a lot of rain. I am hoping to spend next week in the garden pruning trees and shrubs, weather permitting. Covid is still lurking about the place in Scotland but there is always plenty I enjoying doing at home so I’m happy to stay home.

If you have any ideas for posts you would like to see here or have a question, please leave a comment. If there is anything you want to ask about specific quilts or something you want to say that you prefer not to share in the general comments, you can reach me via the ‘Got a Question’ page on this site or via my business email address

So, until next time….

Taking Stock at this Stage of the Journey

Two little boys playing footsie in the grass.

Hi Everyone,

I have been doing a lot of thinking this past month; of the where am I, where am I going and why, variety. I’ve been looking at what I have done, what went well and not so well and wishing there was more time in any day for what I want to do. I’ll come back to this in a moment, but first, a little of what I have be doing since my last post.

I have finished ‘All Roads Lead Home’, quilting it and adding what I call a ‘proper’ binding:

‘All Roads Lead Home’ (with geese to fend off intruders!)

I have decided to add bindings like this to all quilts of this size and larger, from now on. I used to just fold the backing fabric to the front because it was cheaper and easier, and it works fine on 8 inch quilts or smaller that go on the wall and don’t get a lot of wear. However, adding your own separate binding gives a more professional look and wears better on larger quilts such as table toppers, runners and bed quilts that are going to handled and washed more often.

I added embroidered details onto a couple of mini quilts that seemed to lack something. Both took HOURS to do and I am not sure I like them any better. Both need binding, so perhaps that will improve how they look.

The first is ‘Daffodils in the Garden’ which I had hoped to complete before the end of Spring:

‘Daffodils in the Garden’

The stem stitch on each of the trees does give them more texture. I love how they feel to the touch but they took HOURS to stitch, so I won’t be doing that again, anytime soon. It might be nice for a more special quilt though. Embroidery does tend to pucker the fabric, so I usually dampen and stretch it a little. The binding will straighten up the squiggly edges.

The second one is ‘A Home in the Hills’:

The embroidery on this took ages, too, and though I am happy enough with some of it, the house and the tree behind the house in the centre square, are not straight, and this makes the rest of the quilt look wonky. I could have removed the whole centre square and rotated it a little at an earlier stage but this is not really possible once it is quilted. This is why you need to keep standing away from your work and looking at it from a distance. When you are hunched over it, with your focus on the tiny bit you are stitching, you can lose sight of the whole picture until it is too late to change it.

I have a whole pile waiting to be quilted. I like quilting. It’s quick and easy once you have decided how you are going to do it. I don’t mind adding binding either. There is something very satisfying about seeing your quilt slowly reach completion, with this last step in the process. I notice that there is not a single Pinterest ‘how to’ on sewing both sides of the binding on by hand. It seems that everyone resorts to a machine at this point.

The weather is sunny and warm but I have been avoiding the garden because I came out one morning to water the plants that I have been nurturing all year, to find the deer have been feasting on them, biting the heads off flowers, and chewing the leaves and stems off shrubs,. Some are now no more than a couple of blunt stalks.It’s heartbreaking. The deer visit from time to time but it’s never been this bad.

This used to be a Hosta!

But they did miss this one, thank goodness. Too close to the front door for their liking, maybe:

A lovely red Dahlia

Each year I look at all my boxes of fabric and quilts done and in progress, and all the ones unfinished for one reason or another. I usually decide I don’t like any of the ones I have done, haven’t finished any of what I planned to do and haven’t got any closer to what I have wanted to do. So what is the solution? A change of plan to start with, I think.

The bookcase where I keep my stash and quilts waiting to be quilted.

When I started out I wanted to make children’s quilts. I no longer want to do this but I have collections of fabric that I bought, for specific patternsTh that are still waiting to be made. I still like the patterns and the fabrics but somehow they belong to a different me. I also have fabrics for two quilts of single bed size and fabrics for several traditional patterns I wanted to try at the time, like Courthouse Steps and a Log Cabin. I also wanted to make a quilt using a Jelly Roll and to try some ‘liberated’ quilting where there was no set pattern. At that time everything was new and I wanted to try a bit of everything that I saw. Designing something for myself never occurred to me.

I love American quilt blocks and their evocative names, and at some point I realised that I could either manipulate the shapes in a single block to create a different design of my own, or I could add something pictorial to a block to give it a more personal meaning. I could add birds to ‘Return of the Swallows’, a farmhouse to ‘Farm Friendliness’ and so on. And I could make them about Scotland because we have farms and swallows, too. I made mostly 8″ size mini quilts because that was the largest pattern that my printer could cope with, and I cut out the paper shapes to wrap them with fabric because I couldn’t afford to buy the paper pieces (and there weren’t as many available a decade ago).

‘Farm Friendless’ Block, re-imagined.

My brain is always ahead of my hands so it wasn’t long before I had a situation where I wanted to move on, and do something completely different, but was stuck with all my quilts-in-progress and there were so many to do before I could get there. Does this happen to you, too?

Eventually I found myself juggling four separate strands of quilt making – the early quilts that I never completed, dozens of Scottish mini quilts in progress, the new ideas I want to try with English Paper Piecing and the constant pull further closer to textile art where I could take the time to design things of my own. I feel there is so much more to discover about English Paper Piecing and where it might fit into textile art rather than quilting. There are so many ideas I can’t get even begin to get close to right now.

I called this blog ‘A English Paper Piecing Journey’ because I think I realised, even then, that my experiments with one thing or another would eventually lead me far from where I began.

So, I have made some decisions:

I do not want to sell or give away those early quilt fabric and patterns, so the only solution is to get them done and the sooner the better. So, I am going to make a start, right now. There are about 17 of them, so I won’t be done with them this year.

I do not want to make 8″ mini quilts anymore, but want to make some slightly larger ones for the wall. These might be between 36 and 48 inches square, so not huge, but bigger. Having said that there are about fifteen Scottish mini quilts still in progress but I am going to put these aside for a while.

When you are making tiny quilts it is entirely possible to have something different to share in each blog post. Making larger ones could mean lots of posts about progress on the same quilt. Although I plan to work on a couple of them at the same time, I don’t want my posts to be like watching paint dry. So, I have decided to intersperse the making of these with some ‘how to’ posts that you might find useful. I want to start with colouring English Paper Piecing; how to add paint, coloured pencils, markers and crayons to your work. And then, if time allows, I want to experiment with using English Paper Piecing in non-traditional ways, such as using tulle to trap objects and so on.

Having made my decision, I spent much of August going through each box of fabric, sketching out the pattern, deciding on the size I want to make it and the paper pieces I would need. I am now buying the paper pieces and cutting out the shapes. The idea is that every box will contain everything needed to complete each quilt (no more procrastination because I don’t have all the paper pieces, or I haven’t decided on the right pattern, or size). It should now be possible for me to take any box I fancy off the shelf, and begin.

A ‘Neighbourhood’ quilt waiting to be made with Moda Neco

I always buy my paper pieces from because she has such a great range of simple shapes that allow you to reproduce any block pattern in any size you like, or design your own. Of course she also stocks the shapes for the hugely popular Passacaglia and other such patterns and kits, as well, but I have never been interested in those. She will also custom make paper pieces for your own design if you ask. I really want to ask her to make me the ‘Storm at Sea’ pattern in EPP one day. Have you seen it. It’s made up of straight lines that look like curves.

Some Paper Pieces that arrived this morning. She always includes a few complementary shapes to try, too.

HOT TIP: I have discovered that when you want a size that is not generally available, you can join paper pieces together to make the size you need. For example, you can join four 4″ squares to make an 8″ square centre, or join to 4 x 1″ rectangles for the 8×1″ outer log for your log cabin. If you stick them together with a strip of Sellotape at the join you can cut them apart again later and re-use them, though it’s possible that if you joined them with washi tape, you could just peel the tape off afterwards. I’ll try that and let you know if it works.

Despite all the laudable decision making, planning and organising there is always the problem of how overwhelming the sheer volume of what there is to do, can become. Why do we do this to ourselves? Maybe we think we have more time than we have, or can work faster than we do. I think it’s often about seeing fabric we love and want to use, and we think if we don’t get it now, it will be gone forever. Why can we not see that, like ideas or creativity, there will always be always be more. Maybe this is me. Maybe you are a great deal more sensible.

Till next time……

Macz (short for MacKenzie) taking some time out in the cat kennel

How to add Embroidery to Your English Paper Piecing

Hi Everybody! (long post alert!)

It’s been unusually hot here in Scotland, lately, hotter than I remember, and for so many days in a row! My arms haven’t seen this much sun in a long while. I recently started growing vegetables in pots so I am having to do lots of watering to stop them drying out, as well as nurture the crazy number of Hydrangea cuttings I took last year. They are just beginning to flower.

These are fewer than half of all the Hydrangea cuttings I took last year!

I am ridiculously excited to see my first runner bean, a tiny courgette forming and a pink flowering Hydrangea with petals larger than I have ever seen before.

A HUGE petalled lace cap Hydrangea

My ducks are dozing in the pond for hours at a time or seeking out the shade under large ferns. Here they are in the early evening, having found a spot that catches a slight breeze.

Duckies enjoying a shady spot

I have been lucky to have sold two of my quilts this month. It’s wonderful to think of them being enjoyed in another country, far away. I have some new, tiny business cards that I love, each one showing a detail of one of my creations. And I am almost ready to start listing my quilts for sale in various place online, so that’s all good.

My tiny business cards – Aren’t they fun!

I have not been sewing much but I have been thinking about what is next for me. I realise I am being drawn more and more towards collage and surface stitching, to stitched portraits, the addition of text and textiles with a narrative; all techniques that I have been learning in my textile course online and want to do more of. However, I have not yet figured out how I might use them in interesting ways with English Paper Piecing.

Embroidery, or what I like to think of as Surface Stitching is something that is easily added to English Paper Piecing. In my mind Sewing = dressmaking, Embroidery = a traditional set of fancy stitches but Stitching = a more intuitive type of embroidery that uses traditional stitches in looser and more expressive ways. This is what I am working towards, and so can you. No fancy embroidery police to pester you here.

Traditionally English Paper Piecing, indeed any patchwork, has been about putting shapes together to make patterns. This trend continues today, even more so in the Pasacaglia quilts that have become so popular recently. They are like kaleidoscopes with their huge rings of colour and fussy cut motifs, creating intricate patterns that take your breath away. The down side is they are expensive to make, rather wasteful of fabric and can take years to complete. However, if you want to make an amazing heirloom quilt to pass on down through the family, one of these could be the perfect choice.

An English Paper Pieced Passacaglia quilt in progress, by Karen Tripp

For those of us that are more time and penny poor, or who prefer to make something smaller, or enjoy something more pictorial, there is another way to achieve something a bit special. Patterns in quilt blocks can also be used as a backdrop to showcase some embroidery (or appliqué). The wonderful thing about embroidery is that just a small amount can transform a simple project without being difficult, time consuming, or expensive.

One plain DMC and one variegated Anchor skein of stranded cotton, a water soluble pen and aJohn James ‘Pebble’ holding different sized embroidery needles that are great for beginners.

If you have never embroidered before, buy an embroidery needle and some DMC or Anchor stranded cotton, grab a scrap of cotton fabric and give it a try. You don’t need a ‘how to’ book of stitches. There are free video’s on Youtube which are more useful because it’s easier to learn something you are being shown, than trying to work out a diagram in a book. Check out Mary Corbet’s site at She can show you pretty much anything you’ll ever need to know. Pinterest too, has photos and videos which help. My boards on Pinterest (Lesley J Jackson) are divided into different types of stitches as well as one called Embroidery- Beginners Basics.

And guess what? You don’t even have to learn many stitches. Start with three basic stitches and then add more if you enjoy working with those. I found outline stitches like running stitch, back stitch, and stem stitch to be the most useful to begin with.

From there you can progress to filling in the areas that you have outlined (you can use stem stitch as a filling stitch too) and then onto more decorative stitches like Chain stitch for borders or Lazy Daisy for flowers. Most stitches (and certainly all the basic ones) are very easy to learn. You can master them in minutes. If you are used to quilting stitches, then you already know running stitch and back stitch is just a variation of that. Straight stitches are great for little blades of grass around a cats feet or next to a house.

I started with a piece of printed fabric, one with the outlines of large flowers printed on it, and followed the printed lines. Then I started making simple drawings with a water soluble pen and followed the outlines of those, spritzing away the drawn lines with water when I had finished. You can draw straight onto your pieced background in this way, or you can transfer a traced image using tissue paper (let me know if you’d like me to show you how to do this).

I embroidered the printed hair on this fabric in stem stitch

Here is a very simple pieced background, a traditional block called Bonnie Scotsman. I decided to appliqué a stag onto it and call it ‘On A Winters Night’. If I had kept the appliqué I would have filled in the antlers with embroidery and the whole design would have jutted out slightly from the background.

‘On a Winter’s Night’

However, I changed my mind and decided to stitch the outline of the stag to match the antlers using a simple backstitch. I felt that an appliquéd stag would look quite heavy, whereas I wanted a more ethereal effect I wanted with a stag that was barely there. Which do you think you’d prefer?

‘On a Winter’s Night’ – Take Two

Outlines in back stitch are a very easy way to add a ‘barely there’ image if you are a beginner or a not very confident embroiderer, and can also be used for adding upper case text. Stem stitch takes curves well and can be used for circles or vines, for lower case text and is wonderful for tree trunks and branches.’On

Here are more ‘barely there’, back-stitched, images on a pieced background in the quilt below, I was afraid that the a trio of white geese would detract from the house so I didn’t fill them in. I want them to lead your eye to the main image, rather than being part of the main image. Does that work? Or would they be more like geese if they were filled in? (The quilt has basting stitches holding it together for now, because any embroidery has to be completed before it is quilted)

All Roads Lead Home’

And in the unfinished quilt below I wanted the fox to be a surprise, hiding on the periphery as foxes do, rather than part of the main picture in the centre. I think I will have to wait until the quilt is completed before I am sure that it works.

Tiptoe through the Snowdrops’

After a while you can begin to fill in a design rather than outline it. Keep your image fairly small to begin with, so that it isn’t daunting and won’t take ages to finish. Try embroidering over an image, one that is already printed onto your fabric, like I did with the one below. Once it is covered with embroidery no one would know that there was anything underneath. This is worth trying if you don’t have much confidence in your drawing skills.

A little embroidered scene in the centre of a mini quilt.

Later, when you are more experienced, you can do whole embroideries of your own designs that can be cut out and appliquéd onto a pieced background if you want. A little embroidery on a quilt label is a nice touch, too.

I like designing crazy hats

So, are you ready to give it a try? Go on, I know you’d like to…

Till next time….

A Rat’s Tail Cactus that hasn’t flowered once, in the eleven years we have lived here!

Little Steps with Mini Quilts

Hi Everyone,

My beautiful blue poppy, a gift from a friend several years ago

I’m sorry that I seem to have been away so long. It was my plan to have the whole of May to garden but May turned out to be wet windy and cold. I think I managed about three days in all and made very little progress. Then, as it turned to June, the days suddenly became hot and buggy and the garden exploded into huge patches of nettles. I feel rather disheartened as I made nothing like the progress I usually do. I will try again towards the end of the year when the swallows have gone, the weeds begin to die down a bit and the weather is more pleasant to work in.

I have planted around my duck area to make it look pretty and feel more secure but they do tend to trample over everything, so I don’t plant anything precious there.

The cows have become very interested in my ducks lately and spend hours staring at them over the wall. The ducks pretend they haven’t seen them.

Those peeping Toms

The pots in my courtyard are looking good but it takes all morning to water them. I usually keep things in pots until they are fairly large before they are planted or the deer eat them.

The sitting area in our courtyard

What has been really successful is all the cuttings I took of Hydrangeas last year. All of them have survived and are just beginning to flower. I will keep some and give some away to friends.

Hydrangea cuttings in our greenhouse

In the hours that the garden was inhospitable I did quite a bit of spring cleaning and sold some stuff on EBay that I had been wanting to get rid of for a while. And I came across a new and interesting product available for English Paper Piecing that I hope to try out and review, as soon as I can. It’s called Eppiflex, plastic laser cut templates in various shapes that can be used repeatedly without wearing out. They are transparent for precise placing and fussy cutting, bendable yet with edges firm enough for precise folding, whip and ladder stitch friendly, easily removable and heat resistant so you can press over them. They sound amazing. The down side is they are much more expensive than paper pieces (about £12 for a pack of 50) but if you used, for example, 2 inch squares in most of your projects they would probably be worth the investment. Anyway I will give them a try at some point and let you know what I think of them. If you have tried them, please let us know what your verdict is. (Check them out at or look for the video on Youtube)

I did get a little English Paper Piecing done here and there; not what I had planned to do originally (as usual) but I began a few simple mini quilts that I was in the mood for at the time. Of course they are not finished. I sometimes think it would be better to show you one thing that was finished, rather than a number of things part done, but I always seem to have several things on the go at the same time.

I plan to add more to each of them They are all a bit dull at the moment. The first one is a 8 inch block I am going to call ‘Wishing Star’. I have not decided what I want to do with it but I like the gold against the black.

‘Wishing Star’

The second one is a traditional American block called ‘Garden of Eden’, which I thought would be fun to complete with a garden of Eden theme in fabric, hence the leaves and apples. I plan to embroider something in the horizontal yellow bar, a leafy scroll, a couple of small figures, or perhaps a serpent. What do you think?

‘Garden of Eden’

It’s just sitting on its backing fabric of apples at the moment and is roughly tacked around the edges. Those stitches will disappear later and some hand quilting will make it look more interesting. It also an 8 inch block.

The third mini quilt I began was again a traditional block called ‘Castle Wall’. I thought as we have several castles dotted about Scotland I might add some tartan and enclose a unicorn (our national animal) within the castle walls (I did a previous post called ‘Scotland’s Unicorn’ in January 2019 if you are interested in scrolling back.)

‘Unicorn in the Castle Walls’

There are navy blue stars beyond the castle walls though you can’t see them very well here. I lived in a castle in Scotland for a year, once. Here is a photo of their courtyard. It’s quite something, isn’t it?

Megginch Castle courtyard, Perthshire.

There is more to say about the Castle Wall block so I will come back to it in another post, perhaps when this little unicorn quilt is finished.

Lastly I began a larger quilt of roughly 15 inches square, made from almost a whole Moda charm pack called ‘Once Upon A Chicken’. The strange thing is, though, charm packs don’t seem to have much tonal variety; not this one anyway. You can see how flat this one looks; there is not the depth that you can achieve with light medium and dark fabrics within the same quilt. Perhaps they are designed to be added to, so I could of course replace some of the pieces here with other darker or plainer fabrics but I think I am just going to leave it as it is. I am hoping that some dark brown quilting stitches and binding, and perhaps embroidering the chicken in the centre, will give the whole thing a bit more life. If not, I’ll know what I need to do next time.

‘Once Upon a Chicken’

It looks strange like this, all the paper pieces fabric wrapped but none of them sewn together.

Since my last post I have added a Contact page to this site (find the link at the top of my Home page) so that you can get in touch with me if you have any general questions about my work orA its availability. I have also added a Paypal button on my Shop page, which is for UK purchases only for the moment. I shall be listing many more products on my Shop page in the coming months. Purchases from abroad are probably better made on my Folksy site. This is all still a work in progress but will get sorted out in due course.

So, till next time….

This is Macz, sunning himself on the warm steps outside my back door.

Quirky Embroidery for a Log Cabin Quilt

Hello Everybody!

My ducks enjoy ‘helping’ when I am gardening, which can be a little frustrating.

I did say I was going to disappear during May to make some changes to my garden but I have only managed a couple of mornings. It’s been cold wet and windy, despite the intermittent sunshine – certainly not what I consider pleasurable gardening weather. So this post is to show you some of what else I have been doing and also to let you know that there have been some changes to this site.

You may have noticed that my web address has changed. I have finally got around to purchasing my own domain, so the address for Forest Moor Designs is now This is because I hope to set up a shop with a little of my work listed under different categories, to allow visitors to make a purchase if they choose to do so. I will also have an email dedicated to the site, so that if you want to contact me about any of my work you can do so.

It is slow going I am afraid. I’m not much of a techie person and there is so much to read and familiarise myself with. It sounds easy enough in the guide but by the time I have reached the page to make changes, I can’t find what I am looking for, or I can’t remember all the steps. At the moment I have some of the same information on both my Home page and my Blog page and this needs attention, among other things, so I hope you will bear with me while I make the necessary changes. My blog posts should be coming to you as usual but if this doesn’t seem to be happening, please get in touch and let me know.

My courtyard looks very pink in Spring. Catkins from the Birch tree above turn brown and litter the ground.

Last week I happened to be doing a brief online workshop with a textile artist called Saima Kaur who, inspired by Indian folk art, creates embroidered narratives on bright background fabrics, often with text. This seemed to be a good way to use up some of the bright solids and prints I no longer use. When I first started quilting, I bought lots of bright fabrics because I intended to make quilts for babies and young children but I no longer want to do this, having found that I enjoy making very small wall quilts instead, with a more subtle colour palette.

I had the idea of making a small improvised Log Cabin quilt with bright embroidered centres. By improvised I mean that the pieces that make up each block will be slightly random; different in size and shape and placed irregularly within the background – unlike the multiple rigid box shapes that you see, one inside the other, in traditional Log Cabin patterns.

Here is a very rough pencil sketch of what I have in mind:

When my daughter sends me a card for any occasion, she decorates the inside of them with little coloured drawings of animals, to make me smile. I decided to embroider these drawings onto bright solid fabrics so that each one would form the centre of one of the Log Cabin blocks. I have chosen to use four bright Moda Bella solids, pink, green, red and possibly gold, the sorts of colours found in Indian folk art, with a view to having three embroideries on each colour background, so twelve blocks in all. All of embroideries will co-ordinate with the printed fabric that will surround them.

Each of the drawings has a playful, almost circus theme. Here are the first three, on pink:

There is lots more to do. I shall probably add more to the ones I have done, too, especially filling in the backgrounds with small dots or stars. I want them to be bright and busy.

Here is an example of one of the co-ordinating fabrics; they are Indian cotton, striped and checked fabrics that I bought years ago. I am not sure they will lend themselves to English Paper Piecing as they are rougher and thinner, with a looser weave than the high quality cottons I usually use, but they suit the theme. I’ll see how it goes.

I’ve made a start on the red

English Paper Pieces for a traditional log cabin design can be bought from, and it’s easy to use parts of it to design a non-traditional one. Alternatively you can ask Nancy to make pieces for you according to your own pattern.

I hope by the time I write my next post that my website will be beginning to look and behave as I want it to. In the meantime, I will work towards faster progress with it – and my garden!

Till next time…

This month is the first time this Rhododendron has flowered in the eleven years we have lived here. It was quite a surprise to see these flowers. They open in pink and then turn to white.

Paper and Cloth & Old English Patchwork

Hello Everybody,

I hope you had an enjoyable Easter break. It was bitterly cold here in Scotland but at least it was dry!

An Easter Bunny escaping his basket!

At this time of year, as the weather warms and brightens, all the stuff you didn’t do over winter starts to pile up. I realise why people used to Spring Clean. Suddenly it’s bright enough to see properly into dark cupboards and give them a good clear out. The days get longer and you realise you should be fitting in more of those unfinished projects but in the midst of all that you are drawn outside into the long awaited sunshine. I have a big garden and there is a lot of work to do out there in Spring, before the grass gets longer and the buggy things come out to bite.

I haven’t been doing any EPP lately as I have turned my attention to my textile course for a while. It’s always difficult juggling the two, especially when both lots of projects take so long to make. The textile course teaches me so much that is new and gives me more space to express small personal things but I am constantly drawn back to my small blocks of EPP, finding the repetitive nature of their patterns soothing; a sort of mindful exercise that gives me time out from busier things.

This will seem rather an odd post; not really about EPP though distantly related.

Recently I have been working with paper, something I really didn’t expect from a textile course, and I want to share my latest project with you for reasons that will become clear (I hope):

We were given several disconnected elements to make, which we were invited to combine into a composition of some sort, using some or all of them. Each of them were paper versions of items usually made in fabric, and many of them patchwork designs that were very popular long ago both in Britain and America: A Pocket, a Suffolk Puff (known in America as a Yo-Yo) a Rose and a patchwork block which the tutor descried as a ‘”Cathedral Window”.

This is what I did with them:

‘In Memory’

I used the project to create a tribute to my parents who were in love their whole married lives. I used black and white vintage papers with a little red stitching and a red button. The typed area in the background is a poem my dad gave to my mother. Another poem, written to her on Valentine’s Day in 1942, is placed inside the pocket. The ‘Cathedral Window’, set on point here, is a nod to their wedding in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Dundee, Scotland. The roses are for love and for Valentine’s day, and the butterflies for all the hopes, dreams and wishes that they shared. (I didn’t add the Suffolk Puffs)

After I finished the project I tried to find out more about a few of these old patchwork designs. The making of ruched rosettes or “Puffs”, were first recorded in 1601 and said to have originated in Suffolk, England. Their size meant they could be made from tiny scraps of fabric and used either by themselves as an embellishment or joined to make an open work coverlet. The first recording of their use as ‘Yo Yo”s in America was in the 1920s but it wasn’t until the 1930’s that they became popular enough for patterns to appear on pages of weekly publications.

Pockets were made to hang from belts from the 1300’s but patchwork pockets were much used from the 1700’s through the 1800’s in Britain. They looked nothing like the shape of the more modern pocket in my composition above but were more like large pouches sewn into men’s outer garments. I think pockets could be used more than they are in patchwork and fabric collage projects these days, especially if they were transparent and you could see what was inside them.

The ‘Cathedral Window’ design had been used for centuries in the Far East on non-fabric items before it found its way onto fabric in Europe and America, its growth in popularity attributed to its suggestion of the stained glass windows of our churches and cathedrals.

By chance I discovered that the ‘Cathedral Window’ pattern I was taught in the project above is not the original ‘Cathedral Window’ design but is in fact called ‘Secret Garden’, a pattern generally made in a solid fabric that revealed a part hidden or ‘secret’ floral fabric through the gaps. Below is a modern example in reverse, with the floral fabric on the outside and the solid fabric hidden inside.

‘Secret Garden’ from the book ‘Quilting Step by Step’ by Maggi Gordon

The pattern below is the original and genuine ‘Cathedral Window’ design, but because of the similarities in the patterns, the same name if often used for both patterns.

‘Cathedral Window’ from the book ‘Quilting Step by Step’ by Maggi Gordon

Both of these are examples of Folded Patchwork and there are more examples such as the amazing ‘Folded Star’ that can also be found in Maggi Gordon’s book. Folded Patchwork designs were not generally made into quilts though, because they didn’t require a backing or batting (all that would have made them too heavy) and the multiple folds made it difficult and unnecessary to stitch through them with quilting stitches. However, they could be made into beautiful, decorative, coverlets and cushion covers.

There is another pattern, also made from two harmonising colours, and strikingly similar to ‘Secret Garden’ and ‘Cathedral Window’, called ‘Rob Peter to Pay Paul’l (or sometimes Rob Peter and Pay Paul. It is so called because part of one section appears to ‘pay’ the part that is robbed from another. The phrase refers to times before the Reformation when Church taxes had to be paid to St. Paul’s church in London and to St. Peter’s church in Rome, and often one was neglected to be able to pay the other!

Image from p59 of ‘101 Patchwork Patterns’ by Ruby McKim

‘Rob Peter to Pay Paul’ looks like a simpler rendition of ‘Cathedral Windows’ with no folding involved, just regular curved piecing that was more user-friendly for quilt making. In America, it was also known as ‘Orange Peel’, or ‘Layfayette Orange Peel’ and sometimes ‘Dolly Madison’s Workbox’.

Antique ‘Rob Peter to Pay Paul’ quilt in Turkey red and white, found in Derbyshire, England. Image borrowed with thanks from

The name ‘Orange Peel’ is likely to have come from the repeating pattern of circles with pared back edges when the blocks are set together, whereas Dolly Madison was America’s fourth First Lady. Perhaps she had a workbox that featured this pattern.

Incidentally many of these patterns are properly referred to as Mosaic Patterns which exist in almost every culture and since they are based on small geometric shapes laid out in combinations to form patterns, often repeating patterns, that rely on the juxtaposition of light and dark for their effectiveness, it is not hard to see how they found their way over time, from glass and stone, into fabric. This is why English Paper Piecing is, and was once, more accurately called Mosaic Patchwork since its inspiration came from the wider world. It is only really since it crossed over to America that it began to be called English Paper Piecing. It also gets confused with Foundation Piecing which also uses paper as a base and is often also referred to as Paper Piecing. However, the paper part is important, as it is a technique that sets it apart from most other sorts of quilting. It feels weird living in Scotland and promoting English Paper Piecing as if it is something exclusively English. Perhaps it should be called Mosaic Paper Piecing.

So, this week I have taken fabric designs and turned them into paper rather than the other way about. What a strange and unexpected thing.

I am going to have a little time off now, just until the end of May, to do what I can with my garden before it explodes into furious growth. However, if/when those April Showers eventually appear, there may be time to sew and post during May.

Until then, take care of yourselves….

Casualties – a mix of rescued daffodils that my ducks stood on and broke the stems. It gives me an endless display in Spring!

EPP Mini Quilts, Finished and in Progress

Hello Everybody,

It’s wonderful to welcome the Spring and see lambs in the fields again.

I have some new followers; hello and welcome! I never know whether the people who join me here are experienced English Paper Piecers who want to move on from hexagons, or beginners who want to give the technique a try. Or, perhaps they are just interested in any kind of textile work, even if they don’t want to try it for themselves. I’d love to know!

The purpose of this blog is mainly to see what I can do with English Paper Piecing, other than the ubiquitous hexagon, so you will only find one post on hexagons, a unique pattern that was designed by one of my followers (see ‘Grandmother’s Posey Guest Post – A New Hexagon Design’). I want to see how small I can go with this technique, how large, how pictorial, how abstract. I want to embroider, quilt, paint and dye my English Paper Piecing backgrounds and designs and much more, so many of my posts are experiments with one thing or another. In between experiments I have been making small quilts, mainly wall hangings, with a Scottish theme, many of them featuring houses.

Since my last post I have been working hard on finishing a few quilts that have sat about unfinished for a while. It is always fun to do the top patterned part, but there are so many stages to a quilt that it is easy to put one aside once you have completed the top, in favour of starting another top. As I very much want to move on to something quite different in the near future, it is important that I get all this unfinished work completed. So, there may be a run of posts showing recently completed work with comments before I move on.

While I was working to complete these quilts it occurred to me that not everyone is likely to want to make a quilt. There are so many stages to quilt making: Once you have finished your top layer with its English Paper Pieced pattern, you still have to add backing fabric and wadding/batting in the centre. Then you have to quilt it, add binding, a sleeve if you want to hang it and a label to show who made it. But English Paper Piecing doesn’t have to be just about quilts. Of course you can use the technique to appliqué patterns onto tote bags or towels but there are a few other possibilities too, that I would like to show you in future posts. So if you love the technique but are not sure if quilt making is for you, perhaps there will be something there to suit you.

In the meantime, here are the quilts that I have completed since my last post. They will be familiar to many of you from previous posts but maybe it will be interesting to see how they look now that they are finished:

It’s going to be a long, picture-heavy post, so buckle up!

This is ‘Windblown’, a six inch mini quilt made for a picture frame. The quilting is not easy to see but I chose a circular pattern to represent the strong winds we have up here in the west of Scotland. I find square quilts often look distorted when photographed from above, so I bought a small easel to eliminate this problem. This quilt has polyester batting/wadding in the centre, which causes the shapes to puff out slightly but if you want a flatter look, cotton or bamboo is a better bet.


Here is ‘Geese Flying Over’. I love seeing the geese flying over our house between late November and January each year. I can hear them coming long before I see them. The naturalist and writer Helen Macdonald described the sounds they make as “discordant bugles” and that’s exactly right. I have found that when quilting stitches run up and down or across from the centre it is important they are not pulled too tight or they pull the centres of each edge in a little, as you see here. I have started to get a bit annoyed that the edges of my pictorial quilts cover part of the pattern when the binding is added, so I need to thinking about this more carefully beforehand, or add ‘knife edge’ finishes instead.

‘Geese Flying Over’

This is ‘Attic Window’, a really useful block for beginners to try because it is made up of only three pieces and you can put anything you like in the ‘window’, in this case a little black Scottie dog. This tiny quilt is also an example of a knife edge finish, which doesn’t interfere with any picture on the surface of the block but it can look a bit unfinished somehow. It works ok for projects you put in a frame because the edges are covered but I feel that it wouldn’t be as attractive on a quilt hanger without a fabric frame. What do you think? This has thinner bamboo batting inside which makes it more floppy, as you can see by the kink in the top as I tried to balance it on the easel. Bamboo works better for a quilt designed to go in a frame where you don’t want the bulk/higher loft that you would get with polyester.

‘Doggie in the Window’

This is ‘Thistle Jam’. It looks rather Christmassy with the red and green though it was not intended as a Christmas quilt. Here the fabric frame around it doesn’t interfere with the pattern as it does with more pictorial surfaces. Something to bear in mind when you are choosing your surface pattern.

You will see that the mitred corners are open along the crease. I used to sew right up to the top of each corner to close the gap but it often looked pinched. However, I am not sure I like them open either. I think it’s probably best to give them a press and see if they sit neatly and if not you can always add some stitches later.

‘Thistle Jam’

Here is the back of Thistle Jam, in case you wonder what they look like on the back. The quilting stitches make a nice pattern. It is the same green fabric on the back with the same bright red quilting thread so I’m not sure why the colours look a little different in the photo below.

‘Thistle Jam’ (the back)

This is a wall picture made for a quilt hanger that I made some years ago but wasn’t happy with the embroidery at the bottom, so I removed it and re-did it. I would have preferred to just put ‘Welcome’ but the space seemed to want more than a single word which looked lost in the centre.

Welcome Home’ wall quilt

It has a slim sleeve on the back, for a quilt hanger.

‘Welcome Home’ (sleeve on back)

And lastly here is ‘Little Kitties’ a mini quilt of one inch squares surrounded by a border. A border before the binding is the best way to avoid the pictorial part of your pattern from being covered but of course it requires more work and more fabric. It does make the quilt larger, which does give it more presence on a wall. As I was attaching the binding, I was upset to discover a small flaw in the fabric near the corner, the sort of flaw that, with a little friction, could become a hole. The only way to deal with something like this is to mend it as best you can and then cover it. This is why there is a little kitty face in the top left hand corner. It’s not what I would have wanted but the only way to save the quilt.

‘Little Kitties’

The binding has finally been sewn on to “Over the Hills and Far Away’ (below), a much larger wall quilt. I am certainly pleased to see that completed. The binding, added separately, was sewn on by hand, both sides. I notice that there is no information, as far as I can ascertain, online, showing you how to sew on binding totally by hand. In all cases it is machine one side and by hand on the other. Sewing it on entirely by hand is done slightly differently and I hope to create a post on that soon, in case it is something you would like to try. Not everyone has a sewing machine. Most of my mini quilts (all those above) have the backing fabric brought to the front and folded into a faux binding. This works on tiny wall quilts because the edges don’t get the wear that larger runners and bed quilts might. It is also cheaper because you don’t need to buy extra fabric for the binding. However, proper binding, as in the example below, looks and feels so much better and is not very much work on a small quilt. In fact it is much less fiddly.

‘Over the Hills and Far Away’. This was a song that my dad used to play on his mouth organ.

The next batch of quilts I am trying to finish are those that I thought would benefit from some surface embroidery, so it may take me a little longer to get through those. ‘A Walk in the Glen (below) is an example of what I mean. I plan to embroider the man and the dog and scatter some French knots in shades of purples across the flowers to give them the quilt more ‘lift’ and texture. I’m not sure if I want to add the pinned on thistles at the sides, or not.

‘A Walk in the Glen’

And there are two or three finished tops still waiting to be quilted. Here is one of them:

‘The Hare’ Runner

So, until next time….

Here’s to new beginnings!

The Charming ‘Saltbox’ House

Today I want to tell you about a design of house that I love. The Saltbox house! This quaintly named type of house is an example of American colonial architecture and they were first built around 1650 in rural New England, but such was the strength and simplicity of their design that modern versions of them are still being built today.

Saltboxes were wooden frame houses with two stories at the front and one at the rear, under a steeply sloping roof that gave the house, with its two unequal sides, a uniquely asymmetrical appearance. It had a flat facade often several evenly placed windows and a transom (horizontal beam) and/or a set of small windows above the front door. There was usually (though not always) a sturdy, brick chimney in the centre of the roof. A textbook example of saltbox architecture is Pettengill House in Freeport, Maine. Here is the front of the house:

Here is the back:

and the side:

Photos of Pettengill House borrowed from Wikipedia

Perhaps the most famous Salt box house is in Massachusetts where the second president of the United States, John Adams, was born. It now stands in a Historic Park.

Photo borrowed from Wikipedia

Salt box houses were so called because their shape resembled the salt containers that people used in their homes during the colonial period. They were often hung on the wall near the fire for drying out lumps so that it flowed more freely. This made it easier to use for cooking and for preserving food. They were popular in the UK and Europe in colonial times but whether the design went to America from there or the other way around, I don’t know.

Antique French salt box – sold by ‘FrenchCountryMaison’ on Etsy

The earliest Saltbox homes probably began by adding a lean-to extension to the rear of the original house for extra room, often a kitchen (referred to as a “keeping room”), with smaller rooms either side, one for storage and one reserved for childbirth or illness. A number of people lived together in one house in those days, so this design was an easy and far less expensive way to add on more living space. Although this may have been the original intent, by 1680 houses were built with the sloping roof and additional space integrated as a single building. Old accounts suggest that the unusual shape of this house may have proliferated because of a tax on houses larger than one storey. As the rear of the roof was as low as a single story building, these houses were exempt from the tax. You may be amused to hear that the roof was nicknamed ‘a cat slide’ roof.

Their design had other advantages. Rural saltbox house dwellers were usually farmers who had to withstand harsh weather conditions on a regular basis. The sloping roofs of these houses deflected strong winds, prevented the build up of snow and allowed rain to slide off slid off. It was easy to climb on it to make repairs and the large central chimney gathered the family together and warmed the core of the house.

Saltbox houses were always most popular in New England and though a few did spread further across the United States and as far away as Newfoundland, by 1880 interest in them had begun to decline. There are still some second generation one-and-a-half storey settlers homes in Newfoundland referred to as Saltbox houses but many were enlarged and modified and are now more likely to be referred to as ‘Biscuit Box’ houses.

Over time, as people found the unique shape of these saltbox houses aesthetically pleasing, they began to appear on the quilts, country samplers and embroideries made by the rural communities who lived in and among them.

A ‘Pumpkin Patch Primitive’ Runner featuring two Saltbox houses – photo borrowed from Pinterest

I, too, found the shape of this old house charming and wanted to make a runner, something like the one above, for my blanket box at home. After some discussion with Nancy Ademek of we came up with a design and she cut the paper pieces for me. Perhaps this will be the first English Paper Pieced Saltbox house.

While I am decide on the fabrics I want to use for my Runner, I thought I would make a practice one. And here it is:

I think I need to work on the design a bit more to get the perspective right, at the side of the house particularly, but I guess, as with many of these folk art designs, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look exactly like the real thing. It’s always a personal interpretation.

Mine is made from several paper pieces but you could make a simpler one for yourself from three large pieces; front, side and roof, appliquéd to a background. All he windows and front door could be appliquéd on, too, instead of just the front four windows in this case. I think I will try that next time. This house is temporarily stitched around the edge for now until I find a background that I want to sew it to. The blue fabric behind it in the photo is my ironing board.

Till next time…..

The flowers I got on Valentine’s Day. It’s so strange to have flowers like these when there is snow on the ground outside.

How to Add a Pieced EPP Border

Hi Everybody,

It’s SO cold and icy this winter

I’m posting much later than I meant to; somehow I have missed January altogether.

I began doing what I always do at the beginning of each year, going through each of my projects in progress, sorting them into piles and making a list of everything that is required before I can say they are finished. This year I ended up with a pile that needs more piecing, a pile for quilting, a pile that needs sleeves and/or labels on the back and a problem pile for reworking in one way or another. There were also some that were planned and waiting for fabric, and there were some that had all the fabric but hadn’t been started yet. And none of these included the projects I still had to do for my online textile course. I looked at them all and felt overwhelmed. So I took a small break.

In an earlier post’ Can EPP Go Abstract?’, we looked at the idea of finding EPP shapes in crumpled paper to create an abstract composition. Since then I have come across an artist called Bonnie Sennot who crumples fabric and follows the wrinkles with embroidery stitches. Not EPP this time but a similar idea; so simple and SO effective.

One of Bonne Sennot’s beautiful Wrinkle Embroideries

I do want to return to the Abstract theme of my last two posts at some point in the future but I think there are one or two more useful things to talk about in the meantime.

Today my post is about adding pieced borders or frames around an EPP textile picture or quilt. Quilting books describe adding strips of fabric for borders, one at the top and bottom and one at each side with mitred corners or without. But what if you want to piece your border; join a series of squares, or rectangles, together. What if you want to make irregular borders of short and long rectangles in different fabrics, or ones with interlocking triangles or one with fussy cut designs at intervals.

I thought this would be a lovely idea and decided to give it a try. I began at the bottom left hand corner and worked my way around joining them to my 6″ centre square as I went. But it didn’t fit. I ended up with a frame that extended beyond my central piece of fabric. I thought perhaps the six inch paper template which I had made myself was inaccurate. So I altered the centre to fit that frame. You can see the result in the photo below

NOT a good look. At the bottom you can see the line where the stitching was previously. Now the frame fits the centre square but the whole thing is wonky.

So, what causes this to happen?

It’s because as you sew, every  vertical seam along the horizontal edge will add a millimetre (or so) to the total length (same goes for Horizontal seams and vertical edges). So if you base your ‘edge piece’ measurements on the pure ‘paper piece’ measurements, the chances are that they are not going to fit.

If your project is not too large, like this one, the solution is to start piecing in the middle of the long edge and work with clips or pins to keep things aligned. This would have definitely have been a better way but as my unpicked border was already sewn into strips, I went for sewing the strips back on from the mid point, working left and then right and then adjusting each end to fit. I did the top and bottom and then the two sides. This is what it looks like now.

It is better but the whole thing has been pulled apart and restitched so many times, I don’t think it will ever look as good as if I had done it right in the first place. If you have a few ragged edges or the corners are not quite right like this, adding binding can hide it, but if you have fussy cut designs like my hares in the photo above, the backing fabric will have to end in what is called a ‘knife edge”, right behind the outer edge, with no way of hiding ragged edges. (NB it is tacked roughly around the outside edge temporarily because all the papers have been removed)

If your project is larger with longer edges, you first need press it well (no steam!) and then measure the length of the edge and make paper(s) to that measurement. Then sew again from the middle to the outside with lots of pins or clips. This is what I should have done with the example below:

This example shows another possible problem with a pieced border. Sometimes you get waviness to your borders when you are piecing them along the edge of your project, as I did with this small runner for my wooden sewing box. I wanted to use two different fabrics on each long and short edge and wrap them around rectangles of different lengths, to add interest and detract from the uniformity of the Rail Fence pattern in the centre.

The bottom border of this runner is much too wavy. It should sit straight and flat.

So, what causes this to happen?

  • It could be that the strips are too long (as they are in this case)
  • Or it could be that your fabric is wrapped too loosely around your paper pieces
  • Or it’s possible that the edges simply look wavy if you have removed the papers from the middle section because the fabric is no longer under the same tension and relaxes. Check to see if this is the case by pressing the piece (without steam and on the reverse/the paper side, if possible)

The way to avoid this particular problem is to begin by pressing your project first (no steam!) and then measuring the length of the edge and making your papers fit that measurement. Then sew from the middle to the outside with lots of pins or clips.

I am indebted to Nancy Adamek of for these suggestions and solutions after our lengthy discussion on the subject . Now I think about it, it seems obvious but it hadn’t occurred to me to do it this way before. I hope it helps you, too.

Sometimes a pieced frame can just be appliquéd on. It’s certainly much simpler:

‘House in the Country’ in steel grey cotton with Liberty fabrics for the inner frame

A few people have joined us this month. Welcome! Please feel free to comment and ask questions. I love when people get in touch.

I am now going to make a start on one of those piles of ‘Works in Progress’ and see if I can shift a few into my ‘Projects Completed’ box!

Till next time……

Abstract EPP – Another Way

Hi Everyone,

This post comes to you from a dull, wet and windy Scotland this week which means the cats are huddled up on the sofa and the ducks are gleefully stomping around in mud. Eeeew! Lovely weather for ducks it may be but not for duck owners!

Today I have another, perhaps easier, way of achieving an abstract type design in EPP than the one in my last post. The idea came from a workshop with the textile artist Richard McVetis but I have adapted it for use with English Paper Piecing.

The first thing you need to do is to select an image with some striking lines, like a building taken at an unusual angle. I chose this photo of a castle in central Scotland that my husband and I lived and worked for a year. You can just imagine Rapunzel at one of those top windows, can’t you?


Try cutting out two L shaped pieces from scrap paper to use as a viewfinder and move them around your image to find a suitable composition. I am told that this gets easier with practice; that you know eventually know what to look for.

Now edit and reduce your image to a few basic shapes. If there is some play of light and shadow in your image, so much the better. It will help you add tone and value when you come to choosing your fabrics. For this experiment aim for a finished piece of about 8″ square, which may mean you have to enlarge the chosen part of your image

Homing in on a section of the whole photo

Next, put a piece of tracing paper over your image and trace the shapes you want to work with. Keep them simple. You don’t want a whole bunch of complicated shapes. Leave out shapes like windows if it suits you to do so. Or appliqué them in later. You may want to use some low tack masking tape to keep your tracing paper and card steady.

The traced image

Now put a piece of card under the paper and some carbon paper in between them to transfer the image. Alternatively, pencil over the lines on the reverse of the tracing paper against some scrap paper and then flip back to the right side and go over them again on top of the card. The pencilled lines should be visible on the card. If they are very faint, pencil over them to make them clearer.

Mark each piece with F for Front if you like your image this way round. You will see that I marked mine with B for back because I decided I would prefer to flip mine over to create mirror image of the design. (The dotted lines are the battlements, which I thought I might outline later with running stitch. Or not.)

All the pieces cut out and reassembled

Now is the time to cut out all the pattern pieces from the card and reassemble them into your original image. The image below is what it looked like when I flipped it over. I preferred the way the viewers eye is taken from the bottom left to the top right which didn’t work the other way around. (The letters specify front left, front right or front middle, so that I wouldn’t get my pieces confused.)

I like the mirror image better

Now choose your fabrics and wrap each piece of your puzzle in your chosen fabric, reassemble them, and stitch them all together.

I used all cotton fabrics but you can use other types of fabric as long as they are not too heavy. If you limit your colours to just a few and make sure they are not too contrasting you will get a more modern, cohesive look. The same thing applies if you plan to so some surface stitching. Keep it simple.

This is what my English Paper Pieced, mirror imaged, section of the castle looks like now that the pieces have been wrapped in fabric, basted and reassembled. Some of it has been stitched together but I still have a bit more to do (the solid turquoise panel needs stitching to the striped area) before I can take out all the basting/tacking stitches.

Ok, so it’s nothing amazing; like looking up at the wall of a lighthouse. But it’s just an experiment, a learning exercise. There is a certain skill in choosing an image that lends itself to an interesting combination of shapes and in choosing just the right fabrics for those shapes. And that comes with practice. I have seen some fabulous work created using this technique, especially one of a spiral staircase, but those pieces were fused to a background rather than English Paper Pieced. Of course you could do it that way, too.

To finish I am going to add some surface stitching to the design and perhaps a little appliqué and see what difference that will make. I might even flip it on its head and see if it I like it better upside down. My husband and I are on our own this Christmas, so I am sure there will be a little time for stitching. I’ll catch up with you in a few weeks and show you how it turned out.

In the meantime, Happy Christmas Everyone! Take care of yourselves. Bye for now and see you in the New Year.

A paper glove I made using clipped photos of leaf works created by the artist Jennie Ashmore at