In this Glossary I hope to build up a long list (eventually!) of terms usually used in piecing and quilting and English Paper Piecing in particular.
Poplin – a durable, tightly woven cotton fabric, primarily intended for making clothes, light to medium weight, with a plain weave very similar to quilting cotton, but a tighter, less distinctive weave, less prone to wrinkling, and much easier to iron. It is often referred to as “shirting” fabric as its most common use would be for shirts, dresses, and skirts. However it is also said to be suitable for craft. Personally, I find it too thin for quilting.
Chambray – a lightweight woven fabric (generally cotton), originally from France, is traditionally indigo or light blue in colour. However, other colours, especially dark and light greys are becoming popular. It is not the same as denim. To tell them apart you will notice a lighter colour to the underside of a denim fabric, whereas the underside of chambray will appear much more similar to its face side. Also it is much less heavy. Chambray makes a lovely background fabric for Liberty lawn charm squares.
Value – The lightness or darkness of a fabric which may appear to change depending on which fabric it is next to. Quite an important thing to consider in EPP when pieces are small and butted up against each other. Audition the fabrics you plan to use, stand back and see if the shades harmonise well.
Stash – the fabrics you have collected for use. Your stash should consist of a good variety and not just your favourite colours and patterns. You will need stripes, checks, small tossed prints, perhaps some geometric prints, some solids, some black and white, different shades of the same colours, some brights, some muted colours, neutrals, and perhaps some patterns you can fussy cut. Fabrics like newsprint and other text designs are fun to use. Large scale patterns can be useful for be wary of their use on small patches where they may lose their beauty and impact.
Basting Stitches – These are long running stitches used to temporarily tack around your fabric and paper inserts to keep them in place until the paper pieces are removed. They help to secure the long sides between corners. You can base in any direction and use any colour thread since you will remove it later. I prefer a contrasting thread so that I can see it more easily. It is best if there are not more than a couple of inches between basting stitches on large shapes.
Tack Stitches – This refers to small stitches made at the corners of templates where one edge of fabric folds across another. These don’t go through the paper like the basting stitches. These are best used when working with very small patches (sides of 1 inch or less) and for dealing with some difficult angles like the point of a triangle. You can use a both tack and basting stitches if you want to, for a bit of extra hold, though many English paper piecers are content to use only basting stitches. If you do use tack stitches. I recommend that you use a matching thread. You don’t have to remove these as they don’t show on the front. However, if you have used a dark thread under a pastel shape, it may show through.
Whip Stitch – This is very easy overstitch that sews your EPP shapes together, a favourite because it both strong and secure. Vicki Bellino in her book ‘English Paper Piecing’ suggests that a 40 weight machine piecing thread or a 60 weight applique thread works best for whipstitching.
Ladder Stitch – Some people like to use this stitch instead of a whip stitch because they maintain it prevents visible stitches. However, the stitches are not as close or as strong and I would always worry that batting might beard through the gaps between stitches. And it just doesn’t have the fluidity of whipstitching that you can get quite fast at over time. Personally, I can’t understand the problem with visible stitches if they are tiny and even and match your fabric. They are the badge that says ‘hand sewn with care’. Try a thin needle. This will help.
Fussy Cutting – This refers to a method of cutting around an area of fabric to showcase a specific part of the design. This design is usually positioned in the centre of a shape.
Template – this term usually refers to the piece of rigid material like card, plastic or acrylic the you will use as a pattern for cutting out your reusable shapes but is also used to refer to the reusable shapes themselves.
Paper Templates – easy to find and make at home but can be fragile. Best for when you want to use a shape that you can’t buy.
Paper Punched Templates – These are useful for wide angled corner shapes like hexagons and this shape is readily available. Getting the size of some of the bought punches figured out can be a challenge! Die-cutting machines are a more sophisticated version of the same idea.
Card Templates– great for use in shapes with sides of less than three inches. Any bigger and the shape is hard to handle with stiff card inside. I find card pieces very handy when whipstitching. It is much easier to skim the top of the card inserts because you can feel them against your needle. With paper pieces you might sew through the paper or sew too low into your shape which means your stitches will show more.
Freezer Paper Templates – The coated side adheres to the fabric which keeps pieces in place and gives nice sharp edges to your shapes. The plastic surface will not last for long, so can’t be relied on for much reuse.
Plastic Templates (Mylar or Quilt Patis) – The best of the templates for reuse but not available in a great variety of shapes. Can be a bit pricey but, if you use a lot of the same shapes, maybe worth it. They can feel a bit stiff and awkward to work with at first but many find the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. They come with a hole in the middle, too, which makes them easy to pin to a shape and to flip out out of a shape when necessary.
Acrylic Templates – There are a great many sophisticated acrylic templates available on the market including ones to help you make specific block designs like Crossed Canoes or Drunkard’s Path. Check out the acrylic and rulers made by Marti Michell, Omnigrid, Simplicity and EZ quilting.
Window Templates – These templates are useful for fussy cutting because you can see through the centre ‘window’ to centre the pattern you want to fussy cut. You can buy plastic and acrylic ones or easily make your own.