Tutorial Number 1

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English Paper-piecing

 The Basics

As the name implies – English paper-piecing involves paper to form the shape of the patchwork pieces and to define the edges that will be seamed together.

Drafting the block/s is part 1 in a 4-part process to making an English paper-pieced block.

Drafting the block – creating the papers that the block/s is pieced with.

The supplies to make this craft are very easy to come by and you probably have the majority lurking around at home somewhere. 

Very basically for drafting you need:graph paper – 5mm squared graph paper can be used for both metric (cm) and imperial (inch) measurements.

  • graph paper – 5mm squared graph paper can be used for both metric (cm) and imperial (inch) measurements.

  • a pencil/pen – a pencil is better as it can erased – if you make a mistake or change your mind on measurements.

  • a ruler

  • an eraser if using a pencil

  • paper scissors

Alternatively you can go high-tech and use your computer; I have drafted patterns using Microsoft Publisher and Open Office Draw – you just need a programme which allows you to use the integrated ruler function to draft your patterns.

It all depends on your preference.

In this tutorial I will start by describing the manual (hand-drafted) method and then at the end will cover basic computer-aided design.

Having decided on the quilt block and size you want to use draft the block onto graph paper.

This is done by:

First mark the increments onto the paper. Example: an 8 inch block – mark out an 8 inch square and then mark each inch along the edge. If using metric measurements mark the centimetres in the same way.

Continue to draft the block by drawing lines between the specific measurements marked along the edge of the square. 

As an example an 8 inch Basic Star Block:

Figure 1  Figure 2

Figure 1                                                                                       Figure 2

The pieces in the block are 2 inch squares and half square triangles so as figure 2 shows divide the block up into 2 inch increments, next draft the triangles by bisecting through the middle of the squares on the diagonal.

When drafting the triangles – make sure to bisect the centre of the graph paper squares, otherwise when piecing the block the pieces may not line up.

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 3                                                                                    Figure 4

After drafting up the block/s work out how many paper pieces of each shape you will need for each block and either draft up as many complete blocks as you are planning on making – if you are planning on making a sampler style quilt where every block is different then you will have to do that anyway. The alternative is to draft up pages with multiples of each shape on it.

Figure 5  Figure 6

 Figure 5                                                                                      Figure 6

You have 2 options: either cut all paper pieces out in one go – or cut enough to make one block. Put the pieces aside in a plastic bag, box or another container.

If the block/s you are making has complex shapes or piecing – make sure you have a drafted block (if making a block of your own design) or picture to work from to make sure you don't reverse pieces when cutting the fabric.


High-tech drafting – very basic Computer Aided Design.

I have only really done very basic drafting using programmes available to me – Microsoft Publisher, Open Office Draw and lately even using the Open Office equivalent of Excel – Calc – I have used it mainly because you can set the size of the cells and can make digital graph paper.

You draft digitally in the same way you would with a paper, a pencil, and a ruler – drawing the lines with your mouse instead – taking care to make the diagonal lines are straight – as because of the pixels the lines can go a little off centre (if you look closely at Figure 3 you can see that the line is not completely straight).

A bonus with drafting on the computer is that you can easily colour in the blocks to audition colours and use imported images of the fabric you would like to use (either scanned or found on the web – usually from the manufacturers website).

You can also draft up the whole quilt so you can see how blocks work together.

The upside with drafting on the computer is that you can easily create multiples of the same block by printing off the number you need as opposed to hand drafting every block. You can also of course make up sheets of multiples of the same shapes as with hand drafting. Or use a combination of both methods and scan or photocopy the drafted blocks or pieces - of course making sure that the lines show up on the copies and that all reproductions are at 100% of the original images.

Tutorial 2 will cover part 2 of the 4-part process of making an English paper-pieced block: Cutting fabric.

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