Tutorial Number 2

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English Paper-piecing

 The Basics

Cutting Fabric is part 2 in a 4-part process in making an English paper-pieced block.

Cutting Fabric

First of all make your fabric selection. This can be a long or a short process in itself.  I will cover fabric selection/audition in a future tutorial.

If you are making a quilt using the same fabrics for each block make sure that you have enough fabric for the whole quilt – including borders and sashing if you are framing the blocks. If making a scrap quilt having enough of the same fabric doesn't matter as much.

I'm not good at doing this as I make things quite organically and I'm not a very good quantity surveyor and have been caught out a few times – but have luckily been able to get more fabric – although the times I haven't the project has had to be reduced in size.

The best way to do this – and I'm no expert as I've just said... - is to work out how many pieces in the quilt are to be a certain fabric. Take the specific shapes – with the seam allowance which is 1/4inch as standard and make up a symmetrical shape – Example:

The previously used 8 inch Basic Star block

  • 8 black triangles

  • 4 black squares

  • 8 white triangles

  • 4 white triangles

per block and there are to be 12 blocks in the quilt all in the same fabrics.

Figure 7







 Figure 7

The above figure shows an imagining of paper pieces laid on fabric with the ¼ inch seam allowance added. The triangle pieces are 2 inches on each of the right-angled edges - the area taken up by 2 triangles plus seam allowance is 3 ½ inches x 2 ½ inches therefore the total area taken up for the 8 triangles is 7 inches x 5 inches – so for enough fabric to make the black or white triangles for all 12 blocks (96 triangles) would need to be 21 inches x 20 inches.

For the squares it is easier to work out – for 4 2 inch squares with the seam allowance the fabric to make this many would need to be 5 1/2 inches x 5 1/2 inches. So for enough fabric to make black or white squares for all 12 blocks (48 squares) would need to be 22 inches x 16 ½ inches.

So rounding up to accommodate the wider width of 22 inches the total amount of fabric needed for both black and white fabric would need to be 22 inches x 36 ½ inches.

As you can probably tell by the way I have massacred this explanation of how to work out how much fabric you will need maths isn't my strong suit – and even though traditional patchwork is very maths/trigonometry based you can work around it.

You will then need to cut the pieces for your fabric, there are 3 ways you can do this:

  • The first is to use a rotary cutter and a self-healing cutting board – this is the quickest way. To cut the pieces for the Basic Star Block cut 2 ½ inch strips and then 2 ½ inch squares to make the squares, for the triangles cut 3 ½ inch lengths from the 2 ½ inch wide strips and then cut the rectangles in half on the diagonal. Rotary cutting is great as you can cut all the pieces you need very quickly. Rotary cutters, rulers and small self-healing mats are not too expensive and if you wish to pursue patchwork either hand- or machine-pieced are a worthwhile investment.
  • The second option is to make templates of each piece needed to construct the pattern. The easiest way of making a template is to have a paper piece of each shape needed glued onto a piece of cardboard (reasonably heavy weight) ¼ inch (for the seam allowance) bigger than the paper piece on every edge. You can also use plastic which stands up to more repeated usage than cardboard. This was the way I was taught when I was 9 and the cardboard template looked very tatty after repeated usage. This method is very useful for fussy cutting (if you want to have a specific feature of your fabric centred on a piece). Place the template on your fabric and draw around the template the desired number of times and then cut along the lines with fabric scissors.
  • The third option is to do the same sort of process by eye-balling the seam allowance when pinning the paper piece onto the fabric and then cutting around it – you can do this as with few or as many pieces at once.  I use this last method a lot when making miniatures – at the moment mainly because I cannot find my mini cutting board and can't be bothered to go downstairs to cut on my big self-healing board.

As with the paper pieces keep the fabric pieces together in plastic bags, boxes or other container.

Tutorial 3 will cover part 3 of the 4-part process of making an English paper-pieced block: Tacking/Basting – the final preparation stage before sewing the pieces together.

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