Monday, October 15, 2012

A Journey to A New Trick for Piecing!

I am an appliqué quilter. I am not a "piecer". I love the handwork, sitting and stitching with my husband in the evenings, with friends at quilting groups, when relaxing on a vacation... In the past few years I have fallen in love with sampler quilts. But they scare me to death thinking about cutting all those precise pieces with a rotary cutter, one at a time. I started collecting 4" blocks to make by hand while attending Bees each week. Some of these I made using English Paper Piecing. EPP is my favorite handwork besides appliqué. This is my facorite EPP project.

I used glue sticks and photo paper to make my hexies. It was time saving to eliminate the basting and the shapes were much more precise for me.
Next I started on a sampler of 4” blocks and I went through a variety of piecing methods. Hand piecing was not working on some of the tiniest pieced blocks. The blocks that I stitched the old traditional way of marking the seams and sewing by hand are a bit different in finished sizes due to my lack of perfect sewing. So, I tried EPP on these and they worked great! BUT, some of the EPP pieces are a mess on the backside with tiny tiny seams I am afraid will pull out. These seem to be pieces that i used too much glue on. I set this project aside while working on "work" related quilts. This is the book I used called 4" Sampler Book by Jill Kemp.

And this is how I am keeping the blocks organized before baggies with paper patterns and fabric ready to take with me and stitch.

I need a bit of that organization now because I can not find my blocks that are completed !!!!!!!! I cleaned up.... :-( This always happens to me. I guess I need ONE area for unfinished projects...I will look another day...I wish I could show you my little blocks.
Then I took a class from Penny Harren and learned her method using the book Piecing The Applique Way. It was such fun and was a great method for me. I made a nice sampler. It was similar to EPP, but I could make all the unique blocks partly by machine, partly by hand. Here is that quilt. The setting stars were made by machine and they are not very pointed if you look close!! Those stars were the most difficult part of this quilt! It's titled One Too Many Stars. These are 6" blocks. I want to do this with my sampler, but since I don't do "piecing" I can't figure out what sizes to sew by machine before I can sew the rest by I did a few more 4" blocks with glue, still fussing with too much glue. Penny did an awesome book for planning these blocks, but I am not smart enough to figure my own blocks using her method! :-} For different blocks this won't work for me.
Time has passed and I am ready to make a new quilt...hmmm, sure would like to make a Dear Jane after following Doreen at Aunt Reen's blog. She is soooo inspiring me with her posts of Jane blocks so often! I've had the book since it was new...I sure wish I could make this quilt...but...not now because I don't want to work by machine on all those tiny pieces. Sigh... I will put it off another 10 years!
I decided to give a try to a method I saw done in Paducah a few years ago. This woman used the starch method to prep her appliqué pieces. It was very interesting and I put it on my list to try. Recently, Kerry of Simple Bird Appliqué blog posted the same method and it inspired me to get with it and try this method of applique! I started on the leaves of my birthday quilt and as I was doing so it had another idea! I think this will work for EPP without the middle P! (Paper).
Update: I have been using this method for several years now and have learned a bit about different brands of freezer papers. I strictly use a Double Layer of Traditional Primitives Premium Freezer Paper brand now. It prevents the corners from bending and does not shrink and distort as much as other papers. I can reuse my Hexie shapes OVER 20 times before it shrinks too much to use! This brand also seems to repel the starch and will not soften on the edges which keeps my shapes accurate! It comes in printer size and I run it through the copier and then cut out a page or so, double it up and then cut the shapes apart very quickly. I have also developed the Starch Brush and Fingertip Stiletto for aide in this technique for basting. All of these items are available on my website at on the notions page.
So, I gave it a try.. I prepared my shape and ironed on the freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric. Then painted the seams with liquid starch. This is scrap freezer paper so that's why you see the printing on them!  I no longer use the bowl of starch as shown below.  The Starch Brush I offer has saved a lot of trouble and is so easy to use, put the cap on and leave it until the next time I am ready to sew! 
Pressed it with a dry iron,
And BAM...we have a perfect shaped hexie with paper. The starch has made the seam stiff, even when the paper is removed after it's cool ! I've sewn the pieces with no bulky paper in my hand! Makes it very easy and comfortable!
I gave it a try to see how it worked for stitching without the middle P and it worked great! Here is is, stitched and not pressed! The starch kept it nicely shaped!
And the seams are nice and flat! No pressing needed ! No picking at the glued seams, no pressing afterward. Our time is spent on one step or another. I have found that I want to spend my time up front rather than after stitching.
So now I know it will work for EPP using this Starch Basting method and I wondered about my 4" sampler blocks and the dream I have to make a Dear Jane quilt... I promptly did this prepping method for two triangle blocks from the Dear Jane Book...two blocks done! Yeah! I have officially begun...I will try a 4" sampler block ASAP! I promise to pick one with the tiny little pieces.
I am so glad I was reminded about the starch method of prepping appliqué! Can't wait to find time to do more prepping and stitching! Looks like I will be doing some Martha Washington hexie blocks, more 4" sampler blocks and some Dear Jane blocks at Bees ( weekly stitching group) for a while. Sometimes we go on a journey to make our way to a new place. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I don't consider myself a "piecer" so I am thrilled that my quilting journey has lead me to be a "piecer" of a different kind. We each have shortcuts we find in the quilting journey that make the project easier, faster or simpler. I'm thrilled this path is working for me.
Update: There are always reasons to use paper or not use paper, or baste with starch, glue or thread. This technique works both ways! Each of us have things we like and don't like about EPP. Hopefully these tips will help some of you fall in love with EPP by giving a few shortcuts here and there! As time passes, I seem to use many different techniques for different projects, so don't give up the old ways just yet! We use knowledge and experience every day to make this old piecing technique work for each of us, in the way we each prefer. This is the only way I baste for English Paper Piecing now and it works perfectly for me!
Join me at my new blog Traditional Primitives for my latest info on EPP my own way, using starch! I have a new EPP pattern in the works and there are some sneak peeks to see! Become a follower please, I'd love to get to know you!
I also have a website with several EPP pincushion patterns... Traditional Primitives from Missie Carpenter
Take care,


  1. I am not one for prepping, I cut it out and sew it together, lol.
    I do that with my hexagons, but I do mark the quarter mark so I can be more accurate when I hand sew. Love that quilt, it is gorgeous, you do such beautiful work.


  2. Your work is beautiful, can't wait to see your Dear Jane blocks as they progress!

  3. Happy to see that starch prep piecing works for you!
    It's a favorite method of mine too for most applique' projects.
    I love how your DJ triangles look and know that your Dear Jane quilt will turn out as beautifully as all your other quilts!

  4. The starch prep method is my favorite for appliqué. We are two sides of the coin. I am a piecer and do handwork out of necessity. We would make a good pair!

  5. Loving that method. I'm not much for piecing either. The Dear Jane blocks are so pretty.

  6. Wow! What a great idea!! I look forward to seeing your progress! Keep inspiring us, please!

  7. Your quilt is so beautiful. I love hexagon quilts so much.
    Liebe Grüße Grit

  8. Thanks for sharing your piecing journey in detail. I am about to use the starch method for the first time on my next applique block for my Chester County Criswell quilt. I hope it turns out as well as your hexies - they look so neat!

  9. Love your quilts.
    I use that techique but I use no melt template plastic.

    You can flip the freezer paper over and you won't have to use the starch because the fabric edges will stick to the paper that is up.

    You can see how I do that on one of my tutorials about doing leaf tips. It is on my sidebar. It is less messy too.

    1. Great ideas for more options for similar techniques! I have tried the templates with no melt plastic and I can't seem to keep the template in the same spot. This would work for shapes like leaves, but for me to keep the more perfect shape needed with EPP, I need the freezer paper. I have also tried the freezer reversed, but it does not stay on long enough for me to get those perfect seams needed for EPP. Hopefully these new ideas you presented will help some other followers. We all love those shortcuts and many are so helpful to learn!

  10. Be sure to wash your quilt thoroughly when finished or the starch will attract bugs...