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The Gentle Craft of English Paper Piecing

For me the gentle craft of English Paper Piecing is more than just sewing fabric shapes together to make an item, my desire goes far beyond creating a utilitarian object.

As I sit and stitch I feel connected to myself, to the past and to people. As my needle and thread pass through the fabric, skimming past the paper templates, I think about the joy that this motion brings me. I am content. The happenings of the day slip away, my mind is calm and I relax in to the rhythm of slow stitching. For me this is my form of meditation, sitting and stitching, creating patterns from fabric shapes.

The wonderful thing about English Paper Piecing is that I can take it anywhere and the same contented feeling accompanies me. Whether I am in my studio, sitting on the lounge, at work or on holiday, the moment I sit down to stitch I am instantly calm and relaxed. I could be having the worst day, I might be stressed or frustrated, but as soon as I pick up that needle I am transported away from my woes and joy seeps in.

Each little stitch represents my love for this craft. As I sew the shapes together I am connecting my hopes and dreams, stitching them together to create an item of love and truth. While I sew I think of the people in my life, my family and friends, my craft mentors. Each stitch connects me to them. I also think about the people I don’t know. The person who will buy my pincushion, or the podcaster I am watching. I think about the woman who lived over two hundred years ago, teaching her daughter the craft of English paper piecing, making a quilt by using hexagons cut out from old curtains. My stitches connect me to all of them.

English Paper Piecing is steeped in tradition. As one of the oldest forms of patchwork, I like to think of it as the Matriarch of Quilting. A form of patchwork that is completely hand sewn definitely demands the respect from its machine pieced counterparts.

English Paper Piecing developed at a time when sewing machines were not readily available to humble domestic sewers. Woman would use whatever fabric they could get their hands, often using old newspapers or letters for their paper templates. The study of antique English Paper Pieced quilts is fascinating given the rich history that is sewn, quite literally, in to them. English Paper Pieced quilts can tell us what was happening at the time they were made by dissecting the papers that have been left inside the backs of quilts. Likewise a lot can be deciphered from the fabrics used and the patterns created.

English Paper Piecing is also a wonderful communal patchwork method. Its portability makes it the perfect project to take to a quilter’s gathering. It’s also a wonderful method to use for a group quilt project. Pieced rosettes or hexagon flowers can easily be posted and shared all around the world.

English paper piecing truly is a most gentle craft method. For some the slowness of hand sewing a quilt may be too much to bare, but for me slow stitching definitely soothes my soul.

Miss Leela x