Sunday, 15 September 2013

Dear Leila...

OK, so I now understand that when I am putting up these posts about hand piecing, a lot of people think they are EPP (which they're not) and even more people have questions about hand piecing per se.

So for Leila in particular who asked questions about hand piecing that I'd never really thought about, here's a post on how I do it. It's really 'simples' (stick with it if you're not British). There are also some really good resources already out there which go into it in much greater detail than I am going to and I'll mention those at the end of this post.

First off though EPP (English Paper Piecing) versus regular hand piecing- ie stitching two pieces of fabric together the way you would on a sewing machine.

While I admire some of the tiny, intricate EPP work I see on the internet, conversely I do see quite a bit where I think 'why did you go to all the trouble of EPPing that when a quicker and just as accurate end result could have been achieved just by sewing the bits of fabric together.'

I think EPP would be useful if you were sewing really tiny pieces of fabric together and you were worried about fraying but for the vast majority of the time, I don't personally think it is necessary. EPP just has too many stage processes yet I don't think you get a better end result.

So to get started with hand piecing you need your shapes. I tend only to hand piece more intricate shapes that would take a bit of maneuvering under the sewing machine.

The shapes I make with template plastic.

You can either cut them out with or without seam allowances and I explained the pros and cons of both in a previous post.

For the project I'm working on at the moment, I am using a template with a seam allowance and I explained how to mark the ends of your seams here

The size of your needle is important - the smaller and finer you go, logically the smaller your stitches will go and small is definitely what you are after. Clover Black Gold needles are the ones I use.

So taking my current project, I want to set this piece in, which involves sewing three sides of the shape with two inset corners.



You are going to start with the two pieces of fabric, right sides together and insert your needle through the marking dot you have made on both pieces of fabric. I'm starting on the right hand side of that brown shape and I'm going to sew in the three sides.

You are going to make a 'small as you can' stitch on the spot and then do it again to secure. You could also knot the end of your thread and then dispense with the two small stitches on the spot but I never remember to do that each time so this is what works best for me.



Now, if you feel confident, you're going to do a small line of running stitch towards your next end dot...which has a pin through it securing the two pieces of fabric. If you're not confident, pencil in the line between the two dots.



When you get to the end dot - and presuming you are then turning at an angle because eg. you are sewing a Y seam - leave your needle poking through the fabric nearest to you/facing you but not the back/other one and pivot it so it then goes through the new piece of fabric (at the back) that you'll be sewing along. Hopefully this next pic will make sense.


 I tend to use the nails on my left index finger and thumb as pincers and I bring them together between the fabric and push them up against the needle when it is in that corner position to feel if the needle has caught just the two pieces of fabric and not the third. It makes more sense when you try it rather than me sitting here typing it trying to explain it. Trust me.



I then like to do a couple of really small stitches to secure the corner and then you're all set and ready to start sewing to the next set of dots at the end of your line. Make sure you've secured those end dots together with a pin through them.


That really is the 'hardest' part and if you master it (which you will) it'll give you a nice, crisp inset seam with everything lying nice and flat and the points looking sharp. When you finally get to the end of where you are sewing, finish with a couple of back stitches and then you're done.



What is the optimum number of stitches per inch? I don't know and I don't really care. Just focus on making them small and evenly spaced and you'll be fine. If you can pile on as many as you can, onto the needle, before pulling the thread through, that will definitely speed things up.


Mine certainly aren't perfect but they do the job.



Do I press? I do a light finger press and then every time I complete a row or a block, I press.

Do I double up my thread? No, I just use a single strand of thread and off I go.



There are others who are way more adept at explaining hand piecing so please take a look at this video which I've recommended before - she gives instructions for both hand and machine piecing inset seams.

The ultimate book on hand piecing is also by Jinny Beyer - Quilt Making By Hand. I just can't think of any better book that explains the whole step-by-step process with clear visual instructions.

And that's it.

Simples.

Adddendum: If you have any further questions I'll add them and answer them in this blog post.

With grateful thanks to The Photographer's Assistant age 11 who had to be dragged away from the more pressing business of  'styling my hair' to take the images for this post.








28 comments:

  1. Hand piecing is rewarding, but many are scared to try. Your explanation is great. Hopefully others will try. Chris

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  2. Thanks for the tip about which needles to use. I do quite a bit of hand piecing but I always think my stitches aren't small enough, so this will help.

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  3. So good to see someone else who enjoys hand piecing. Most see it as a lost art, something done ages ago. I find it so much more accurate, and since I'm not in a race with anyone to finish
    I enjoy the process, and find it very relaxing. Thanks for getting it 'out there' that we still exist.

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  4. Great explanation thank you - although as I started off life as an EPPer I could sew up more accurately and quicker doing it the EPP way. I guess it's what we get used to.

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  5. Many thanks to your young photographer. Job well done. Hair stylist too?
    I was taught that, after pulling my needle through with all the running stitches, to take a back stitch as the next stitch (or first stitch) in my load of running stitches. That way, it secures the work you've already done.
    I do like your fussy cut little girl.

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    1. I know the thinking behind back-stitching every so often is if a) to secure the seam and b) should a seam come apart it can't come apart the whole way because you've back-stitched but I still don't! I think if you are stitching small enough and your end sewing on and off is secure enough all will be fine. Fingers crossed!

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  6. I have made a few hand pieced quilts mainly while hanging around for kids during - swimming, ballet, music lessons and the rest! I should do a few more really as it is such a relaxing way to sew rather than chain piecing on the machine! And great for a complicated pattern.

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  7. Thanks for the info - I always wondered what type of stitch was best for hand piecing, I thought a running stitch wouldn't have been secure enough so its great to know that it is if you do it nice and small. I just love hand sewing - I mainly do it for hand quilting -so must try this.

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  8. Thank you for the details, and I might just order that book too. The photographs are really good, I hope she has time to take more soon.

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  9. I love all the pics... thanks to your excellent photographer and thank you for making this post! I have loved hand quilting for a while now but have been scared.. and clueless on HOW to hand PIECE! thanks for solving so many mysteries for me... posting it for my fb group of handquilters to read to maybe you will see traffic higher... or maybe you just did a rocking awesome tutorial. You should share this on quilting linkys and stuff too! Very good work! And I love your ending :) Kathi

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  10. I thought too that your quilts are all made using EPP. But hand piecing you showed is a bit faster than EPP, I think.

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  11. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial. I would like to try this one day, but for now I will just enjoy your beautiful work :)

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  12. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial. I would like to try this one day, but for now I will just enjoy your beautiful work :)

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  13. I have to agree with you on Jinny Beyer's book. I have her latest books , and they are so filled with treasures. They are nothing like what is out there right now. Jinny is a true hand cut, hand piece, and hand quilt artist. I was talking about what I would put in bag if I had to evacuate our home in a few minutes , because we have those questions here in NJ USA since hurricane Sandy. Jinny Beyer's book on hand quilting is one of them and her reference book on patterns the other. If you only have those 2 , it is all you will ever need to know to have full knowledge of quilting. Unless you wish to sew with machine.

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  14. I am still in awe hoever easy you make it seem - I just know if I would make something that would fall apart at a sneeze!

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  15. Your patchwork top is looking lovely......and it is going together so quickly.....

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  16. Yea! Thank you so much! :) And your wonderful photographer!
    I will look into getting Jinny B's book. Irenbjor's recommendation pushed me over the edge.
    I am going to give it a try again with straight edges shapes.

    Does anyone else have a problem with pulling the thread off of the needle as they stitch?

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    1. Leave a 3-4 inch tail and hang onto the needle and you should be able to keep it threaded. You get to the end of having enough to have that length of tail start another 18inch length of thread to hand stitch your pieces. After practice you will get the hang of it.

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  17. very good instructions, must try your way as I do the EPP way, on tiny pieces think I will still EPP but once I get the hang of it maybe not. Not having to cut out the papers will be a great relief.Also knowing running stitch is sufficient is good as I hate doing back stitch. I use bees wax on my thread as it stops it knotting and that works well. Must admit I do enjoy whip stitch though, find it so relaxing so will see which wy I prefer when I have tried yours

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  18. Wonderful!!! The running stitch would definitely make it faster than whip stitching EPP. I've never considered doing non EPP hand work, I think my fear would be keeping straight lines. As soon as I complete my 2 Hexagon EPP projects I'll have to consider this for the next project. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial!

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  19. Great tutorial and yes I agree the book by Jinny Beyer - Quiltmaking by Hand is a must for beginner and seasoned as well. Sometimes, I find that I get into little ruts and have to go back relearn a step from Jinny and its so great to be able to do that.

    By the way, this is going to be stunning!

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  20. Thanks so much for this - I've been putting off starting my Amitie BOM since I do want to hand piece but am completely terrified of hand piecing. This makes me a bit less scared. Any special tips on hand piecing curves? Do you starch your fabric at all?

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  21. I use the running stitch method on things like nine-piece blocks, but I don't find it as accurate as EPP and I just love oversewing (or whip-stitching) - I find it so relaxing and as the paper is there to guide me I don't even have to look at what I'm doing too much, haha! Love your lozenges :)

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  22. Thanks for posting this! I am pretty new to sewing/quilting and love hand stitching. I made a grandma's flower garden quilt last year using EPP but hadn't done any hand piecing like this until I came across your blog and your hand-pieced "Contentment" quilt. I immediately printed the template you used, bought some template plastic and got to work (after emailing my sister, a fellow quilter, to say "oh look isn't this the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?!?!". I've been pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to get nice, even seams without paper pieces! Thanks for taking the time to share these tips - I can't wait to see what else you make, so far I have thought "oh, I want to try this one!" about all the things on your blog :)

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  23. Really? No EPP? I too was always thinking, that your projects were done by EPP and was amazed, how fast you put together your quilt tops! Thanks for the clarification and all the tipps for hand piecing. I think, I should really give this a try soon. It's always nice to have something to take away!

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  24. oh! rectangular hexies!! they look so nice! You make this seem so easy.

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