I began work on a new quilt last night- for the first time, I'm trying out the traditional English Paper Piecing technique. I like to think I have a reasonable grasp on quilting- by no means am I an expert, but I can usually piece a quilt fairly easily without having to refer back to the instructions over and over- however I've never really tried hand piecing before.
This project started because my Mum gave me a pack of die cut hexagons for paper piecing from Liberty Tana Lawn fabrics for Christmas. I boosted it with another pack, and this weekend decided to get stuck in. English Paper Piecing is a technique where you tack fabric to paper templates to help ensure accuracy when hand stitching pieces of fabric together. It's great for shapes with a lot of set in corners, which are a right pain to try and tackle by machine.
There were a couple of surprises once I got started. First, the technique I'd planned to use (which was based on a video I watched a couple of years ago on the technique), wasn't in fact the most common technique I came across when I did a little more research yesterday. The first few videos I came across yesterday suggested basting down the entire seam allowance of each edge of the hexagon to the paper, whereas I was sure I should just be able to tack down each corner. I did find a video using "my" technique after a little while, which just validated my thoughts, so I decided to start with that and see if it worked. It did! Take it from me- there's no need to tie knots in your thread, or put a lot of time basting your shapes to the paper- as long as the seams and corners are neat and relatively secure, you're good to go.
I discovered this technique doesn't take nearly as long as I imagined it would. Sure, it's still slower than machine piecing, but because I'm using precut fabric, I have 2 advantages: a much wider range of fabrics than I would have if I had to buy from the bolt, and I cut out all the tedious cutting time. It's actually pretty fun- a couple of episodes of TV, and I had the first 30 hexagons basted to the paper, plus made a start on stitching them together. I still have a pack of 50 hexagons to baste, and piles to stitch together, before I'll have anything approaching a quilt, but it's a great couch activity- no sewing machine means it's portable. I'll probably buy at least one more pack of hexagons before I decide I have enough- I have plans for how to finish this into a quilt, but I'm as yet undecided as to whether I'll hand piece (and quilt!) the entire thing, or just do the hexagons by hand then finish by machine. It seems a shame not to finish by hand, since so much work will have gone into it.
You never know, this may turn out to be my first completely "hand" made (as opposed to handmade!) quilt! If you want more information on English Paper Piecing, here's a good blog post- or just search for it on Youtube, there's heaps of good tutorials.
What's the biggest project you've ever tried making by hand?