Everything seems to be go go go. It is so fast-paced there is something to be said for the “slow movement”. One of my favourite ways to slow down and take a breath is the sewing technique of English paper piecing (EPP). Traditionally EPP was just hexagons into flowers, but it is so much more than that.
The whole process is very relaxing and I find it quite meditative. Because it is hand work it forces you to slow down. It is completely portable – so you can relax and calm yourself anywhere anytime.
All you need to get started
- Good quality thread: the thread passes against the paper and goes through the paper repeatedly so it needs to be of good quality and strong. I use bottom line from superior threads.
- Needles: these need to be thin and flexible milliners/straw needles will give the best stitches. I find the Sue Daley ones really good, nice and thin very smooth and the eye of the needle is gold coloured which can make it easier to thread
- Storage device
English paper piecing is the process of wrapping fabric around different paper shapes. Once the shapes are joined together the papers are removed and pieced the patchwork remains.
There are many books available you can check out: One of my favourites is Hexa-go-go: English paper pieced 16 quilt projects illustrated by Tacha Brueches.
There are a few YouTube channels that you can check out for instructions – Sue Daley is the guru of paper piecing have a look at her channel.
I buy pre-cut papers; mostly from www.paperpieces.com, they have a massive range. They also have matching templates so you can add the seam allowances or fussy cut. I draw directly onto the template when I fussy cut and then wipe off the marks when I am done.
If you don’t use precut papers you can also print your own papers using dot graphs. This can be a really great way to create your own patterns and shapes. Just mix some papers and fabrics together and see how the look. You can also find downloadable pattern sheets and guides. You can piece as small or as large as you like. You can use this site www.incompetech.com/graphpaper/ this is a great site to create the shapes you need. The measurements are usually taken from the edge. So a 2″ hexagon has 2″ side lengths. I print my shapes onto 220g weight paper. You can photocopy your drawings onto dot guides to get multiple copies of the same shapes.
You can mix and match shapes as long as the edge matches up. Example a 1″ hexagon matches with a 1″ diamond, 1″ triangle and a 1″ square. Simple shapes such as stars can be made or millefiori which are made up of many complex shapes can be made.
Templates can be bought or cut. If you make your own they just need to be cut a little bigger so there is an edge to wrap around the papers. Use clear plastic so you can line it up on the fabric as you can see through it.
I secure the fabric to the paper with glue – glue basting. Run a thin line of glue along the edge of the shape and fold the edge of the shape and fold the fabric over, continue to roll all the edges are folded around the shape. Then you just whip stitch the pieces together. To sew them together have them face-to-face and stitch along the edge. Don’t sew through the paper. The more care you take the less visible your stitches will be.
Don’t remove the papers until there is a shape surrounding the current shape. Otherwise, there won’t be enough structure to sew with. You can easily flick the papers out. If the papers seem to be stuck you can warm the glue with an iron.
The slow stitching movement is
- Not just about hand stitching
- It is about making time to immerse yourself in the creative process
- It is about developing your technique
- Supporting local and fellow artists – like we do with blog shares!
- It is about reaping the health benefits, emotional benefits from intentional creativity
- It is about remembering why we started stitching in the first place
- It is about connecting to your work
- It is about celebrating you creativity
- Enjoying the process rather than then the deadline
Slow stitching is about being mindful. If you practice mindfulness the parasympathetic nervous system takes over. This is the relax system and your body will use less energy and relax and regenerate. Then you can heal, rest and restore yourself. You develop an inner calm and calmer mind and your body will have more time for your body to process and cope with whatever is going on around you. Mindfulness shifts the way your brain and nervous system – activates your body for action (fight or flight). In this state, your body is constantly stressed and heightened/alert. It can lead to fatigue and burnout. But with the mindful practice, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over. Putting the body into relaxation allowing regeneration. This gives you a calmer mind and gives your body time to process and cope with what is going on around you.
Practising mindfulness gives you a clearer head and trains your brain to slow down. Not only are you calmer and more able to process what is happening around you, but also get to fully experience all the things that happen on day to day life.