I really enjoy hand piecing. For some time, I have been searching for the right tools to help me make a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. I wanted to be able to simplify the English Paper Piecing method so that I didn’t have to do any basting or whipstitching, and wouldn’t have to remove the templates afterward. I wanted the stitching to be invisible from the front. I did not want to have to mark the fabric with a stitching line, or do any running stitch to sew the hexies together. Impossible? I thought so, for a long time, but finally have found a collection of products that will make my hand piecing dream come true.

The template material was the most important consideration. Since I didn’t want to have to remove it, I started evaluating different types of wash-away stabilizers. Some were not stiff enough to be used as templates, some didn’t get soft after washing. The one I finally settled on? Ricky Tims’ Stable Stuff poly (sorry about the camera flash).

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It comes in standard size sheets, so it will go through my computer printer. That’s important because I use software to print my English Paper Piecing templates.  It is stiff enough to substitute for paper, and when it is washed, inside the finished quilt, it becomes soft and flexible so that the quilt is not stiff.

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In the photo above, you can see how English Paper Piecing is done. The hexagon shape is cut from the white stabilizer. A piece of fabric is cut, approximately 1/4 inch larger than the template on all sides. Normally, that excess fabric would be folded to the back of the template and stitched in place temporarily, through the stabilizer. Instead, I use fabric glue to stick the seam allowances down. The 4 hexagons that I stitched together on the left are a sample I made to test different types of stitching. I found the best results came from using a small curved needle and ladder stitching the hexagons together from the wrong side. The stitches are invisible from the front. If you click on the photo, you can see the needle resting on the white hexagon template on the lower right.

Just to be sure that everything would wash up nicely after piecing, I made a rosette from 7 hexies and then layered it with batting and backing, quilted it, washed it, and let it dry. It’s just as soft as if there had been no stabilizer under the fabric, and it was much faster to put together than if I had needed to remove basting stitches and paper templates before quilting. The experiment has been a success, and now I can begin the actual quilt!

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