Hello there! It's Kitty from Night Quilter, and today I'm excited to show you how to make one of the most timelessly popular English Paper Pieced (EPP) blocks: Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses (PoTC), using the new Sizzix Fabi BigZ Honeycomb and Squares die. The Lucy Boston PoTC is known for the way it incorporates fussy cutting into its radial construction, so in this tutorial, I'll also show you how to make a fussy cutting planning template and will share a few tips on fussy cutting with your Sizzix die cutting machine. I should note that I prefer to call it “meticulous cutting” but for the sake of ease, I will use the popular term “fussy cutting” throughout this tutorial to avoid confusion. Let's get started!
First, a little history. Lucy Boston was born in England in 1892 and designed many patchwork patterns during her 97 year life, including the Patchwork of the Crosses. There’s a full pattern book put together by Linda Franz with the help of Lucy Boston’s daughter-in-law if you are interested in learning more. The PoTC block is a really versatile block that is extra fun to sew since changes in fabric positioning and fussy cutting results in a wide variety of blocks, even when made with the same fabrics. (Historical information from Linda Franz’s website).
I’ve reviewed the basics of cutting cardstock templates, basting pieces, and sewing together Engilsh Paper Pieced (EPP) patterns in these previous Sizzix tutorials (Rose Star Part 1 and Part 2), so please review them before beginning if you are new to EPP. I will begin by showing you how to make a fussy cutting planning template and sharing some tips on fussy cutting, then will walk through the actual construction of the Lucy Boston PoTC block. Here we go!
Making a Planning Template
Fussy cutting is the act of meticulously finding pattern repeats and cutting pieces so that they are exactly the same as others and/or have seams that align to perfectly continue a pattern into the next piece. Acrylic templates are sold for the honeycomb shape used to create the Lucy Boston PoTC block, but you can also make your own using the BigZ Honeycomb and Squares die. Here’s how!
- thin translucent plastic - either template plastic, or old (clean!) food container lids. The partially clear ones work best since they are a bit thicker and easier to cut around and you can see through the seam allowances when using them.
- scissors for cutting plastic
- Sizzix fabi die cutting machine
- Sizzix BigZ Honeycomb and Square die
- tape or glue (optional)
Then, place the plastic over the large honeycomb die blade on the Sizzix, make your Sizzix sandwich: bottom cutting pad, die with blades facing up, plastic lid, top cutting pad, and pass through the machine. You will have a large plastic honeycomb like the one shown above.
Lifting up one edge once it is in position can give you a peek at how centered it is. Just a tip: if you align the edges of your large honeycomb flush with the edges of the foam on the Sizzix honeycomb die, the small honeycomb should be fairly well centered. Pass it through your die cutting machine (don’t forget the cutting pads!).
You now have a partial honeycomb planning template. One side is cut out due to the position of the square blades, but you can either use it as is, OR make a second partial honeycomb planning template and overlap the two to fill the gap.
Now that you have your Honeycomb Planning Template, we can begin fussy cutting!
Tips on Fussy Cutting
Your choice of fabrics for your Lucy Boston PoTC blocks will strongly influence the variety of fussy cut designs you can create. I try to choose at least one busy, dynamic design with lots of fussy cutting options to be the focal print, and then a few other, more solid reading fabrics to compliment the focal fabric. You could also choose many busy designs that all coordinate together to create truly dynamic blocks--the design is entirely up to you! Rhea from Alewives Fabrics, one of my local quilt shops here in Maine, is a Lucy Boston fanatic and even has Lucy Boston fussy cutting bundles available in her shop. Check out her Instagram feed to see a great variety of Lucy Boston PoTC blocks for inspiration! (For the record, I have no affiliation with Alewives; I just know Rhea is a great resource for all things Lucy Boston and want to share the love!)
For my project, I chose to use Tula Pink’s Moonshine as my main fussy cut fabric, and paired it with some more solid-reading Cotton and Steel prints, an old Tula tone on tone, and a solid blue. I’m using Essex yarn dyed linen in Charcoal for my background with some accent squares of C+S red to really let the blocks pop! Having coordinating thread for stitching the pieces together really helps the stitches blend in. I always use 50wt Aurifil.
For successful fussy cutting for the Lucy Boston block, you want to find two main pattern repeats: 1) a central spiral which is comprised of four identical pattern repeats, and 2) pattern sets made with two neighboring honeycombs. I chose to select mirror images in the pattern for my paired blocks.
Start playing around with your planning template, moving it around on the fabric until you see a design you’d like to work with. Here are a few of the designs I found:
Once you identify the design you want, cut your first pieces. Holding the template firmly and carefully in place, either trace then cut with scissors or VERY CAREFULLY rotary cut around the edges of the piece. With fussy cutting with this degree of exactness, I’ve found that hand cutting the pieces results in the best accuracy. You can, however use the Sizzix to cut your fussy cut pieces and your accuracy will improve with practice. Simply cut along two full edges and one partial edge of the template and then rough cut around the remainder of the honeycomb shape.
Then, carefully stack the rough cut pieces over the large honeycomb blade of the sizzix die, being sure that the three carefully cut sides align with the appropriate edges of the blade. Make your Sizzix sandwich and pass through your machine.
When cutting pieces that do not have to be exactly accurate in order to match up, use the Sizzix die to help speed up the cutting process. For this project, I hand-cut the Moonshine pieces, but used the Sizzix to cut all of the remaining pieces, cutting 9 layers at a time.
Now that you have some tips on finding and cutting fussy cut pieces, let’s begin the construction of the block!
Making a Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses EPP block
The Lucy Boston PoTC block consists of 24 honeycomb pieces: four (4) meeting in the center like a cross, four (4) nestled into the nooks of the center cross, and 8 sets of pairs (16 pieces total). Choose your fabrics, cut your cardstock templates (don’t forget to hole punch them!), do your fussy cutting as I outlined above, crank that Sizzix die cutting machine until you have everything you need, and then baste your pieces.
I really enjoy thread basting, so I usually thread baste my shapes as shown in my tutorial here. For seriously meticulous fussy cutting like the center swirls and pattern joins in this block, though, I use glue basting since it allows more perfection and easier do-overs.
To glue baste, first put a dab of glue on the back of your cardstock template (As you can see, I use recycled cardstock--this is from Lego packaging still left from Christmas! Being able to make cardstock templates out of anything you have on hand is another huge benefit of having a Sizzix die cutting machine and dies for your EPP projects!)
Center the fabric, positioning the fussy cut joining edge of your fabric where it needs to be (Note the left edge of the cardstock template, where you can see the half seed pod and flower petals *just so*). Press to stick the fabric to the template.
Before proceeding with gluing all of the edges in place, fold over the fussy cut join edge and its adjacent edges. Hold it up next to its partner hexagon to make sure your pattern meets as desired. If it does not line up, this is where you can pull the cardstock template off of the fabric and try again. Once you’ve got it perfect, go ahead and glue down the seam allowances to baste the shape. I show you how to glue baste in THIS tutorial.
Begin with the center cross. Grab your perfectly coordinating Aurifil thread and a needle. (You may have noticed that the pieces shown in this part of the tutorial are not the ones I used for the sample block. I got excited and sewed mine together before photographing, so am photographing these pieces to help demonstrate the order in which the center should be sewn. They will be made into another Lucy Boston PoTC block to go with my sample!)
Next, you will add your first set of fussy cut pairs.
Often, I like to “try out” a few different options to see which one compliments the block best before cutting all of my fabric. I make single sets of pairs, and then choose one to duplicate. As you can see, I chose to leave out the large flower and leaf since it looks distinctly like an owl, and instead made three more pairs of the flower arch.
To sew on the pairs, begin at one corner, fold the sewn pair right sides facing along the first seam you will join (my finger is pointing to the place where I will begin sewing), and sew together using a whip stitch.
I go into detail about sewing EPP pieces together in THIS tutorial.
*TIP* For sharp corners, don’t stitch on the actual corner. Stitch about a millimeter away from the corner, and then turn your pieces, joining the next sides and again stitch a millimeter away from the corner.
Viola! You have a Lucy Boston PoTC block! You can now finish this one block and make it a pillow or mini quilt, or make any number of additional blocks into a quilt. There are many ways to finish this block, either blind stitching it to a background fabric like I did with my Rose Star EPP in THIS tutorial, or making 24 EPP hexagons using a background fabric and sewing them around the edges and either joining to additional blocks or trimming and finishing as is.
Have fun with your meticulous fussy cutting, and please tag me @nightquilter on social media when you try it!
- fabric - a selection of 1-4 fabrics, at least one of which has good fussy cutting potential. (Technically, you could make a Lucy Boston PoTC block by fussy cutting a single fabric in different ways, you could make it out of all solids, or anything in between. Your fabric requirements depend on how many blocks you want to make. When planning to fussy cut a fabric, always buy more yardage than you typically would need so that you can be sure to find the pattern repeats. This block is a great way to use up scraps, too!)
- fat quarter background fabric per block (This amount will vary depending on your finishing technique)
- fabric scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Contrasting thread for basting (I use 50 wt Aurifil 2600-Dove)
- Coordinating thread for sewing the pieces together (I used 50 wt Aurifil Light Avocado-2886, Mustard-5022, and Pewter-2630)
- sewing needle
- Washable fabric glue pen (I use a Sue Daley Sewline glue pen, but washable Elmer's glue sticks work, too)
- cardstock or thick junk mail (recycling for the win!)
- hole punch
- chopstick for popping out papers once the block is fully sewn together
- clean, thin plastic (Template plastic or clean food container lids--again, recycle!)