Greetings! I'm Kitty Wilkin from Night Quilter, and I'm excited to show you how to get started on an English Paper Pieced (EPP) mug rug using the Bigz L die - Rose Star and fabi die cutting machine. I love having a few EPP projects going since they are extremely portable and very easy to pick up and put down as needed--a great characteristic when you have three little kiddos around!
The Rose Star die has many different layout options, and is actually designed for EPP. Both the shapes to cut the templates and the shapes to cut the fabric that will be basted around the templates are included on the single die. Talk about saving time! I chose a variation of one of the suggested layouts included on the back of the die, and created an EPP Rose Star Coloring Page HERE to help with your planning.First, choose your fabric and get your die cutting machine ready. With EPP, it is helpful to choose a combination of solids and prints, or to choose fabrics that "read" as solid or contrast well with the others. I am making this mug rug for my sister, who loves turquoise and lime green, so those were obvious choices. I added black and low volume prints for strong contrast and a pop of pink for fun.To help with the planning phase, I like to pass a sheet of plain printer paper through on the die so that I have samples of each piece. I call these my practice paper pieces. Labeling your practice pieces as either "template" or "fabric" will help with accurate cutting down the line.
First, let's cut the templates. Make your Sizzix sandwich: bottom cutting pad, die with the blades facing up, cardstock just over the template blades, and top cutting pad. For this project, you will need to cut the following templates: 1 A, 18 Bs, and 30 Cs.
People use many different materials as EPP templates, from flimsy printer paper to stiff template plastic. The Sizzix die cutting machines can cut them all, so use your preferred material. I like to use cardstock, since the extra firmness helps keep the corners crisp, but it's still pliable enough to facilitate easy stitching. I cut 3 layers at a time, since when I cut more than that, the pieces started to warp a bit. Really, though, up to 5 layers would probably pass through the die cutting machine with no problem.
Rather than buy all new cardstock, go ahead and get creative. As surely is the case for many crafters, quilting hasn't always been my craft of choice; I have a large stockpile of scrapbooking supplies, including the blank white pages that come in new albums. They are perfect for EPP templates. Not a scrapbooker? You could also use old manilla folders, stock junk mail, or old greeting cards. Waste not, want not! Just cut the cardstock to fit over the template die cuts and get cutting!
Now it's time to cut your fabric. For my layout, I needed to cut 1 bunny A, 6 turquoise Bs, 6 lime green Bs, 6 low volume Bs, 12 black Cs, 6 pink Cs, and 12 low volume Cs.
Let's talk about a few tricks for cutting your fabric."Fussy cutting", or meticulous cutting as I like to call it, is a fun thing to incorporate into your EPP projects. I like to use the highly scientific method of holding your fabric up to a bright window and using the paper template practice piece you made to help line up your desired fussy cut. Once you have your desired feature bit highlighted, carefully center it over the appropriate die cut--remember to center it over the Fabric A die cut and not the template one! Then cut.
For multiple fussy cut pieces, you may want to use the window method paired with the paper fabric practice piece to roughly shape the fabric before passing it through the Fabi. Cut along one straight edge of the fabric piece and line up with the edge of the die cut to ensure that your featured bit will align exactly where you want it. You can still cut up to 8 layers of fabric at once, so while the additional fussy alignment may be a bit time consuming, it is definitely quicker than individually tracing and scissor cutting every. single. fabric. piece.You can put your paper practice pieces to good use in other ways while cutting. Use the practice paper piece to help determine how wide of a fabric strip you need, then cut using either scissors or a rotary cutter and mat. The fabric can then be simply folded accordion-style so that up to 8 fabric pieces can be cut at once! Be extra careful when folding your fabric to ensure that all layers extend to all sides of the die cut. We wouldn't want to lose any tips (ask me how I know)!Once all of your templates and fabric pieces are cut, hole punch the center of each template. You can use a regular hole punch, and trust me, this step saves SO much time when your EPP project is finished and you need to remove the templates. With the little hole punched in the center, template removal will be as easy as sticking the end of a chopstick (or embroidery hook) in there and popping it right out!
Now you are ready to start basting! Basting is the process where you attach the fabric to each template, folding over each side and tacking the corners to hold it in place. Some people swear by glue basting, but for this tutorial, I'm going to stick with good ol' thread basting. There's something meditative to hand stitching, and the idea of sticky glue and fabric together just doesn't feel right to me (although I'm sure I'll try glue basting sooner than later). When thread basting, I like to use neutral or coordinating thread since that way the basting stitches won't need to be removed before finishing. Let's get basting!First, center a template on the wrong side of one of your corresponding fabric pieces. Some people like to use a little dab of washable glue to help hold the fabric in place. When I'm basting a very persnickety fussy cut, I'll use glue to hold it in place *just* so, but for solids or not-so-particular pieces, I just hold it in place to save time.
Using your fingers to make a sharp corner, fold down the next side. With a knotted thread, sew a small tack (small stitch passing through both layers of fabric) in the corner where the fabrics overlap. Be sure not to sew through the cardstock template. If this is your first time doing EPP, you may want to do a second tack in the corner to help hold it more securely. If you're an old hat, then one stitch is really all you need to hold the corners in place while you baste your way around.
Continue working your way around the shape, smoothly folding the edges over and tacking corners. It may feel awkward at first, but I promise that by your 5th or 6th shape, you'll be cruising right around. Make sure that the front of your fabric continues to lay flat as you baste.
Once you get to the final corner, you'll want to tie off your thread. First, make your tack to hold the corner in the folded position. Then, make another tack, but stop before pulling it all the way through. There should be a little loop. Pass your needle and thread through this loop. For basting stitches, passing the needle through once is enough; when we start sewing our pieces together and need to tie off, you will want to pass the needle through twice in the same direction to securely knot the thread.Pull tight and viola!You have your first EPP piece, basted and ready to go.
Gather all of your templates, fabric pieces, needle, thread, and small scissors and you're ready to take your EPP on the road. Pull it out at the beach, at the playground, at a track meet, or even while in the car--as long as someone else is driving! I love watching my stacks of basted pieces grow as the piles of templates and fabric shrink.
I'll leave you here for now, ready to baste all of your pieces. When you are finished, lay out your full Rose Star like mine shown above to help you begin planning for the next phase: sewing them all together. Join me in November when I'll show you how to sew all of these pieces together and transform the 9" EPP Rose Star into a functional and cute mug rug. Until then, happy stitching!
Kitty - Night Quilter
Fabric (scraps work well for EPP!) - I used a variety of fabrics including some from the Cotton & Steel black and white collection, Alison Glass Sun Prints, and a bit of Carolyn Friedlander Botanics.
Thread (I love Aurifil 50wt, especially 2600-Dove, which is my panacea thread. It is a great neutral that goes with everything!)
Cardstock or similar material (or printer paper, or thin plastic template plastic; whatever material you wish to use as EPP templates!)
Hole punch (optional, but recommended!)
Washable glue stick (optional)