myBearpaw Blog by Jo Avery

Farmer’s Wife 1930s QAL – EPP tips and advice

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s quilt-along is now up and running with some great blog posts from Kerry who is hosting the QAL. This is the main page with all the info if you want to join in (there’s still time!).
I have been busy making some blocks and sharing them on Instagram. This has brought up quite a few points of discussion that I thought I would gather over here at the start of the QAL rather than waiting for my first ‘official’ guest post. Mainly because I wanted to give everyone the benefit of my experiences before they start or get too far.

I have English Paper Pieced (EPP) all my blocks so far (I have made 5). I like to do some hand sewing in front of the TV of an evening (otherwise my husband would never see me!) and I’ve always loved to EPP, it was the first patchwork method I learnt.

What appealed to me about these blocks was their intricacy and smallness, both these things lend them to successful EPP. Depending on the block I think it is possible to sew one in an evening. The block above took me just over three hours (7.30 – 10.40pm!)

I started off using the ‘template’ sheets on the CD. These worked fine but were a little paper heavy! I guess I was supposed to make templates and then draw round them – ha! Like I would have time for that! I just printed 4 sheets for each block. I never even thought of looking at the paper pieced sheets.

But then I had a problem with Alice. Ah Alice, what a hard girl you are! This is Alice below. That’s Augusta above – she’s easy (sorry Augusta, no offence)! I think Alice would have been demanding anyway (and any way you piece her) as those pieces are so tiny! Look at those tiny turquoise triangles in the corners – I kept losing them all over the sofa every time my cat jumped on me!

But what made it harder still was that the templates for Alice were all a bit off on their angles. I could sort of see it when I printed them out but as the others had all been spot on I just trusted it. But half way through I could tell something was very wrong. Through Kerry I reported this to the author. Poor Laurie, it wasn’t her fault at all, it was her publishers and she was really upset about it!

However the paper pieced sheet was perfect so I printed this off and used this for EPP. You have to be very careful how you cut the pieces out (as no spaces between the shapes) but you use much less paper, and have enough pieces for the whole block (I have been re-using some papers as I go). So in the future I am going to print the paper pieced sheets for my EPP.

I do plan to paper piece (as in foundation paper piece or FPP) some of the blocks and another thing that came up on IG was whether you could mix techniques. Yes you can. With your EPP blocks just take all your papers out, unfold the outer edges, press and trim to 6.5 inches. I have been glue basting all my blocks (the pieces are so small it seems hardly worth treading a needle to tack!), and I love my Sewline glue pen with re-fill 🙂
Another thing that came up on IG was how you press your seams for EPP. Because the block is finished by the time you press it you can press it anyway you want. I just press it from the front and don’t worry about what the seams are doing. If you do press the seams be careful not to get any left over glue on your iron.
Just make sure that you don’t accidentally catch your seam allowances when sewing the pieces together, especially with the pieces at the outside of your block, which may prevent you from folding out your seams. Also I always try to add a little more seam allowance to those outer blocks. I cut my fabric by pinning a paper piece to fabric (sometimes doubled, trebled or four times folded over) and cutting around leaving just over a quarter inch seam (judged by eye).
I find binding clips are useful for keeping larger basted pieced together when sewing.
After all that advice I think there is just time for some shameless promotion! 
We just got a lovely shipment of Riley Blake fabrics at our shop, all prefect for FW1930s. So I put together this bundle of 10 Fat Quarters for £26.99 and a 10 x Fat Eighth version for £13.99. Available online and in our Edinburgh shop. Only available in the UK – sorry!
I will go into even more details about EPP when I host my first guest post next month. I just wanted to cover a few of these points for those of you wondering about using EPP for their blocks.
Please feel free to ask me questions! 


  1. Great advice and I have the book here staring at me….so on my list is to print off one of the blocks and will use the paper piecing approach. THANKS, um I think… didn't want to mow the yard anyway.

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