epp shapes and a spool of aurifil thread

Isn't it always fun to start sewing a new pattern or project? When I found out we were working with Paper Pieces for this months Aurifil Artisan challenge, which is English Paper Piecing, I was super happy. They have a huge range of paper shapes and you could spend a day browsing their website looking at all the possibilities, thinking up patterns and imagining blocks. As soon as I found the Joseph's Coat pieces I knew I had found my project. I have never made this traditional block and I enjoy sewing curves, it's also a pretty design that becomes more interesting as it expands. I'm going to show you my layout and how I handle sewing epp curves.

For shapes like these you can't beat the accuracy of machine cut paper pieces and when shapes are curved I really do like to use acrylic templates for cutting. It makes the job so much quicker with a rotary cutter and of course it's super helpful if you want to do fussy cutting, as you can reposition the template and clearly see the area you are cutting. 

hand holding Paper Pieces acrylic templates for Joseph's Coat blocks

Paper Pieces acrylic templates can be bought with a 1/4" or a 3/8" seam allowance. I chose 3/8" because I like more wiggle room with my fabric and I can trim the seams down later in places that might be required (like where several points meet).
I took inspiration from my friend Clare and chose bigger epp pieces - the 13" was a little too big for the layout I'm using - the 8" size was just right.

a selection of modern quilting fabrics laid out randomly

Once the papers and templates arrived I went searching through my stash for the perfect fabrics. I had a hard time because I really got in my own head and was too concerned thinking about combinations that would please other people. Everything I was pulling didn't feel right and as soon as I realised the issue I snapped myself out of it and went back to basics, choosing one fabric I really like. That was the soda bottle POP print by Rashida Coleman Hale. From there I chose other fabrics that coordinated well and created the overall look I was after. 

fabric petal pieces cut from templates

As the challenge has a deadline I decided not to thread baste (my usual choice for curves) and instead opted for glue basting with my Sewline glue pen. For the petal shapes this was pretty simple, they did baste nicely though honestly as I've been working on stitching the pieces together it has unglued slightly, I much prefer thread basting for convex curves because I think it's crisper. I would follow the instructions for thread basting that come with curved pieces from Paper Pieces.  
For the background shapes I simply cut into the seam of the curve to baste them neatly, this works really well for glue basting and these pieces stayed well basted.

the front and back of glue basted curved paper pieces

At this point (spoiler!) I'm going to admit I may have been a little ambitious. I know that epp is slow sewing, even so I had hoped to be able to complete this layout and get it appliqued onto a background to make a cushion. Well that was nice in theory but I have failed the challenge and haven't completed my stitching yet.  If I had only made one block I could have nailed it but I'm carrying on with my original plan. This is the layout I am working on... 

Joseph's Coat pieces layout

Joseph's Coat pieces layout

I couldn't decided between these two. The top one was my initial choice but then I thought it was maybe a little too disordered and rearranged the outer section so the colours were more grouped together. Then I wasn't sure which I liked better. I took these winter evening pictures and asked my family for their opinions - all four of them chose the top one! So while I like the bottom one, looking at it even now, I do think the outer petals detract from the centre whereas your eye is more drawn to the centre in the top one.  
So my first layout was the winner. As you can see I started by piecing the central section, on reflection I should have saved that until I had found my epp groove as the central points aren't perfect. As I'm stitching these pieces together I have discovered that it really helps to have the bulk of the work on the right (I'm right handed) so that it's easier for me to hold the pieces in my left hand.

needle piercing fabric between two epp patchwork shapes

Rather than the traditional right sides together whip stitch, I use the flat back stitch - essentially putting the two pieces together and using a whip stitch catching both sides. This works nicely for these curves, I position the pieces and use a wonderclip to hold the other end. When I started using this method I used washi tape on the front of the pieces to keep them in place but I find I don't usually need that now.

The more I work on this the neater I am getting and my points are pointier, I have to say I'm really pleased with my progress. I may not have finished yet but it's coming together well. The 'frames' of the black and white text print and the narrower stripe create a cool effect.

Joseph's Coat epp pieces

I tend not to worry about dog ears or seams until right at the end, I will trim them down where needed and tuck them in as I prep for applique.

close up of points of Joseph's Coat epp pieces

Aurifil 50 weight is my thread of choice for epp. It's fine, which makes a big difference especially where you have several points meeting and it's strong enough not to snap as I'm stitching. I've found that colour #2600 Dove Grey blends beautifully, it's what I use for most of my hand sewing projects and if I'm on the go it's great to only need one spool of thread. I do keep a darker grey for when I'm working with dark prints. 

Joseph's Coat epp pieces some sewn together others ready to be sewn with a spool of Aurifil thread

close up of curved epp pieces

While I'm disappointed not to have a finish for the deadline, I am happy to keep stitching and will hopefully have a completed cushion soon!

close up of curved epp pieces

Have you tried curved epp? I would definitely encourage you to give it a go! It's a good challenge and I can see myself doing more Joseph's Coat blocks because I really would like to play more with these shapes and I have a thing for traditional blocks made with modern fabrics.

partial Joseph's Coat blocks in progress