EPP Tutorial: Pencil Roll

LMQG English Paper Piecing Tutorial: Pencil Roll/Tool Case/Clutch/Pouch  by Danielle Coolbear Jenkins

I decided to design a project as I know that there are seasoned EPP’rs in the Guild and I thought they might like to join in rather than just having a how-to tutorial.

You will need:

•    2 copies of the pattern (see PDF) 1 cut into pieces and 1 keep as a piecing guide
•    Fabric – the choice is yours – go minimalist with 1 or 2 fabrics or scrappy with as many as you like
•    Thread – 1 for tacking/basting and 1 (or more I used 3) stitching – your stitches will be seen so choose a contrasting/complimentary colour if you like
•    Scissors – fabric and paper
•    Pins
•    Needle/s – nothing too big as it will make stitching difficult
•    Thimble – especially with smaller needles, they have very sharp eye ends
•    Fabric for the lining 12 in X 8.5 in ( 30 cm x 21 cm)
•    Fabric, ribbon or other (I used a broken retractable tape measure) Anything from 12 in up – mine are 20 in
•    If you want add little pockets to the inside

I designed it for what I had on hand.

Basically customise as you would like: – add more strips to the basic pattern and make it bigger, add a magnetic closure, a shoulder strap – the possibilities are endless.

•    Cut out all the pieces – storing them in a small box or zip lock plastic bag.  If you are daunted by the small pieces in the flower blocks – A,B,C you could fussy cut a flower to the square that the finished pieces make – using the uncut square as your paper piece.
•    Pin the pieces to the wrong side of your fabric – all pieces except F, L and K are reversible – for F, L and K pin them letter side down.
•    Cut a ¼ inch around – this is your seam allowance – more than ¼ inch isn’t a problem as it will be folded over.
•    Tack/baste the fabric over the paper: start by threading your needle – you can choose whether to tie a knot in the tail (I do – but it’s just habit), not having a knot makes removing the basting stitches easier – but you do need to make sure that you leave a long tail as the thread could work it’s way free.
Place the paper piece in the middle of the wrong side of the fabric piece with sufficient seam allowance, if the pieces are quite big and you find it difficult to hold the paper in position with your fingers pin the paper onto the fabric.

Basting a square piece:
•    Starting with any edge fold the fabric crisply over the paper – using your thumb nail is a handy tool – make sure you don’t fold the paper over as you will lose the crisp edge.
•    Start from the right-hand side of the fold push the needle through the fabric to the outside and make as many stitches you need to tack the fabric to the paper with the last stitch coming back up to the paper side before the turn to the next edge.
•    Stitch through the fabric and fold the next side down and continue stitching along the edge as before.
•    Continue for all sides.
•    Come to the end and make sure the thread is on the right side (the non-paper side), knot and cut off leaving a tail.

For the triangle and pieces with angled sides I would recommend starting with the longest side – as the folds on the shorter sides become tails which can be trimmed to reduce bulk in the finished piece.
As with any hand-sewing you develop your own technique and habits and this is mine.  Tack as many pieces as you want to – whether you want to tack enough for one block at a time, or find tacking boring… which it can be when you are itching to get to the end result.

    •    The sewing technique used for English paper-piecing is whip-stitch – traditionally you stitch from the left-hand side of the piece and take the tiniest stitch through the edge of the tacked piece being careful not to stitch through the paper (although this is not vital – if you want to reuse the papers this is more important as removing papers which have been sewn through removes the papers straight edge). I use whip-stitch but stitch from the right-hand side (as I’m right-handed) and yet again this a habit and personal preference.
•    With the right sides together (the completely fabric covered sides) match the corners – you may find that the pieces are a few millimeters different in size, don’t worry you can ease them. I usually start with the side that the tacking was started on. Starting from whichever side of the piece you prefer (traditional whip-stitch or my opposite method) start with the first stitch as close to the edge of the pieces as possible underneath the fold if possible and continue on with the small, close together stitches trying to make sure that the tail of the thread is under the first few stitches to secure the end of the seam – when you come to other side of the pieces – making sure to stitch all the way to the fold. I finish the seam by backstitching over the last few stitches twice and then cutting the thread off close to the stitches.
The beauty of whip-stitch is that it is very strong and even when stitches are cut they need to be forcibly removed (unpicked) for the seam to unravel.
•    if you run out of thread or the thread breaks before the seam is finished cut a tail and start a new thread making sure to stitch over the tail ends.
•    It is important to make sure that all the pieces are aligned otherwise the finished block will be misshapen – making sure that the pieces are aligned is easy enough to do: match the seams together. Pins can come in handy when matching seams – pin close to the seams to keep them aligned whilst stitching.

You can choose which pieces to start with if you have basted all the pieces: We started with A,B and C as it is the trickiest and the piecing most likely to cause problems because of the small size of the pieces.  So if you want start with the simpler pieces of A, G, H, I,and J.
If you are starting with A, B and C – first line up the short side of B with A matching the folded sides, whip-stitch across and line up the next B piece as before, you will not need to cut your thread this way.  When all B pieces are stitched stitch the mitre seams for the inside out, then attach C – you will need to cut the thread on these seams.


The way I constructed the design was to make all 3 flower blocks (A,B,C) and then attaching E and D to make into a rectangular-ish unit.  The piecing for the flower block with the leaves (F, N, M, E, A)  is pieced in the same way as you would a log cabin attaching F to the block then N and so on – this is where the second copy of the design comes in handy as it makes seeing where pieces attach easy.

I then constructed the large triangles out of the angled pieces before attaching them to each rectangular-ish piece and then attached the 2 pieces together making sure to match the points of the chevrons.

Once finished piecing you can remove all the papers – except the ones on the ends – for the large strip triangles you can remove the papers and then re-baste the seam edge to allow you to attach the lining.  If you want to add internal pockets this is the time to do it.

To attach the lining lay the lining on top of the block – right sides together – and fold in the edge – basically the same as you did over the papers but without any paper and use pins to attach to the block and hold the seam allowance down.  Whip-stitch all except the top seam – the bottom of the flower with the leaves.

I made an extra piece an inch wide and as long as the finished edge – the finished piece will be slightly bigger than the original design as the stitching adds about a millimeter per seam.  I attached this to the end.

Turn the lining and block right side out – using scissors or a skewer to get the points of the triangles out.  I hand quilted in the ditch along most of the seams and then added leaves by cutting out 2 shapes from paper and pinning in place and hand quilted around and then a line through the middle of the leaves.

You don’t have to quilt it – but it does attach the lining to the block nicely.

To attach the ties I centered the tape measure and stitched it to the flap (the paper pieced strip) seam allowance making sure not to go through to the front and then attached the flap by whip-stitching the sides and hem stitching the long edge – removing the tacking stitches and removing the paper before whip stitching the second side.

To form the pocket – with right sides together fold the block along the bottom of the second flower block – not along the chevron seam.  Whip-stich along the side seams starting at the top – try to hide the knot – stitch along the block edge as if you stitch the binding when you turn it right side out the lining will be showing – you can choose to add a second seam through the lining if you want a fully enclosed seam.  Turn out and push the corners out as before.

That’s pretty much it – as I said before make it your own – make it bigger, fold it in a different way – make it your own.

There are tutorials for the basics of EPP on my website: www.djcoolbear.co.uk and if you have any questions just ask – Danielle.

To download a PDF of the pattern click here.

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