1. Paper Pieces: EPP requires paper templates. Fabric is wrapped around the paper templates, secured and then the shapes are hand sewn together. You can find a wide variety of templates and projects at Paper Pieces. You can also find the complete paper set for Typecast here.
2. Acrylic Templates for the pattern you are working on: These are totally optional (and can be pricey) but are super handy when you want to fussy cut, or select certain areas to use from a fabric. If you like to be efficient with your fabric cuts and prefer your seam allowances to be precise, acrylic templates are the perfect tool! You position the acrylic template over the part of the fabric you want to cut and use a small rotary cutter (see below for my recommendation) to cut against the edge of the template.
3. Water Soluble Fabric Glue Marker: I use both the Sewline and Fons & Porter brands (and the refill cartridges are interchangeable between the two! Get them here and here.) to glue baste my fabric to my paper pieces. I’ve tried less expensive “craft” water-soluble glue sticks, but found that it’s really challenging to remove the fabric at the end. I like the Sewline and Fons & Porter brands for a couple of reasons:
• the gluestick is small in diameter so I apply glue only where I want it (at the edges of the paper).
• if I don’t over apply the glue, it doesn’t damage the fabric.
• the glue isn’t super strong when it dries, making it easy for me to remove my paper templates when my sewing is complete and the templates aren’t damaged so I can use them over and over!
4. Small 28mm Rotary Cutter: Mini rotary cutters are great for navigating around tight curves and small pieces. I use a Fiskars 28mm rotary. I also use a Havel’s 28mm Rotary Cutter This rotary comes with a removable guard, so it can be used for Chenille work too. It can be a little tricky at first, but by removing the guard, I can cut against the edge of my acrylic templates. Order directly from the Havel’s Sewing and receive $7 off a $25 or more purchase by using the code: wholecircle7 at check out.
5. Good Fabric Scissors with a Sharp Tip: I use Karen Kay Buckley Medium 6″ Scissors to clip my curves slightly before basting. The micro-serrated blade and sharp tip makes very clean cuts and helps to prevent frayed edges. Plus, these scissors come with a cover to keep your blades in good shape and you safe when you’re not using them!
6. Thin Sharp Needles: I LOVE Tulip Hiroshima Big Eye Milliner Needle #10 for EPP. These high-quality needles are made in Japan and are nickel plated steel, with gold plated eyes. They are polished lengthwise to ensure smooth fabric piercing and needle eyes are polished from both sides to ensure easy threading. I’ve had students say “this is a big eye?”. For a needle meant to just graze the surface of the fabric, it is a big eye. The larger the eye, the wider the needle has to be. The wider the needle, the more difficult it is to be accurate with your stitches and avoid the edge of the paper while sewing.
7. Good Quality Thread: Your thread is going to be pretty stressed out while EPP’ing! Every time you go through the fabric, the friction can wear on the thread (not to mention rubbing up against the edge of your papers). I use Aurifil 50wt cotton thread for EPP and try to match the thread color as close as I can to one of the colors in the fabrics I’m sewing.
8. Needle Threader: Thin sharp needles (even with big eyes as discussed above) can be challenging to thread. I’ve never been able to use most threaders until I recently found the Sewline Sure Guide Needle Threader. It’s not flimsy like other threads and it’s not large like ones I’ve seen that sit on tabletops. I like that I can easily throw it in my handwork bag and it doesn’t take up a lot of room. This threader, made for needles size 9-12 works like a charm with Tulip needles and Aurifil thread.
9. Thread Conditioner or Beeswax: I’ve been using thread conditioner and beeswax on my thread for years while working on applique and EPP projects. I find that applying this type of product to my thread can help prevent fraying and knotting while I’m sewing. About a year ago, Jenn McMillan, owner of Fabric Ink, contacted me to see if I’d like to try her new thread gloss called Sew Fine. She sent me some samples and I fell in love. Not only do they smell good (she also offers unscented/natural too) but it’s really nice to work with and lasts forever! I have also used beeswax, but find that the little metal container that Sew Fine comes in a bit easier for me to work with. BTW… I’m obsessed with the Ruby Grapefruit scent!
10. Finger Protection: Everyone holds and uses their needles differently. I have certain spots on my fingers that get irritated over time while I’m hand-sewing. I’ve tried all sorts of thimbles and can never find one that is comfortable for me. I discovered Colonial Thimble Pads at my local quilt shop a few years ago and they have helped immensely. I stick one of these little self-adhesive leather dots on the area where my finger gets irritated by the needle. It’s lightweight and I barely know it’s there. You can also use them over and over again.
11. Clips: You’ll want some type of clips handy to hold the pieces that you’re sewing together. You can use small binder clips but I really love using Clover Wonder Clips. The original size works well, but since most EPP pieces are small, I like the Mini Wonder Clips even better for EPP as they are a bit less clunky.
12. Tape: When sewing together pieces that have curves, I use a piece of tape on the fabric side over the seam to hold the pieces together. I’ve used ordinary Painter’s Tape and Artists’ Tape, but have found Scotch Masking Tape for Hard-to-Stick Surfaces the best. It’s a little bit more sticky, so the tape won’t fall off your fabric while you’re sewing but it still is easy to remove and doesn’t leave a residue.
13. Metal Butcher Tray: I have the Pro Art 13″ x 17″ Butcher Tray and this has been a game changer! I used to leave my EPP handwork and tools scattered all over the coffee table. It wasn’t a great system to begin with, but it really didn’t work once we adopted our dog, Casey. Since the tray is metal, I can keep a magnet inside for my needle and all of my thread, scissors and thread conditioner stays inside. Plus, I can arrange all of my paper pieces on the tray to keep organized.
14. Project Bags: I have a ton of these! I separate my projects into these zippered pouches and then just throw my tools and supplies in. They’re perfect for taking your EPP on the go. These clear, waterproof mesh bags are great!
I used to be one of those makers who worked in any lighting. All of that changed once I started using my Daylight LED Slimline. Not only does it produce great light, but it’s also nice looking and I love its modern aesthetic. I have two! The floor lamp version is by my couch and the tabletop version is over my sewing machine.
Do you have a tool or product recommendation that you love for EPP?
I’d love to hear about them. Please leave them in the comments below!