behind the scenes:
making the “Journeys Aren’t Straight Lines Quilt”

Last month, I had the honor of having two of my quilts on display at QuiltCon 2023, the annual juried quilt show of the Modern Quilt Guild, in Atlanta, Georgia. Today, I want to share a behind the scenes look at the designing and making of one of the quilts, Journeys Aren’t Straight Lines.

While the majority of the quilts I make are machine pieced, this quilt was hand pieced, using a technique called English Paper Piecing (EPP). Not familiar with this technique or want to learn more? I’ve got you covered—I’m including some EPP links and resources.

modern minimalist quilt with a dark background and a white curvy line moving around magenta, blue, and aqua circles with the designer and quilter in front of it
Journeys Aren’t Straight Lines on display at QuiltCon 2023, Atlanta, Georgia

When I first started designing this quilt, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted it to look like or how big it would be. I just knew I wanted to create something inspired by the twists and turns of life. My only design parameter going into the project was that it had to be pieced by hand. Normally, I use a machine for most of my quilts, but I wanted a project that was more portable for when I was traveling in the spring and summer of 2022.

After sketching out my initial design, I took to the computer and drafted a few blocks. To test out the initial placement of the blocks, I printed them out on basic paper and cut them out with scissors. Playing around with different arrangements was a lot of fun and informative. I loved seeing how the pieces fit together and how each little change impacted the overall look of the quilt. Here’s an early arrangement that I came up with:

paper cutouts of hexagon quilt blocks

After finalizing which block designs I’d be moving forward with and size, I decided to keep the color palette pretty simple. I wanted a single curvy line with lots of contrast, navigating around the circles, to be the star of the quilt. I did most of my fabric cutting and block basting in the Studio and much of the hand stitching while on the couch, sitting outdoors, or while traveling. That’s the beauty of handwork, specifically EPP, it’s SUPER portable and you don’t need a lot of supplies. 

tray of hexagon quilt blocks and supplies

Blocks accumulated over time, as I stitched them in the margins between workingon Whole Circle Studio quilt projects and other commitments. I started piecing blocks in early March 2022 and completed the last one and stitching them all together in mid August 2022.

a stack of hexagon English paper pieced blocks on a dark cutting mat

In the end, I made 272 hexagon blocks to piece the quilt, measuring 62″ x 57″ and then used my walking foot and a variety of Aurifil thread weights (12wt, 40wt, and 50wt) and colors to achieve the quilting.

densely quilted art piece. Dark background with magenta, aqua, and white curved lines

closeup of a densely quilted art piece. Dark background with magenta, aqua, and white curved lines

Want to give English Paper Piecing (EPP) a try?

It’s a really fun technique where you wrap fabric around a sturdy template (usually made of a lightweight cardstock), and then stitch the pieces together by hand. EPP is great for beginners, and it’s perfect for tackling tricky Y-seams and even curves!

Want to know the best part (other than it being portable)? Since you’re working with small pieces of fabric, EPP is an excellent way to use your scrap fabric stash .Once you’ve sewn all the pieces together, you simply remove the template and admire your beautiful quilt top. I hope you’ll give it a try!

To get you inspired, I have a section on my website dedicated to some FREE English Paper Piecing resources.

If you’re a member of the Modern Quilt Guild, you can watch a replay of my free Getting Started with English Paper Piecing webinar. 

EPP is super popular right now with lots of modern quilters. You can purchase standard shapes, like hexagons or diamonds, to use as templates and design your own quilt. There are also EPP patterns and template paper packs that you can purchase like the EPP version of my alphabet blocks, Typecast.
English paper piecing quilt supplies and alphabet blocks

Express Yourself with the Typecast English Paper Piecing (EPP) Complete Paper Pack + Pattern Guide!
This paper pack gives you everything you need to piece the entire English alphabet and any word orphrase you want. Paper templates can be reused over and over to make multiple quilt projects. Customize your own words and phrases to design your own quilted projects! Also included is the TypecastBlocks EPP Guide, walking you through making your own English Paper Pieced(hand-pieced) Typecast letters. 

Are you into EPP? Let me know below!

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