Nothing Wrong With Being Fussy

Fussy Cutting and Pattern Matching in EPP (English Paper Piecing)

So first things first - I don't class myself as an EPP professional - I do occasionally teach it and design epp patterns BUT mainly I love doing it and I'm seeing a lot of people taking it up or going back to it during this lockdown we are all in - I mean epic right? So I wanted to refresh this older blog post from a couple of years ago when I became involved with a sew-along on Instagram hosted and organised by Naomi Clarke (@naomialicec - go visit her on there she’s awesome) - It was a year long sew along with a theme each month and an instruction each week. Now fussy cutting was a big part of this sew-along pattern matching featured as an instruction. A lot of followers wanted a little help and guidance with it - it is frustrating as hell sometimes and when you haven't a clue on how to even start it suddenly makes a simple craft seem unobtainable. So please read on!

Pattern matching is tricky - it always will be - but I offered to try and write up a tutorial on how I personally do my pattern matching within the fussy cutting arena. I’m not saying that my way is the best way - just that this is how I get my results. And I beg your pardon if I'm talking to you like you know nothing - I figure it's best to write as if my readers are complete beginners then everyone can join in.

The tools you use for epp are important and help you get the best results. For all my epp work I use the following (including links to where you can purchase the same or similar)


As pointed out - and quite rightly so - by The Sewing Space in the comments below I neglected to mention how these pens work. They have two elements that make them work. They use gel ink that reacts to heat. A hot iron will activate the heat sensitive ink and make it look as though it has disappeared - when in actual fact it's reaction to the heat has caused the ink to change colour from black to white. All great when you're working with light fabrics but troublesome when using dark ones as there is a high probability of seeing the "ghost" lines when ironed. I have had great success with these pens and when using a darker fabric and needing to mark on the right side have used dashed lines to help and ironed with steam to remove. But you can mark safely on the reverse of dark and light fabrics with no worry about seeing the ghost lines. Always best to test a small area to see if you are happy with the results! For a bit more information from someone who has done their research on these pens follow THIS LINK

Let’s start shall we? BTW you can click on any of the images to enlarge them.

So you have fabric with a particular motif/pattern that you like enough to chop up in to 7 pieces and stitch back together again - I know - crazy huh?! I say 7 because this tutorial is about hexagon flowers which are made up of 7 hexagons. First let’s look at your fabric choices. For the best fussy cutting experience you need - ideally - a fabric with a small pattern repeat. Not only that but you need enough of it and to be ready to lose possibly a third or even a quarter of your fabric piece! Fussy cutting with pattern matching thrown in uses up a fair chunk of fabric!

So back to pattern repeat - a common size of pattern repeat is 10 inches - usually in a square, this isn’t the best size as you end up with holes all over your fabric and some patchwork sized pieces left over. But there are times when you may just totally love that fabric with the massive pattern repeat and you don’t care how it gets used - it’s all very personal! Ideally you want a much smaller repeat - 3 inches is a brilliant size - you invariably get way more emblems and motifs and don’t end up with masses of wasted fabric.

Take a look at my fabrics so you can see what I mean.

3 inch pattern repeat

(above) 3 inch pattern repeat

6.5 inch pattern repeat

(above) 6.5 inch pattern repeat

10 inch pattern repeat

(above ) 10 inch pattern repeat

15 inch pattern repeat

(above) 15 inch pattern repeat

As you can see from these fabric choices - pattern repeat is something to be taken seriously. The 3" is perfect, the 6.5" is still good, the 10" is getting in to fabric-eating territory with patchwork sized pieces of fabric left and lastly, the 15" just isn't worth it! The repeat is way too big and chances are you are going to need a metre of this just to get enough to do one small hexie flower - save this type of fabric for stand alone motif fussy cutting.

So now we’ve selected our perfect fabric I’m going to try and demonstrate how I split my motifs up and re-join them!

Step 1. Look at your fabric - really look at it. Where does the emblem cut off? Where does it start above the raw edge? Are there usable sections on the edge even though the emblem is incomplete? Chances are you have usable pattern even from the edges - never waste fabric if you can avoid it!

Step 2. Select your paper piece size - I’m using a ¾ inch hexagon - and I don’t have an acrylic template either so I’m doing mine slightly blind - I will try and do a post using a template another time.

Step 3. Choose your section you want to replicate into a hexie flower - lay all your paper pieces over to see how much of the pattern you are capturing and adjust as necessary.

Step 4. Remove all the outer petals and leave the centre. I find it’s always best to get the centre one done first. Make note of where it sits on the pattern - what elements are protruding from the paper? Now pick your emblem to get started with - I’m using the edge area. Lay your paper down in the spot you need it to be and using an iron away pen (or whichever marking tool you use) draw around your hexagon. Now using a ruler mark a quarter inch around that hexagon you’ve just drawn - this is your seam allowance for wrapping around your papers.

Step 5. Cut your hexagon out - on the outer line - and wrap your hexagon. This is now going to be your guide for the rest of the flower.


Step 6. Place your wrapped centre hexie on to another motif and line it up carefully - look straight down on to your work so you can be accurate. Now lay another paper piece next to it in the position that best suits your fabric allowance. When you are happy that you’ve lined up the two hexies - very carefully remove the centre wrapped one out of your way - keep a finger on the unwrapped one, now draw around this one like you did the centre hexie and add your seam allowance again.

(click on the images to enlarge them)

Step 7. Using this same technique you can trace all your other petals. The iron away pen allows you to write on the fabric so you can make a note of which petal goes where so you can keep them straight.

Step 8. Now you have all your hexagon petals marked out - go ahead and cut them - CAREFULLY!!! Try and be precise when cutting those lines - it will help enormously!

Step 9. Turn your fabric petal pieces over right sides down. You are now going to mimic those guide lines you did earlier on the reverse - this is so you can better line up your paper pieces.

Using whatever method you use to keep your fabric in place while you wrap you can now wrap each piece. I use a either a Sewline glue pen (or the same by Prym- both work the same) a little bit in the centre of each paper piece while I line it up inside the marked area - and then wrap the hexagon.

(click on the images to enlarge them)

TIP: Sometimes a light can help you see the original lines you made when lining up your hexagon. You can use a table lamp, a window (if in the day of course!) or if you are a fan of gadgets like me then a inexpensive lightbox can be very useful. Keep checking as you go along that your pattern is matching up - if it isn’t now is the time to shift your fabric if you need to a little - before we sew it together.


Hopefully after all the wrapping you have a hexie flower looking a little like this?........


Having good quality thread and a fine needle will help you no end - quilting clips are quite useful too!

Line up each edge that you are joining - you are checking that the two corner edges of each hexagon meet exactly and that your pattern meets - so when you put your hexies right sides together you still want to ensure that the corner edges meet. (top left image)

Look at the pattern on the thin edges when you have two hexies together - you’ll likely see that the lines of the pattern don’t meet and look irregular - this is normal!! More often than not this edge won’t match - and try not to get distracted by this - these two edges are basically another 2mm of surface area so your pattern will be continuing on but just concentrate on the outer edges as your method of matching.

(click on the images to enlarge them)

Using fine stitches and not pushing your needle in too deep will also help with your pattern matching - too deep a stitch may join your hexies a bit lower down on the top edge and therefore change the joining point and throw your pattern out.

Stitch your hexies flower together in whatever order you would normally. Then iron your flower to remove the pen lines.


Let’s face it - we are only human and there will always be a level of imperfection when tackling something so intricate - we aren’t using die cut machines to get accuracy and we have to take things like eyesight, lighting, tools available and dexterity in to consideration.

BUT if you find your pattern isn’t matching up there is a little wiggle room - this is why we check as we go along.

In my photo above you can see my lines aren’t right - so I’ve gently peeled away two of the flaps from the left outer edge and pulled the fabric further on to the back of that piece and re-glued it. Now you can see it lines up much better!

(click on the images to enlarge them)

Hopefully you’ve ended up with a pretty good hexie flower - don’t worry if it’s not perfect - like I said we’re only human - and like anything else that’s not always immediately easy it will take a bit of practise, patience and perseverance.


Please contact me if you have any questions about what I’ve written here - either leave a comment or find me on instagram (username @amber_chromatic) and I will try and help in anyway I can!

#fussycutting #epp #englishpaperpiecing #hexagons #patternmatching #precision #perseverance

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