Friday, 15 October 2010

P is for Patchwork

P is for Patchwork

Patchwork is a process of sewing pieces of fabric together by hand or machine to create a larger piece of cloth.

Initially, patchwork was used for reasons of economy, and because patchwork quilts were made from recycled fabrics that were already worn out, few early examples survive. However, it was really in the USA that patchwork became textile art. Blocks were typically used to construct patchwork quilts as they are more portable and can be easily stored until enough have been made for the entire project. Originally, there was no attempt at creating a pattern in patchwork, but as the decorative aspect was realised, geometric shapes were organised into patterns. Common shapes in patchwork are hexagons, squares, triangles and diamonds.

Patchwork can be assembled using a sewing machine, or by hand using a technique known as "paper piecing". This is where fabric is wrapped around pieces of paper to help it keep its shape, making it easier to handle and join together.

In any patchwork that uses geometric shapes, first make templates to ensure all the patches are exactly the same. Use separate templates for paper and fabric.

Press all the creases out of the fabrics you plan to use and lay on a flat surface. Using the fabric template, cut out as many fabric patches as you will need for your patchwork pattern. Using the paper template which should allow for about a 1/4 inch seam allowance on the fabric, cut out an equal number of paper patches. Pin each paper patch into the centre of the wrong side of the fabric patch, then fold the fabric edges over and secure with basting stitches.
Even if you have already decided on a pattern, it's a good idea to lay out the patches before joining them together just to ensure you have as many as you will need.

To join, place two patches face to face and stitch over the top of the fold using a whipstitch.

When all the patches are joined, remove the basting stitches and the paper and construct the rest of the quilt as normal.

To assemble patchwork using a machine, use a template to cut out the fabric patches or use a quilter's ruler and a rotary cutter to cut several from a strip. There is no need to wrap the fabric around pieces of paper, as the patchwork can be joined in smaller sections that are then joined to each other to make the whole.

Patchwork is not confined to quilting although that is where it is most prevalent. Cushions, tablecloths, clothing and children's toys can all be made using patchwork.

About me: I am Kenyan and have lived in Scotland for the past seven years. I have a keen interest in all forms of stitched textiles, particularly quilting and patchwork, and mydesigns are heavily influenced by my heritage. To find out more about me, please visit my blog (, where you can find day-to-day accounts of ongoing projects, or my website ( to see some finished work.


Tracey said...

Great blog post! I love paper piecing... and if you want to make it super easy try using die cut freezer paper pieces. They iron right to your fabric then you can trim 1/4" around the edges. You can peel and reuse them multiple time too. I have them in 2" 3" and 4" hexagon sizes. Makes life much easier.

Emma Thomsen said...

I love your sewing ABC, paper patchwork reminds me of my dear Grandma. She taught me when I was tiny, so that was a loooong time ago! :)

The Sewing Directory said...

Glad you're all enjoying the ABC of sewing, I'm trying to rack my brains as to what to do next. I've really enjoyed having guest bloggers so want to do something like that again.

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel

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