Tips for using templates – English paper piecing and Appliqué.

Our Shape, Design and Pattern Packs are all packaged with the relevant information and instructions, please take time to read them first. Here’s just a few extra tips.

Preparation – Heat sensitive paper templates…

  1. Use a firm ironing board when ironing over seam allowances. For a mobile pressing board to take to workshops or when travelling, use a small fabric covered board with a layer of thin batting in between or a ½” cork placemat. Ideal if using a mini iron.
  2. If you don’t have a mini iron, consider investing in one. They are easier and therefore faster to manoeuvre, easier on your body and you will get better results with less effort. The silicone iron rest makes working convenient and safe.
  3. Use a glue stick to apply a small amount of glue in the middle of the uncoated side of the template and position it onto the wrong side of the fabric. This holds it in place while you are cutting out and ironing over the seam allowances. Also, if a template happens to pop it’s seam allowance while working, it will be held in place until you can secure it with the iron. I use the Sewline Glue Pen, please test other brands before use.

English paper piecing…

  1. If cutting multiple shapes from the same fabric, position them with a generous ½” between. This makes cutting out much faster as you only have to make one cut between the templates and for shapes that nest perfectly with each other there is no fabric wasted.
  2. Generally speaking I use a generous ¼” seam allowance as you do lose a bit in the turning over and it’s good to have a little extra to bond to the paper, not too much though especially on 1″ sided shapes as the last side folded over won’t have much paper exposed if the seam allowances are too wide.
  3. Generally if you are right-handed you would iron the seam allowances in an anti-clockwise direction, clock-wise for left-handers. Ironing the seam allowances in the same direction is particularly important when multiple templates meet, for example in the centre of a six pointed star. Shapes with corner angles less than 90 degrees create little seam allowance tails that protrude past the edge of the template. By ironing the seam allowances on all of the templates in the same direction these extended bits will lay flat in a spiral, reducing bulk.
  4. If you intend to applique your English paper piecing to a background or border fabric, then plan ahead to avoid having any seam allowance tails protruding past the outside edge.
  5. For English paper piecing use a whip stitch about 1/8″ apart, just catching 2-3 threads of the fabric along the edge. Avoid sewing into the templates, as doing so will make it difficult to remove them without damage.
  6. Avoid hand strain in the hand you use to hold the pieces while sewing. Do not clench the pieces too tightly, only hold them lightly and remember to take regular breaks.
  7. You can choose to combine some machine sewing with your English paper piecing. Some blocks can be partially machine pieced, English paper pieced blocks can be sewn together and to a border. If you are choosing to combine machine sewing with your English paper piecing, remember to leave those seam allowances unturned so you can sew using a flat seam.
  8. Generally English paper piecing templates can be removed as you go and reused. However, leave the templates in around the outer edge of the work until you have sewn them to the next design element, either more English paper piecing or appliquéing to a background or border fabric.


  1. I generally use a scant ¼” seam allowance for appliqué pieces, Having a slightly narrower seam allowance makes turning easier. Positioning the templates with the most curves on the bias of the fabric also makes turning easier.
  2. When appliquéing template pieces to a background, only catch the very edge of the fabric. Avoid sewing into the templates, as doing so will make it difficult to remove them without damage.
  3. For machine appliquéing, a machine that you can adjust the zig-zag stitch (or similar) down to a very narrow width is required. I have had good results with both zig-zag and blanket stitches on my machines.

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