11 Fussy Cutting Tips for EPP


When it comes to English paper piecing, fussy cutting is something that really lights me up. There is something mystical that happens when EPP is combined with fussy cutting. New patterns emerge that didn't exist before.

Some really beautiful and dynamic kaleidoscopic effects can be achieved when combining fussy cutting with English paper piecing.

The fussy cutting tips I've included below will help you to achieve spectacular fussy cuts for your next English paper piecing project!



What is Fussy Cutting?

Fussy Cutting is a fabric cutting technique in which a very specific motif within a fabric is cut out precisely allowing you to showcase it in your quilt. This technique opens up a whole new dimension for EPP creativity.

By intentionally cutting fabric to feature a specific part of a design and then arranging those fabric cuts into an English paper piecing pattern, new and unexpected patterns emerge!



It's called 'fussy' cutting because of the selective way in which the fabric is cut. Rather than indiscriminately cutting out fabric, fussy cutting involves looking closely at a fabric's design and selecting sections or motifs within that design to highlight or emphasize within your English paper pieces.

It takes thought and planning to achieve a successfully fussy-cut English paper pieced project. So here are my eleven tips for fussy cutting fabric for English paper piecing to help you accomplish fussy cutting success.


11 Tips for Fussy Cutting Fabric


1. Measure Your Motifs

Keep in mind that various motifs on a given fabric may not be the exact same size or shape. Measure your motifs before cutting them out to make sure they will fit within the English paper piecing template you want to use them for.


2. Plan Your Fussy Cuts

Count the number of times you want the desired motif to repeat. Then make sure you have enough fabric with that motif. It's a good idea to purchase a bit of extra yardage just in case you might need it.



3. Reduce Fabric Waste

Look for a fabric that has multiple motifs you can use within the same piece of yardage. By cutting more than one motif from a fabric you can reduce the amount of fabric you waste.



4. Try Different Angles

Don't feel limited by the direction of the fabric grain when fussy cutting fabric. English paper piecing templates help stabilize the fabric so there's no need to worry about cutting a motif out on the bias. Once the fabric is basted to the EPP template, there will be minimal movement of the fabric grain and therefore minimal distortion.



5. Use Fussy Cutting Templates

When it comes to fussy cutting for EPP, it's important to get as accurate a cut as possible so that your motifs line up accurately once they're pieced together. To achieve the greatest accuracy you can use a fussy cutting template.


Learn how to make your own DIY Fussy Cutting Templates in this video...



6. Cut, Audition, and Play!

Don't be afraid to try out a few different motifs before settling on the design you like best for your quilt. Having plenty of fabric (see Tip #1) will allow you to play and experiment until you land on the motifs you like best.



7. Stay Organized

Cut out and baste all of your identical motifs at the same time. Then they'll be ready for stitching. I like to organize my fussy cut and basted English paper pieces in small baggies that I can easily toss into my travel sewing case for on-the-go stitching.



8. Accuracy Counts!

Cutting and basting with accuracy is key to getting the best results when piecing your fussy cut motifs. That's why I like using a Fussy Cutting Template for all of my fussy cutting (see Tip #5). It is also important to stitch as accurately as possible. Choosing the right needle for English paper piecing can really make a difference!


9. Shop your stash.

When you begin to look at your fabric stash with fussy cutting in mind you may be surprised by all the possibilities that already exist without you having to buy new fabric. Sometimes those 'ugly' fabrics that have been stuffed to the back are the best fabrics for fussy cutting.



10. Grow your stash.

The larger your fabric stash, the more options you'll have when choosing fabrics for your next English paper piecing project. Good fabric for fussy cutting includes fabrics that have any of the following features:

  • geometric designs
  • clearly defined borders around motifs
  • stripes or lines
  • small-scale motifs with frequent repeats

Keep this in mind the next time you're shopping for fabric.



11. Give the eye room to rest.

When laying out and planning your fussy cuts in your EPP pattern it's easy to fall into the trap of overdoing it. It can be tempting to want to use a fussy cut for every paper piece you come to. By using a solid fabric or solid-like fabric in among all the delicious fussy cutting, you can provide a place for the eye to rest and achieve a better balance in your work.


Can you see the difference a little resting space makes?


Let's Go Fussy Cut!

Now that you've read my fussy cutting tips for English paper piecing it's time to put what you've learned into practice. Choose a fussy-cutting-friendly pattern (like the one above) and have some fun selecting and fussy cutting your fabric!

You can get the pattern inside Meander, an online quilt guild featuring monthly workshops and guild meetings.

As a member, you'll also get access to the entire workshop library including several EPP workshops by fabric designer and English paper piecer, Giuseppe Ribaudo (Giucy Giuce). It's only $19 to join and you can cancel anytime!

Happy stitching!


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