Friday, 27 July 2012

Top Tips for Speedy EPP

I keep getting asked how I EPP so fast.  I don't know whether I EPP any faster than anyone else out there but I do have a few tips for getting your speed up if you're interested in going faster.  For some people, it's all about the process and speed is irrelevant.  I am the opposite; everything I do in quilting is based around getting to finish what I'm making as soon as possible so I can move onto the next idea in my head.  So scream if you want to go faster and read on...


1.   Start with good scissors.  I use Korbond Professional Dressmaking Scissors.  They are heavy, sharp and cut beautifully.  No more hacking away with one of a £1 set of scissors from Ikea for me.  It's a small detail but a decent pair of scissors cuts up the scraps quickly, easily and neatly.  And makes a nice  sound like in a fabric shop, where I sometimes pretend I'm working.

2.   Find a needle you love to work with.  This is a matter of personal preference and I can tell you what I use but you may find something else you prefer.  I like a really long, skinny and very slightly flexible needles and Clover's Sashico needles just work well for me.  Smaller needles make my hand cramp up for some reason.


3.   A decent thread makes ALL the difference. If you're stopping every three stitches to undo knots, the time you take to EPP will double.  I use Aurifil 50wt in cream.  In my experience a lighter colour thread will tangle less than a darker colour thread which I guess has something to do with the amount of dye applied to the thread.  You might prefer to switch to a darker thread if using darker fabrics but I quite like the look of the stitches - since I'm taking the time to hand sew, I may as well shout about it.  

4.   To minimise knots, thread the needle from the end of the thread that comes off the spool so that the knotted end is the one that was the closest to the spool.  Once threaded, run the thread through your fingers two or three times to reduce twisting.  Some people use wax or thread conditioner - I don't find I need them if using Aurifil. 


5.   Stitch eight stitches before pulling the long thread through (similar to loading stitches for hand quilting).  I noticed that, when hand sewing, the last few stitches on a thread are much faster than when the thread is really long because there's less pulling and more potential tangling.  So here's how to take advantage of that.  Sew one stitch and pull the thread through until you have (give or take) 8" of thread through the hole with all the rest staying behind.  Hold the thread remaining behind with a finger to keep it out of the way.  Sew eight stitches using just the short length of thread.  Now to pull the longer thread through.  Lay your hand over the long thread as you use your other hand to slide the thread through the eight stitches.  Laying your hand over the long thread will reduce the potential to tangle.  After some exhaustive and dorky testing, eight seems to be the optimum number.  Fewer and you're not going so fast.  More and the thread tends to snap.

6.   Sew fewer stitches per inch.  Around internetland, I've read how many stitches people use per inch and they use waaay more than me.  I sew at a rate of about 6 stitches per inch.  If you squint at this photo, you can see the number of stitches I use - each side of these lozenges is 1 1/2" long.  It looks nice and neat and it holds well.


6.   The rest of what I do in EPP may or may not be faster than anyone else.  I make my own templates printed off the home printer rather than buying templates.  I pin my templates rather than gluing them.  I stitch baste them through the paper rather than gluing or stitching not through the paper.  I remove the paper templates by unpicking the basting stitches using the blunt end of a needle.  I re-use papers.  All personal taste and no slower or faster than any other method I don't think.  Oh and I like to EPP in the courtyard off my kitchen where my husband and twin girls were sat last night reading their books with a nice glass of something.  I've just noticed my husband has come home from work, changed into shorts and left his socks on.  How very British (he's Welsh so this comment will wind him up).

51 comments:

  1. A great post - thank you, have just packed all my EPP bits ready for my holiday, I'll definitely be using these tips

    ReplyDelete
  2. great tips, lynne: thanks!
    but I still don't get it about the 8 stitches: doesn't it take a long time to pull the threat through those 8 stitches or is there something I don't understand? (tutorial in a film, please?)
    Where are Nigel's sandals if he's so British?
    Glad to see so many people reading, btw.
    xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have been doing a lot of EPPing this week too sitting outside in my garden in the evening after work. I will try that 8 stitch method you describe as I didn't know it. I don't know if I am fast or slow but I think I am one of those where speed doesn't matter. It's a funny one because when I machine stitch a quilt I am way more fussy about speed. So I guess hand stitching is for me more a relaxing past time. I also can't praise a good pair of scissors high enough !
    Btw wearing socks with shorts is a very German trade too..... oh yes. Best with white socks actually....

    ReplyDelete
  4. hehehe - the socks! We should be grateful that he isn't wearing sandals with them ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, Lynne - your point 4, about threading the needle with the end that came off the spool - this is the end which I just cut? This is what I do, but also that's the end which I pull right through and tie the knot in. Is that what you do, or would it be better to knot the end which came first off the spool? Thanks for your blog - I enjoy every post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good tips Lynne. I print my templates onto freezer paper which then irons on beautifully to the fabric and is especially good for fussy cutting.If careful, you could re-use.
    (Hope husband doesn't wear sandals with those socks...)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well he hasn't got the knotted hanky on his head yet - or is that just Monty Python?

    Great tips and I am quite quick at stitching but actually enjoy the different pace of hand stitching!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the tips. Not been happy with stitching together part in the past so I am encouraged to have another go. I have alot of shapes already tacked so maybe I should take them on holiday with me. L

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well I was reading this post thinking, yeh so what, doesn't concern me as I CANNOT sew. Then you go and fling in that lovely photo of N, E and A and i'm reaching for the tissues for some reason. I'm sure I never used to cry this much?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great tips thanks Lynne. I had to giggle at the photo of your husband. That is totally how we spot British tourists here in NZ, the socks and shorts give them away every time!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Fab tips, although I got a laugh at the socks in that pic ;o)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great tips - exactly what I do apart from the less stitches per inch (I'll be doing that now too, thanks!).

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great tips - exactly what I do apart from the less stitches per inch (I'll be doing that now too, thanks!).

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great tips Lynne. I actually like to take my time when hand stitching, but I'll certainly try everything to make life easier. I am one of those that does way more stitches than you - will try to cut down but I would worry that the seam isn't so secure. And they are sooooo neat.

    Love the photo of the family - if he wore sandals too he could be czech!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yeah had to laugh at the socks thing ;-) I meant to ask you. I bought my first ever spool of Aurifil - a medium sized cream 50wt and thought this would be fab for EPP as it's so fine and I've found it one of the worse thread I've used. It's great for not tangling and I've tried using different kinds of needles but it seems to have a tendency to shred and fray. Do you think I just got a faulty spool? :-o

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh what a great and very timely post! I have Sashiko needles (always thought they would be too big!) and Aurifil (thanks FQ!) - just need the shady courtyard instead of ridiculously hot and dusty terrace and I`m there. BTW, didn`t notice the socks - just that adorable cuddle :-)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for sharing! I sure will give this a try!

    We’re complete opposites in EPP. I glue baste my papers, I use the thinnest and longest applique needles to stitch (maybe that’s why I end up with so many holes in my fingers), 18 stitches on 2" and I use my Aurifil thread the other way around. It’s just how I learned it in a workshop from Australian Sue Daley.

    What a lovely spot to relax before dinner (and after of course). Love those socks, it’s a very common outfit here too, socks and shorts, as soon as the sun comes out!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Great to see a family (or part of it) relaxing and reading .... the socks thing transfers to the Scots and Ulstermen too - DH has a thing about sunburn and especially sunburnt feet and my Dad - we being a redhead (in the past) the sun was an enemy ...
    I've now picked my hand sewing holiday project - something a little more improv than your beautiful lozenges

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is very useful as I have started to EPP recently in the hot weather! Thanks for the tips! Love the pic :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Ahhh I do waaaay more stitches per inch... wont anymore!!
    ps children with father, on patio, reading... how posh can you get!!! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Awww, look at them all curled up with a book - so sweet! One of these days I'm going to give EPP another go and see if I like it more (I know, it's like blasphemy!) and I'll be using this post as my EPP bible!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Great tips! And nice socks.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks for the tips! Pulling out my hexies to try the 8stitch process. It makes since to do.it this way. :) I find shorter thread keeps the tangles at a minimum, too.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Ok...I do all of the above but 2....I will now switch my thread and not worry about waxing and I'll try the less stitches per inch.

    I really love the lozenger template....think that might be in my future!

    What a wonderful backyard....perfect for relaxing family time....you go girl!:)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Loving to see things on EPP, I am just so infatuated with it, and cannot find enough on it on the web. I have just ordered as many books on it as I can find, and want tons of patterns to look at to find just the right one to get me started again. I am just about finished hand quilting my hexagon quilt, but need to get another project going. I love EPP!! It is so relaxing, and I can take it anywhere. There really needs to be so much more about it out there on the web. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  26. I've been basting my hexies and will be doing that for a while, but when I start assembly, I'm going to try your methods. I love the pace of hand-sewing. There's a zen to it I really enjoy that I didn't realize I would. Thanks for the tips!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Great tips! I definitely am going to switch to less stitches per inch!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thank you for the tips. I don't bother to knot the thread, just take two stitches in the same place.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Your family in the courtyard is now I remember summer! Lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Great EPP tips ... totes there with 'pretending to work in a fabric shop' thing ... I have my mother's dressmaking scissors and ooh that lovely sound!

    I use Aurifil when I have it, but I just discovered a bobbin type thread - cue quivers full of arrows *pting ptang* - It's not cotton it's evil polyester. But it works for me. Superior Threads Bottom Line (60wt !!) ... It's so so fine, v v strong and works well with milliners or fine sashiko needles. Eurgh I sound like an infomercial ... sorry!

    I think that repetitive action is also important in EPP, like chain piecing ... I construct multiple little blocks of two or max three pieces and then assemble a block or two at a time ...

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thanks for the tips. ... Will definitely have fewer stitches per inch :)
    Lovely photo of the family - white socks and sandles? could be Norwegian, too :-) (have now got DH to wear those short ankle socks in the summer, can't see them so well .. Haha)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks, Lynne, for this very informative post. I did many, many hexes in the seventies, can't understand how you can fold the fabric accurately if you don't stitch through the papers as you do. I like your tip about the needles - I usually start with a straight needle but find it works better as it gets more curvy. The tip about doing eight stitches before pulling through sounds interesting - definitely going to try it. I've got some three-quarter inch hexes printed on card from the wonderful Internet, so thanks for that tip too. I like your patchwork at the top of the post. Thanks again for all these tips.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Oh, Lynne, you are my guru in so many, many things! This is such a great post. I'm so SO behind in my reading and am going to check every single one of your archived posts. Because I know for sure I have missed on valuable information in the last three weeks. You totally rock!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Too few stitches per inch and you'll see your beautiful work go down the drain. I stitched a whole quilt at about 6 per inch and I've already noticed where some of my patches are loosening and even coming apart completely. :(

    ReplyDelete
  35. Some great tips. Thank-you it's often the basic things that are overlooked.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Oh wow I do so many more stitches. I guess I need to loosen up a bit.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Some great tips there!

    I have no idea how many stitches I use at all I guess I just work through them quickly as I chain baste them then chain stitch into pairs.
    I too make my own templates. I make one keep it then use all the scrap paper I can find to make the templates, wastes a lot less ink =D

    ReplyDelete
  38. Oh lordy, all I can see are those socks!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thanks for the tips, one of these days I'll give EPP a try...

    ReplyDelete
  40. thanks for the tips! i need to employ the less stitches per inch, i think that would save me oodles of time...hahaha...

    i also like to do my hand sewing and embroidery with long, sharp, thin needles. i found some fabulous ones here: http://jeanakimballquilter.com/store/embroideryneedles.html (link right to the embroidery ones). i have used both size 7 (the longest) and size 9. both the 7 and 9 needles are longer and and slimmer than the sashico needles i have from clover. just another option if you ever feel like trying others. :)

    and i love the pic of your family all reading!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thanks for the tips especially the one about working "with a short thread" looking forward to trying it out. Also never used Sashiko needles so may give them a go. I use Kay Buckley scissors both sizes as cut beautifully with no fraying.
    DH does not want cold feet - very understandaable coming from Wales.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I thank you for the tips..I bought a pattern and it appears to be EPP...what was I thinking? I will give it a try. Maybe it will be a good project to tuck in my bag for a road trip.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Thanks for this! I had lots of hand cramping while doing sashiko embroidery for an online class recently - now I see it is because my needle was too short.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Thanks for all the tips. I'm still working on my hexalong. It's lap sized now, but I decided to make it a queen sized quilt. Best get my finger moving.

    Bobbie Schneider

    ReplyDelete
  45. You're a legend Lynne, thanks so much. Really appreciate the tip about the stitches per inch and not pulling the thread through til after 8 stitches. I have started on the Hexy MF - my first ever EPP - and I am just so slow. I'm still on less than 10 flowers, and am trying not to be psyched out by all the awesome instagram pics of rapidly-growing piles of finished flowers. And that's with glue-basting in the first place ... (am not really psyched out, have given in to the 'slow' but really would like to pick up the pace a bit, as I do love a finish). thanks again, and for sharing the lovely family pic, Cat

    ReplyDelete
  46. All great tips, thank you! Apart from the socks that is the nicest family picture! How lovely to all sit round and read :)

    ReplyDelete
  47. Ahh I love to see a family who reads (I work in a library, heehee!). Great info Lynne, I love to see who others do their epp. xo

    ReplyDelete
  48. Thank you Lynne. I think I am making WAY too many stitches and love the look of yours. Time for a change.

    ReplyDelete
  49. i think it was a video of you doing EPP that convinced me to decrease to 8-10 stitches per inch. i still cringe when i think that my first EPP project was 20-30(!!!) stitches per inch. i don't know what in the heck i was thinking. my thumb hurts just thinking about it.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I am feeling a :bit: more relaxed.. I want to do the Traveling pic show so I am studying, I want to make a piece by the due date for my son that got married, I am using Kona Modern Berry. Any suggestions for me??

    ReplyDelete
  51. I've just found this blog and I love it especially the shorts and socks. If I could I would send you a photo of my husband Emlyn he is the spitting image of your husband and as you can probably tell we are both Welsh.
    Gwenda

    ReplyDelete

Comment away peeps :-)