‘Paper piecing’ is often confused with ‘English Paper Piecing’. However, the techniques used are entirely different! Paper Piecing is simply a type of ‘Foundation Piecing’.
In Paper Piecing a design is drawn directly on a sheet of paper (the foundation), usually a quilt block or part of a design, the fabric patches placed on top of the paper and then stitched in place by sewing machine using the stitch-and-flip method. The paper foundation is torn away when the block is complete.
‘English Paper Piecing’ on the other hand is a pure hand-sewing method – no sewing machine is required. Here the pattern is worked with individual paper pieces which are each covered with the desired fabrics and then sewn together into intricate patterns by hand using a whip-stitch or over-sew method. The paper pieces do not remain in the project but are removed once a shape is sewn in on all sides.
Both techniques have their merits, as both enable the creation of stunning quilts, sewing very complicated patterns with high accuracy.
The main advantage of English Paper Piecing is the fact that it is a very low-tech technique where few tools are needed, thus making EPP projects very ‘portable’. In addition, hand-sewing itself is seen by many as having a positive benefit on their overall wellbeing. The technique itself is easy to learn and only little tuition is needed to achieve great results.
(Foundation) Paper Piecing on the other hand is quite complicated and can be very challenging, particularly for a beginner in sewing. This method is best learned in a workshop under expert tuition.