Yahoo! It’s finally time to kick off the Butterfly Effect Sew Along! Thank you all so much for supporting me and my work and joining in this SAL. I hope you find as much enjoyment in learning this process and sewing up this piece as I have. Creating this pattern was a labor of love, as are all my patterns, but in a very different way that made my brain hurt at times. It was totally worth it though, because I absolutely love the results and am glad you do, too! If you have not purchased the pattern yet, you can do so here.
A few notes before we get started…
I know many of you are new to English Paper Piecing and that some are intimidated by the size of the pieces in this pattern, but don’t fear! My goal with this sew along is to share a wealth of knowledge with you that I have learned from others and have figured out myself as I learned EPP, and to walk you through every step of the process in detail to really help you feel comfortable and master the art of EPP! This is a project that requires time and patience (like every EPP project!) and maybe a little practice, but it will be worth it! Even if you are experienced in EPP, I recommend you check out my tips and tutorials because it’s always possible to learn a new trick or way of doing things that feels better for you or may simply work differently for a different type of project.
I will be putting out a lot of information throughout the sew along in text, photos and videos and I recommend that you read through all of it carefully, maybe more than once! We are definitely in a time where we are used to processing small bits of data that are thrown at us in emails or on social media, and sometimes we are in such a hurry that we skip over things or miss information when reading a few paragraphs. I *often* get asked questions about things that are clearly covered in blog posts and social media posts simply because people miss the information. I will try to be clear and concise and label sections accordingly throughout the posts so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. You also don’t want to miss information about photo prompts and giveaways!
If at any point you feel stuck or need some additional help, I recommend checking out the Sew Along Facebook group. You can ask questions and you can search for topics or key words to see if someone else has already been discussing a specific topic. It’s also a great place to share your own personal knowledge and tips and tricks that have worked for you! I also encourage you to post on Instagram with the #ButterflyEffectPatternSAL hashtag where you can ask questions and check out what others in the sew along are up to. If you are not on social media, you can always email me, though I may be a bit slow in responding compared to the other methods mentioned above, but I am always happy to lend personal assistance so please never hesitate!
If you would like a brief overview of the entire EPP process and to learn more about all the tools I’ll be using and referencing throughout the sew along, you can check out my Beginner’s Guide to EPP blog post here.
Before we jump in to week one, I want to share the SAL schedule again:
This week we’ll be working on project planning, pulling fabrics, and prepping our basting papers. Week two, May 10, I will dive into cutting fabric using templates (acrylic or printed) and basting the fabric to the paper pieces. You can select a few sections (or as many as you’d like!) to start with to get comfortable with the process. Week three, May 17, we will start piecing all those bits together and then you will continue to work at your own pace for a few weeks until I share some finishing details toward the end of the sew along. I will have photo prompts for you to share your progress on social media and/or via email as we go, as well as prizes along the way for doing so!
During every step of the SAL, you can select just a few pieces to work on or practice with, or you can work through as much of the pattern as you’d like. There is no timeline or obligation to complete anything or get to a certain point at any time. All of this information will remain here for you access and review. If you are waiting for supplies to arrive, you can print a few papers and templates from the pattern file to begin with or use for practice as we go. You are welcome to work at your own pace throughout the sew along.
Week One – Let’s Get Started!
PART ONE: PLANNING
The first step is to plan your project and select fabrics. I don’t know about you, but this is my favorite part of any project. I love coloring and playing with fabric combinations, then I have a reallllly hard time deciding which way to go and usually end up overwhelmed to inaction… so don’t be like me! 🙂
Everyone has their own methods of planning and for me it is usually a multi-step process. I start with a coloring page and you can find one on page three of the pattern file. Sometimes I play with color on the computer, but I really love sitting down with paper and colored pencils to get some rough ideas in place first.
Sometimes I have a bundle of fabric that I know I want to use, so it’s a matter of figuring out how. That was the case for this pattern. Other times I begin with colors and then select fabrics to match the palette I want.
This bundle of Tula Pink True Colors showed up as I was finishing this pattern and I knew I had to use it. I played around with various combinations of a rainbow gradient and color placements for the butterflies and moths and then figured out how many different fabrics I would need to fit my color plan.
Here are some of the options I considered before deciding on the bottom right as the final for the pattern sample. I really loved them all and chose the one I did because I thought about different uses for this mini quilt and if making it into a pillow, I wanted there to be more even color distribution and was worried that the purple corners on the two left options would get lost wrapping around the edges of a pillow. I also loved the movement of the final version, it just keeps your eye fluttering around like butterflies do in nature.
Once I finalized my color and layout, I figured out how many different fabrics I needed and began pulling from my bundle. When I’m selecting fabrics, I always try to lay them out in a way that relates to the placement in the pattern to really give me a good idea of how they will look. So, in this instance, I focused on the center ring of butterflies and moths and laid out my fabrics in a similar ring.
I had no less than two dozen variations of this. I took photos of each and would look at them, then look again, look and squint my eyes, flip it around and look again, text seventeen options to seven friends and then ignore all their suggestions. You know how it goes. From here, it was time to begin. I made all the butterflies and moth and placed them in a ring, only to decide that I didn’t love the purples I chose and ended up going to a different option I had previously ruled out.
An important thing to remember is that sometimes you can only plan so much before you have to jump in and see what you think. You can always make changes. This is partly why I often will create small chunks of any project to make sure I love where it’s going before jumping in and creating all of the pieces.
While many of you are making similar rainbow versions, I have seem some amazing pieces popping up that use a very limited number of fabrics and have all the butterflies in the same colors/fabrics. Below on the left is a version I mocked up using Sharon Holland’s Kismet collection and I think it is stunning! I’m currently beginning a second Butterfly Effect using Art Gallery Fabrics Flower Society collection and I can’t wait to show you. On the right is a piece in progress by Erica Texhecks (@Texhecks), isn’t it gorgeous?
Here you can see that Anna Kenna (@thespottedoctopus on Instagram) is up to something super cool with her gigantic layout and monochrome rings!
For this project, I recommend standard weight quilting cotton or lightweight alternative substrates such as silk or rayon. Because of the size of some pieces, I do not recommend any heavier fabrics such as linens, Essex or canvas.
PHOTO PROMPT & giveaway!
During week one, post a photo (or photos) of your coloring page and/or fabric pull for your Butterfly Effect! You can do so on Instagram or Facebook and use the hashtag #ButterflyEffectPatternSAL. If you are not on social media, you can email your photo to me.
Everyone who shares a photo is eligible to win one of this week’s prizes of an EPP sewing kit from Stash Fabrics or an Invisafil thread pack from Wonderfil! Winners will be drawn at random and announced on Thursday, May 6.
Part two: prepping your papers (and organization!)
English Paper Piecing is a method of hand sewing where you stabilize your fabric on heavy paper (or cardstock) before sewing them together. The papers you use are cut to the exact size and shape as the pieces in the finished pattern and you cut your fabric 1/4″ (or 3/8″ at times) larger than your papers using templates. The extra 1/4″ of fabric wraps around your paper and becomes your seam allowance, just as you would have with traditionally pieced or hand sewn quilt blocks. Papers are essential to EPP and with this pattern you can either print your own or you can order a laser cut set from Pink Door Fabrics. The pattern includes directions for how to print and cut your papers.
If you choose to cut your own papers, don’t be intimidated by the number of pieces. You can cut a few at a time as you go for what you need, or you can cut them all at once. I use a fairly standard 110lb index weight card stock that I purchase for $6 for 150 sheets at Walmart and I run it through my black and white laser printer. You can also take the pattern file to a copy shop or office supply store and have them print the paper pages on card stock for you.
The papers remain in place while stitching your piece together and often until the entire piece is complete. I will talk about this in more detail during upcoming weeks. You will remove the papers after piecing by carefully lifting seams and releasing your basting (lifting glue or snipping stitches) with a small tool such as a seam ripper, tiny crochet hook, awl, purple thang etc. Sometimes people will punch a hole in their papers to have a place to insert a small tool and “pop” the papers out. I have never found this method to be especially helpful myself, especially with smaller pattern pieces such as those in Butterfly Effect. I typically use a seam ripper and make myself comfortable on the couch! If you have ever done Foundation Paper Piecing, it’s a similar process of removing your paper after you are done sewing.
If you are gentle when piecing and removing your papers, you can often times reuse them or pass them on to someone else to use.
The next thing I’m going to talk about is KEY to making this project smooth and successful – organization!
There are several shapes and a lot of tiny pieces in this pattern, but don’t let that scare you! Spending a little time up front to keep your pieces organized and taking some steps to ensure they are easy to work with will be invaluable down the road. One very important thing I will refer to multiple times throughout the sew along is orientation of your pieces. Some of the shapes look symmetrical, but are not, and some shapes will need to be used in various orientations, so it’s important to pay attention to this at every step and I will talk about how to do this.
If you are printing and cutting your own papers, you can skip to the organization section. If you ordered a laser cut paper piece set from Pink Door Fabrics, this next part is for you!
You will receive 16 sheets as shown above from Pink Door. There are four each of four different sheets. This includes all the pieces needed to create the full Butterfly Effect Pattern plus some extras of each piece. The pieces are perforated and pop out easily, though take care with extra pointy corners as to not tear them.
The pieces are laser cut and etched, so there may be some light residue from the laser on the sheets. It is not harmful and can be brushed off with a dry towel, if desired, to avoid getting residue on your fingers and fabrics.
One of each different sheet has the paper piece letters etched into every piece as a guide for helping to familiarize you with the shapes and assist with direction and placement. The letters and placement on the paper pieces match all the diagrams in the pattern file. Each subsequent sheet has only one of each piece labeled to assist with sorting.
I recommend writing in the letters on each blank piece or keep at least one paper piece with a letter unused to use a reference as you work. You can also always reference the template pages in the pattern PDF if you get confused on the orientation of a shape. Some shapes are very similar to others, such as H and I, and P, S & K. Also pieces A and R look symmetrical but are ever so slightly unsymmetrical, so you need to be sure you are using them in the proper orientation for all your pieces to fit together.
I begin any EPP project by sorting and organizing all of my papers and I do this with small zip top bags and stickers!
I like to create two sets of labeled bags – one is used for holding all my paper pieces and the second is used for holding my templates, fabric cuts and basted pieces.
For this project, I used 3″x4″ bags and small stickers for holding my paper pieces. This pattern has 19 shapes labeled A thru S, so I first affixed the stickers to the bags and then punched out my paper pieces and bagged them accordingly.
For the second set of bags to hold my templates, fabrics and basted pieces, I used larger 4″x6″ bags, because they will need to hold more, and I used big fun stickers that are easy to see.
I purchased my bags and stickers at Hobby Lobby, though you can find them in many stores such as Walmart (if they have a craft section), Joann Fabrics, Michaels or your local craft store. Small bags can often be found in the jewelry supply section.
I’m working on a few different versions of this pattern at once, so I created multiple sets of bags and used different stickers for each version to help keep them sorted. My free Mini Maker Case pattern is perfect for storing all your baggies and parts, too! You could also punch a hole in each bag and put them on a binder ring or in a cute pouch. I have some oil slick vinyl that is calling my name and I may need to make some!
This wraps up the content for week one! Your goal this week is to plan your project, select fabrics and begin organizing your papers, if desired! Remember to share your progress for a chance to win this week’s prizes! Winners will be selected at random on Thursday, May 6.
Next week we will begin cutting our fabrics and basting them to the paper pieces. We will be using templates to cut our fabric pieces and just like the paper pieces, you will find printable pages in the pattern file or you can order acrylic templates from Pink Door Fabrics. I will talk about how to use both of these options for cutting and if you’d like a little preview to help you decide which route is best for you, you can check out this Instagram post where I talk a bit about templates.
See you next week! ~ Nicole
WEEk TWO – Templates, cutting & basting!
Part one: templates
Hello, friends! It’s week two of the Butterfly Effect Sew Along and today I’m going to talk about templates, cutting fabric and basting your fabric to the papers. Last week I discussed how we use papers for EPP and I briefly touched on templates. Today I will cover the various types of templates you can use and how to use them.
Templates are used to accurately cut fabric pieces with a specific seam allowance to fit the papers. Many EPP patterns have a 3/8″ seam allowance, but because of the smaller size of the pieces in this pattern, the Butterfly Effect templates have a 1/4″ seam allowance. Templates are not *necessary* for an EPP pattern because you can use your paper piece and trace a 1/4” or 3/8” seam allowance all the way around and then cut it, but templates do make the process much quicker and easier, and are especially useful for fussy cutting which is common with EPP. Fussy cutting is when you target and cut a specific design from a piece of fabric for intentional placement of said design and you can create some really fun effects by doing it!
My Butterfly Effect pattern includes printable templates which are the white pieces you see above or you can order clear acrylic templates from Pink Door Fabrics, also shown above. There are two options available for template sets from Pink Door. One includes a full set of templates for every piece of the pattern and the second is a mini set which includes acrylic templates for the butterfly and moth wings. You would then print and cut the other templates yourself. A third option is to trace the templates from the pattern file onto template plastic and cut them out.
On both templates (printable or acrylic) you will see an inside line – this indicates the final size of the basted shape as used in the pattern. The space outside of it is the seam allowance. In the photo below, you can see the same fabric cut with the paper template and the acrylic template and the the corresponding paper placed on it.
If you are printing your own templates from the pattern, you can cut out this middle shape, as shown in the above photo bottom right, so that you can easily fussy cut your fabrics. If you are using solid fabric or non directional scattered prints, etc, you can keep the templates whole. If you are using the acrylic templates, will you arrange your fussy cut within the center space of the template and the seam allowance will be wrapped around the paper.
As noted on the top of page two of the pattern file, most of the templates (and papers) in this pattern will be used in the orientation that you see them on the page, as well as mirrored, meaning you will flip the template or paper over to use it. This is for all the symmetrical pieces in the pattern, such as all the wing pieces.
Before we get into cutting, I want to share a personal tip for those using acrylic templates. I like to wrap the seam allowance edge of the template with washi tape so that it’s easier for my eye to see the fussy cut I’m going for! I don’t always do this or with all pieces, but it’s a fairly routine practice for me. It’s quick and easy and then they’re all ready to go if I do want to fussy cut.
A 15mm wide washi tape wraps around these templates perfectly, but you can also just adhere it to one side, trim it down, or not wrap it all the way around, it still does the trick!
Below you can see the same template on the same fussy cut both with and without the washi tape wrap.
Everyone sees and processes patterns and information differently, so this may not be a useful tip to everyone, but just something that helps me! Keep in mind that with these templates, the washi tape will cover the template letter etched in the seam allowance, so you will want to draw it on the tape with a marker for reference, or if you have your templates stored in your lettered plastic bags then you’re good to go!
Part two: cutting
One quick note, I usually use a light spray of starch when I press my fabrics before cutting, but not always. It’s really just to help with stubborn deep folds or wrinkles. Some people use a lot of starch when pressing for EPP to help have crisper pieces and this is just a personal preference. Sometimes I don’t use any stash and really don’t notice much of a difference with the way I baste, which is glue basting. If you are going to try one of the other methods I discuss later (thread, starch etc), you may find a heavier spray of starch helps you. Sometimes I don’t even need to press my fabrics depending on the pieces I’m cutting!
There are a couple options for tracing your template shapes and cutting your fabrics – you can trace and cut with scissors or you can use a small rotary cutter. If you are using templates that you printed onto cardstock, you will want to trace your templates and then cut them by hand. I always use a Pilot Frixion pen which erases with heat. This type of pen isn’t entirely necessary for this use since the traced edges will be hidden, but it’s just what I always have on hand and prefer to use just incase! If I trace some shapes and then change my mind, I can erase the lines away. I don’t recommend using a rotary cutter with paper templates (or template plastic) because you can easily cut into the template.
If you are using acrylic templates, a small 28mm rotary cutter is a great option that speeds up the cutting process, but there are a couple things to note.
The acrylic templates can be quite slippery on top of fabric and even if you hold them down securely when cutting with the rotary cutter, I find that they can still shift around easily. The washi tape wrap does help with this a bit, but another tool that can help you are Grip Dots.
Grip Dots are small adhesive rings and dots that you can place on your templates to help them from sliding. They work on rulers, too!
Grip Dots work really well. You can use one larger ring on the center of a small template or you can use multiples. You can also use the tiny dots in the center of the rings and use a couple on opposing edges of the template.
There are some down sides to using Grip Dots, also. I find they can make fussy cutting more difficult because the ring gets in the way of what I’m looking at, but using the small dots on the edges of the templates in the seam allowance space does eliminate this.
Also with this pattern, since we are using the templates as-is and mirrored for many of the shapes, you will be flipping the templates over and will need dots on both sides. You can adhere the dots and rings and remove and reuse them many times, but eventually they will begin to loose a bit of their stickiness.
Another thing I recommend if using a rotary cutter is a rotating cutting mat. It’s easy to lose placement of your template while holding it if you have to rotate it with the fabric on your cutting mat, a rotating cut mat lets you keep one hand securely on the template and the other hand free to cut and rotate as needed. I love this round pink rotating cut mat by Sue Daley for Riley Blake. Not only is it cute, but it’s sturdy and rotates really easily so I never have to fight with it.
Bottom line – how you cut is a personal preference and it may differ over time with practice or with each project you do. I personally just love to trace and cut. It’s easy and feels less fussy to me, even though my process likely takes longer. I never expect EPP to be fast, and I enjoy the process of it. I’m often doing this on the go, or on the couch in my lap, and tracing shapes is easy and foolproof, then I can roughly cut them all and trim them down anywhere with just my scissors. I recommend you play around with different methods and decide what works best for you!
Part three: basting
We’re onto the final step for this week – basting! Basting is the process of attaching your cut fabric pieces to the EPP papers in preparation to sew them together. You wrap the seam allowance edges of your fabric around the back of your paper and secure them in place using your method of choice – glue basting, thread basting or starch basting. The papers remain in place while you are sewing your pieces together, and usually until your entire piece is stitched together. Sometimes you can take some papers out once you have sections sewn together and this can often be a personal choice. Sometimes with large patterns, it is necessary to remove some papers to make the piece easier to handle.
I equate basting for EPP to cutting fabric for quilt blocks. The more accurate, patient and precise you are, the easier your entire piece will come together.
If your edges aren’t smooth or your corners aren’t crisp, it will be difficult to line up all the points and piece everything together precisely.
When I first attempted EPP with some hexies, I tried glue basting and despised it. It felt awkward and I was having trouble sewing my pieces together, so I would thread baste. I didn’t mind it, but I did find it hard to keep fussy cuts accurately in place and to get my edges smooth and clean. Over time and with some research, I realized I just wasn’t glue basting correctly, so I tried it differently and haven’t looked back. Each method has it’s advantages and also comes down to personal preference. I, again, recommend trying a variety of techniques and deciding what works best for you.
For this pattern, I recommend glue basting because of the size of the pieces and the accuracy needed to get precision when piecing them together, so I will be focusing on that in this post and will be sharing some personal tips and a tutorial video on glue basting below.
Thread and starch basting are just not for me with this pattern, so I’m not sharing any tutorials of my own on those methods, but I will share link to tutorials for those who would like to play around and try them. There is no right or wrong technique, so play around and see what works for you!
For glue basting, I like to use a glue pen – I have both the Sewline glue pen and a Fons & Porter glue pen. The refill cartridges are interchangeable and there really are no differences between the two. I have used a glue stick in the past (I like the purple ones!), but I really do prefer the size of the glue pen, especially with the smaller size of the pieces in this pattern.
I’m going to outline my method and a few tips and then I will share a short video below. The first step is to secure your paper to the wrong side of your fabric using a bit of glue. For some shapes, just a bit in the middle will suffice, but for shapes with long skinny points or larger shapes, I will typically put some glue in multiple spots to make sure my paper is secure in place and won’t shift when I am wrapping the edges as this will throw off my fussy cutting placement.
You will then run a thin line of glue along one edge, slightly inside the edge of your paper, and fold your fabric over the edge, pressing it in place, making sure the edge is nice and smooth. With larger pieces, you can often do two edges at a time. I will talk later about how I decide what order I will baste the edges in.
In the video below, I am being extra particular with my basting to really highlight how to achieve accuracy and why it is important. I am fairly meticulous in everything I do, so sometimes I do work this slowly, but often I am a bit quicker and don’t go crazy with complete perfection on every piece. Over time, you will begin to learn what works and what affects the final outcome of your piece – which also comes down to your comfort level and what you’re looking for in a completed quilt. You know that phrase that everyone loves – finished is better than perfect? I just can’t hang with that :), but I know many people can, so my style may not be for everyone. I like to show you that everyone CAN achieve perfection and I like to show you how. What you do from there is all on you!
I often do not baste an entire project at once. I will usually baste a handful of pieces and then do some sewing, simply because I like the change of pace and I like seeing results. I have had mixed experience will my glue basting “holding” over time and I can’t find any rhyme or reason to it. Most people do not have any problem with their glue basted pieces loosing over time, but if you did, you will still have the majority of the basting in place and could touch up some edges as needed. I think climate and environment could have some affect on this, as well as the amount of glue you use. I always have my glue pen handy when I’m stitching my pieces together to not only secure any loose spots, but to also help move things out of the way to get to a seam, and I will talk more about this next week when begin piecing.
When it comes to the order of how you baste your edges, there is no set science to it and no right or wrong answer. When I first begin a project, I try to figure out the best “answer” for this and then stay consistent throughout. This is another reason while I will baste a few and then do some sewing. It helps me see if my order worked or there was something I want to change.
Every edge of every piece will be stitched to another, so you will always end up with a seam or fold or flap of fabric in your way at some point. I often choose my basting order based on bulk. If I have a short edge, I will usually baste it first. If I did it last, it would overlap two other pieces which would slightly elevate the entire short seam and perhaps add some play into that seam when stitching it, vs it being tighter to the paper. I also look at the overall pattern. If I have an area where many small points are coming together, or two short edges to piece together, I will baste in a way that keeps the folds out of my way as best as possible.
All that may seem like a foreign language to some of you, and I understand! This is something that is hard to explain and will make more sense only as you work through a project. It’s also subjective, like much of the EPP process! In the end, there is ultimately no wrong answer, and I will discuss all the ways to shift things around and expose your seams for piecing in next week’s post.
With some of the smaller pieces in this patter, you will notice that your entire paper is encased within the fabric seam allowance of your piece, and this is OK! You will be able to gently lift the folds to be able to remove your papers later.
Other basting methods
Here are three great articles talking about basting that show various techniques. Check them out and experiment yourself to see what works best for YOU!
There are also oodles of videos on YouTube at your disposal if you search EPP basting.
Photo prompt and giveaways!
This week, post any progress photos you like – they can be your fabric pull or paper organization if you’re working on those, or you can share some cutting and basted pieces, or both! Every photo you post on social media with the hashtags #ButterflyEffectPatternSAL and #ButterflyEffectPattern, or email to me, counts as an entry for all our sponsor giveaways.
That wraps up the content for week two! This week, spend some time playing around with different ways to use your template and different basting methods to see what works for you. You can work through just a few pieces in preparation to stitch them up next week or if you find your groove you can work through as much as you’d like.
Next week we’ll dive into piecing all these bits together and I’ll share a few different methods for doing so, as well as video tutorials of my preferred method, all my favorite tools and how I achieve perfect matching points and precision.
Don’t forget, you can check out the Sew Along Facebook Group here to find additional support or just chat with others in the SAL!.
See you then!