English Paper Piecing & Watercolour on Fabric

I took a intro English Paper Piecing (EPP) workshop with Jenn of Quarter Inch from the Edge earlier this summer and found it to be a very satisfying process. Since then, I pondered what project would be good to explore EPP. I dabbled in fussy cutting, more linear rather than radial arrangements, solid colours — but nothing felt quite “me” untiI I listened to an interview with Ashley Nickels on the Crafty Planner podcast. I have been since following her Instagram feed closely and got a flash of inspiration late one night, a few days before my family vacation to California. I “needed” a travel project (right?), so I embarked to English paper piece some watercolour fabric.

First EPP attempt. I thought that the painted fabric would be a good background for it, but the intensity of the solids was too much for the airy watercolours.

Before I started working with fabric, watercolour was my favourite medium. It is quick and portable. The best part of it is the edge – where the colour meets the toothy, water-absorbent, weighty watercolour paper. That’s where some serious magic happens. As I was gawking at Ashley’s watercolour quilts that fateful night, I went down some Instagram rabbit hole and stumbled upon an image of some watercoloured paper hexagons featuring this very beautiful edge phenomenon. When I woke up the next day, I could not for the life of me find that image again. I searched for days and came up with nothing. Maybe it was a dream.

Ashley’s original technique uses fabric dyes to achieve vibrant and intense colours (check out her Creativebug class). I prefer low-stakes experiments when I’m starting out, so not spending a lot of money on paint and fabric helped me jump right into this process rather than having to figure out “proper” or best way to do things. I found this tutorial by Cami Graham of Tidbits and loosely followed it. I used some very old watercolour tube paints and Martha Stewart fabric medium, which turns any paint into fabric paint. For fabric, I used an old white pillowcase that was very much past its prime.

The painting process was quick and dirty.  I modified Cami’s process a bit to make sure that I got those edges that I seeking. It took me very little time, maybe half an hour or so. After air-drying the fabric, I machine-washed and dried it. It ended up losing some colour, but still retained those important edges.

I randomly cut the fabric into squares, then prepared the hexies for my very long three-leg journey from the East Coast of Canada to SoCal. I brought baby nail clippers to cut thread in place of scissors, in hopes that security would not confiscate them at the airport (and they didn’t!). After entertaining my boys for a bit of first plane ride, I pulled out the hexies. Some had the “edge” and some were all painted. I played with them like a puzzle, trying to line up the edge from hexagon to hexagon. And then…A coastline appeared. That’s what I was looking for; I just didn’t know it.

See the tiny islands in the sea to the left?

Inspiration comes from lots of places. This time it came from other artists, rabbit holes, and playing around. What will become of this piece? I have no idea. Will it become a series? I would like that. Will I return to it? I hope so. But for now, it will have to sit on the backburner.

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