Patchwork involves the sewing together of scraps of fabric to create a bigger piece of fabric.  This can then be used to create something else, such as a cushion cover, bag or item of clothing.  In this section we are going to look at fitting together tessellating shapes (shapes that fit together exactly without leaving a gap in between) and how to sew them together. The method shown is carried out by hand sewing, so does not need the use of a sewing machine.

There are various templates available to buy to ensure that your shapes are cut out evenly and uniformly.  This is not essential but does make things a lot easier.  For extra simplicity then you might like to consider buying one of our ready made patchwork kits or some of the individual components of a kit, where everything has been cut out for you.  All you need to do is sew them together!

The picture below shows some of the varieties of shapes that can be used to make a tessellating pattern.

Before sewing the shapes together the fabric is mounted onto brown paper that is cut to the same shape as the fabric but in a smaller size.  The picture below shows the template on the left and the brown paper and fabric on the right.

Begin by drawing around the smaller sized template onto brown paper and then cutting these shapes out until you have enough for your chosen project.  These paper backings can be reused many times so you don't have to do this step every time unless you want a different sized shape, or a completely different shape.

Next, use the larger template to draw around on your chosen fabric. Special pens or tailor's chalk for drawing on fabric can be purchased, as shown below.  I have found that this is not always necessary as the edges of the fabric are not going to be seen so you may prefer to just use a normal biro pen.  Make sure that whatever you choose is not going to cause ink to run onto the main part of your project if you decide to wash the finished piece afterwards. 

Cut out the number of shapes that you require in your chosen variety of fabrics to complete your project.  Remember to allow for a seam allowance when measuring out how big you want the finished piece to be. The size of the finished piece will be the equivalent of the size made by laying out the brown paper templates next to each other, not the cut pieces of fabric.

To prepare the shapes for sewing together, first lay the brown paper in the centre of the fabric so that the wrong side of the fabric is touching the paper, as shown below.

Next, fold over the edges of the fabric in line with the edges of the brown paper so the paper is encased in the fabric around all of it's edges.

It can help at this stage to iron the edges flat to get an even fold that can be (I find) easier to sew.  Some people may find this step very fiddly though and prefer to leave it out.  If you choose to use the iron at this point then please be careful not to burn or steam your fingers in the process.  It's very easily done!

Make sure that you have enough of each fabric design to complete your chosen pattern.

Once the edges have been folded over the brown paper, secure them temporarily to the the paper using loose tacking stitches.  I have used a contrasting colour cotton for visibility so the tacking stitches can be easily seen for removal at a later stage.

Continue around the whole shape until the fabric has been loosely tacked to the paper template.

To begin sewing the pieces together, first place two of the shapes together with right sides facing (touching) each other so that the edges that you wish to join together are lined up next to each other, as shown below. 

Using a similar shade of cotton to your main fabric, begin to sew very small oversewn stitches from back to front as shown in the picture below, taking care not to catch the brown paper in your stitch.  This will require very small even stitches so that the front looks neat and the paper is not 'captured' in your stitching.  


Work your way along until you reach the other edge.  Your stitching should look like the pictures below when the pieces are opened out flat (back and front).

Line up the next shape and continue sewing, building up your pattern as you prefer, making sure that you always have the right sides facing each other when you begin sewing, with the brown paper templates facing outwards as you sew. 


As you build up more pieces around the outer edges, the brown paper templates on the inner edges can be removed and reused as required.  This can be done as you go along in this manner or can be left until the end if you have sufficient paper templates for the whole project.  (All of our kits for sale come with enough paper templates to complete the whole project without needing to remove any midway through.) Simply remove the tacking stitches that are holding the paper in place and then pull the piece of paper out.  This should be easy if you haven't sewn through the paper with your little sewing stitches!

Use your finished piece of fabric to create something special to show off all your hard work!