This is a brief demonstration of English paper piecing.
The quiltmaker has sewn traces of her own life into this unfinished quilt from the 1800s, namely the paper used as templates for the various designs. The paper on the left is covered with printing, on the right is handwriting. The black diamond in the upper left has the telltale faint blue lines of a notebook.
Godey’s Lady’s Book, a women’s magazine, offered a quilt pattern along with this advice in 1871:
“In this design, the pieces of the same shape must be of the same color. The best way to have the sections accurate in shape, is to have each separate part cut by a tinman. The papers should be cut out to these shapes; and finally, the pieces of silk or velvet should be carefully tacked to the papers previously to being neatly sewn together.”
Diamond fabric shapes were cut on the bias— that is, cut through the grain of the fabric at an angle. This made the pieces stretchy and difficult to control during stitching. A quilter needed to carefully handle these small sections of fabric to avoid distorting the final star design.