How to do Kaleidoscope English Paper Piecing

This essential patchwork technique has caught the imagination of quilters the world over – and yes, it looks super fancy, but it’s easy and oh-so-therapeutic with a few tricks courtesy of our super-star Technical Editor Sarah Griffiths!

patchwork projects shot in the studio

We’ll show you how to plan and piece kaleidoscope EPP designs, with free quilters templates to get you started, then test your new skills with a cogs-inspired mini-quilt. Scroll down and let’s begin…

Get started: Planning your design

1. Sketch it out

Print off some hexagon and triangle graph paper to get started drafting your ideas (you can find printable hexagon graph paper here and there are many others available online too). If you’re looking to design an entire pieced quilt top, start by drawing some interlocking circles and arcs over the hexagon graph paper in pencil. Then outline the hexagons for each section with a dark marker. In our example below, we’re making cog-wheel sections.

hexagon quilt design sketch with pencils

2. Get creative with hexies

Now think about how to piece together the larger shapes in your design – in this example, we’ve used triangle graph paper to design the hexagons for our cog-wheel sections. Outline several hexagon shapes of the same size, then start drawing segments within the hexagons using the triangle lines. The triangle paper helps you keep things the same size. So if you want to make a hexagon with 1in sides, measure the number the triangles within 1in on your paper. Then draw a line along any of the graph paper lines using the same number and it will always be 1in.

How to sew an epp kaleidoscope quilt design step 1

3 Cut, stick, play

Once you have some hexagon designs you like, make some copies and cut them out. Move them around on your table to try different combinations. You can use coloured pencils to try out different colours too. Keep in mind how you will combine your hexagons to create the shapes you came up with in Step 1 (though you can always revise this if you find a design you like more!). Once you’re happy, take a photo, or tape on paper for reference.

patchwork quilt kaleidoscope design ideas

4. Now it’s time to make your paper pieces!

If you have any standard size shapes, you can order these from a shop. But it’s easy to make your own for any shape. Make a key tracing out each individual piece on triangle paper. Make a template to the exact size out of plastic or thick card. Then use your template to trace out the paper pieces you’ll need. You can use printer paper or thin card as you prefer. When you cut these pieces out, you’ll want to cut just inside the line to get the correct size.

Top tips for planning your EPP design

  • The more seams you have within a pieced hexagon, the more likely it is to come out slightly larger than other hexagons with fewer seams. Don’t worry if this happens! Simply ease the pieces together as you sew. When you remove the paper pieces, the fabric will shift so it lays nice and flat.
  • If you want to make your design larger or smaller, simply enlarge the paper pieces on a scanner, making sure they are all enlarged by the same amount.
  • Glue basting is great for when you have very tiny pieces to incorporate.
  • If you’re not sure whether two pieces will fit together, simply measure the sides where they will join to make sure they are the same.
  • Mix in some plain hexagons with your pieced ones – it’ll give you a bit of a rest and break up the intricate piecing.

How to make a mini kaleidoscope quilt

Not sure if you’re not quite ready to make your own full-scale kaleidoscope quilt by hand? yet? Test your skills with our mini quilt tutorial…

You will need

  • Solid fabrics in six colours, each one fat eigth
  • Background fabric: 28in square
  • Batting 32in square
  • Backing fabric 32in square
  • Binding fabric ¼ yard

Notes

  • Seam allowances are ¼in, unless otherwise noted.
  • Download our free English Paper Piecing quilters’ templates here
  • Press shapes after basting, and both before and after removing papers.
  • Pay careful attention to colour placement of fabrics when stitching.
  • We’ve based this quilt design on 3 different hexagon designs – A, B and C
three patchwork quilt hexagon designs

Fabric we’ve used

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Cutting out

Step 1

Make paper templates for your EPP pieces using our free EPP template downlaod and baste with fabric using your preferred method.

Step 2

Cut three (3) 2½in x WOF strips from your binding fabric.

Hexagon A

Step 3

Make a total of six (6) Hexagon A, as follows:

  • Stitch a diamond to either side of two medium hexagons (Fig 1).
kaleidoscope quilt hexagon A figure 1
  • Stitch diamonds to the centre of one unit (Figs 2 and 3).
  • Stitch the remaining unit to the other side (Fig 4).
kaleidoscope quilt hexagon A figures 2, 3, 4

Hexagon B

Step 4

Make a total of six Hexagon B, as follows:

  • Stitch a triangle to one side of six jewel shapes, making sure they are each stitched to the same side (Fig 5).
  • Stitch the units together in sets of three, carefully noting the direction of the pieces (Figs 6).
kaleidoscope quilt hexagon b figures 5 and 6
  • Stitch a small hexagon to the centre of one unit (Fig 7), then sew the remaining unit to the other side (Fig 8).
kaleidoscope quilt figures 7 and 8

Hexagon C

Step 5

Make a total of six Hexagon C, as follows:

  • Stitch four kite shapes together in matching pairs (Fig 9).
  • Stitch one kite to each pair, making sure to sew them to the correct sides of the units as shown (Fig 10).
  • Stitch the two units together along the centre (Fig 11).
kaleidoscope quilt hexagon C figures 9. 10

Assembling the block

Step 6

Once complete, assemble the pieced hexagons into the final block, as follows. Join a Hexagon A to either side of your large centre hexagon (Fig 12).

Step 7

Stitch the remaining Hexagon As together in pairs, then join to the central unit (Fig 13).

kaleidoscope quilt figure 12, 13

Step 8

Stitch three Hexagon Bs to the centre unit (Fig 14).

kaleidoscope quilt figure 14

Step 9

Join a Hexagon C to either side of the remaining Hexagon Bs, paying careful attention to the colour placement in your Hexagon Cs. Then, stitch these strips to the centre unit (Fig 15).

kaleidoscope quilt figure 15

Finishing

Step 10

Once your block has been pieced, remove the paper pieces and appliqué to your background fabric square.

Step 11

Make a quilt sandwich and baste using your preferred method. Quilt as desired – we used a simple ring of echo quilting.

Step 12

Bind the edges of your quilt to finish, carefully mitring the corners.

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patchwork projects shot in the studio