Another EPP: Millefiori Valse Brillante

A little while ago I posted about my finished La Passacaglia quilt. I started that particular quilt over 4 1/2 years ago even though I had never done any sort of hand quilting in my life.

Now English Paper Piecing (EPP) is a very special, very time consuming project to take on (unless you decide to do it on your sewing machine with zigzag stitches and invisible thread…but that’s another story). It’s a great practice to take on especially if you feel like you need a little help enjoying the process of sewing. Because it is so time intensive, you almost have no other option than to just buckle down and enjoy every stinking success you can wrangle because otherwise the whole business is a bleak affair (the other option is to simply quit, but that, also, is another story). I’ve probably sung this song many times but learning EPP has really helped me to appreciate the process as much (or more) than the end result when it comes to sewing.

Almost immediately after I left my La Passa with my mom for quilting and safe keeping, I started thinking about what I wanted my next EPP project to be. I had been half tempted to give the La Passacaglia pattern another go but with a clearer direction (and maybe fewer colors haha). But that pattern is a serious project…I feel like the fact that it took me 4 years to finish should speak to that, but in case you still wondered, the La Passa is beautiful but gnarly. That pattern came from this book:

There are just under 20 different EPP patterns in the book so I decided to flip through it and see what attracted me. I was very drawn to this one:

This one’s called Valse Brillante. It consists of only 3 pattern pieces and a very straightforward pattern.

I especially liked it because while assembling my La Passa, I had envisioned a more rainbowed effect and totally loved it (although it was too late to actually implement it). I knew that this particular pattern could easily be rainbow without being too crazy, because of the white/off-white contrasting pieces.

I think selecting patterns is kind of a funny business. I mean, I’ve mentioned it before in regards to clothing but quilts are absolutely the same thing: You probably won’t be drawn to a pattern until you see it within the realm of your personal aesthetic. If I had seen the original Passacaglia quilt (pictured on the cover of the book, 2 photos above), I don’t think I would’ve given it a second thought. It’s beautiful but darker colors, especially blacks and browns, just aren’t my flavor at all. I’m much more drawn to bright, candy colors. Now I try to turn those particulars off and notice other things: the patterns, the nuances of light and dark, etc. and then try to decide if it’s up my alley. I do have to say that this is much easier for me to do in the realm of quilts because it’s basically just color that comes into play as the necessary transitional factor. A garment includes any number of things like size, adjustments, fabric content, fabric weight, fabric color, etc., etc. to contribute to its success so I think it’s more difficult to ascertain if it will turn into a win. So anyway, all this is to say that I saw this pattern and knew that mine will look very different but that the bones are good, so I’m in.

I think one really fun thing about EPP is that you get to use scraps. And yes, generally, they need to be quilting cottons, but it’s fun to have a stash of those lying around anyway. I didn’t buy any fabric for this quilt, which is an awesome way to start a project. I do think I’ll eventually need to add some more of those white(ish) background fabrics to my stash to make sure there’s enough variety, but I think I’m set for awhile.

The very wonderful thing about this particular EPP project is that it feels like it’s going fast, which is a huge contrast to my La Passa. The rosettes on that quilt often took weeks to complete (sometimes months if it was a bigger one). But for this quilt, I can easily finish a hexagon in one day, often one sitting. It’s amazing. The downfall is that the speed with which I can finish a stack of hexies makes me think I’m making really great progress, but when I actually lay out the pieces I realize I have many more to go before I have a completed quilt (they’re not huge hexagons, probably measuring 5-6 inches across).

I should mention that I don’t think I’ll be following the pattern exactly: I don’t plan on having any border-just the binding. Of course, that might change, but for now that’s what I’m thinking. Also, I’m just going to keep making hexies until I feel good about the size, so I don’t know how many I’ll need. I’m probably half(ish) way through my stash (which is why you don’t see many greens and blues mixed in) and then I might steal some scraps from my mom to round out some of the colors where my stash falls short (I told you, I’m more attracted to bright colors, but I really think the quilt would benefit from an array of tones).

Another great thing about EPP is convenience. Since you don’t need to be sitting at your sewing machine, you can really paper piece from anywhere, especially your couch which is where I find myself doing the majority of my EPP. That way I can watch some shows with Ben at night with some semblance of spending time together instead of being tucked away in my sewing room by myself. I recently started prepping a bunch of my hexagons at once and clipping them with clothespins to keep them organized until I sew them into hexies. This has really helped my output since I’m not pulling out the entirety of my quilting cottons every time I’m ready to make another hexagon.

If you are at all interested in EPP, this would be an excellent pattern for you to start with because it is very straightforward and is a riff on one of the most basic EPP projects you can do which is just straight up hexagons.

Truthfully, I haven’t picked up this particular project for some months now just because I’ve got another (on the sewing machine) quilt in the works and it’s hard to find time for both of these plus clothes. But I’m hoping I can get my hands back into my Valse Brillante soon because I miss it and I’m really excited about what this will be when it’s finished (it’s okay, you can enjoy the process and be excited for the end result too. It’s all fun).

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