Cutting Fabric for English Paper Piecing

I have news for you: you probably have the EXACT tool/ruler to cut most fabric patches for English Paper Piecing (EPP). You don't need those specialty templates for each size. You don't need a triangle ruler for each size. You don't need an acrylic template for each size. While they are nice, they aren't necessary. And this will save you a lot of money - and time! (And if you don't have a 60 degree triangle ruler, I have them in my Etsy store).

2" hexagons, 1-3/4" hexagons, 1-1/2" hexagons - and so on.

Stack of various sizes of Grandmother's Flower Garden blocks
My favorite ruler is an Olfa 6" x 12" acrylic ruler. It has those marvelous diagonal lines that you may not have thought much of. And the close second to that ruler is my multi-sized 60 degree triangle ruler in both 6-1/2" and 8-1/2" sizes. You probably have one, too. It could be a Creative Grids one or Fons and Porter. But it MUST have a blunted tip for it to work with my tips. One of the first 60 degree rulers on the market was by Sarah Nephew (and I had one for years), but it didn't have the blunted tip and you had to work with 1/8ths of an inch all the time.

6-1/2" 60 degree ruler (with 1/4" lines)
And my larger ruler is 8-1/2" high.

8-1/2" ruler (you can find it in my Etsy store)
I think my examples will make sense of this. We begin with cutting hexagons. That is the most common size for EPP. We make a LOT of Grandmother's Flower Garden blocks, right?

These little GFG blocks were made with 3/4" hexagons. That's as small as I ever wish to go!
Auditioning my GFG blocks on some background diamonds
 These were made with 1" hexagon papers.
Even more GFG blocks using 1" hexagon papers
Now let's see how to cut ANY size fabric hexagon! I'll start with 1" hexagons (I've shared this before during English Paper Piecing Week). These calculations have NOTHING to do with length of side; they are based on HEIGHT of the paper hexagon.

A 1" hexagon paper measures 1-3/4" high. Add 3/4" to allow for seams. Cut a strip 2-1/2" by WOF. Fold it in half as shown, with fold on the bottom and raw edges at top (this is VERY IMPORTANT.) A 2-1/2" strip will finish to 2" high (when stitched into anything quilty). Because the fabric is folded, we now look for the 1" horizontal line on the ruler (see below) - because 1" is half of 2"!

I'm using my 6-1/2" high ruler here. I have since added 1/4" lines for even more accuracy. When in doubt, PRACTICE on construction paper!

Cutting fabric hexagons for 1" papers using a 2-1/2" strip
 Now cut on both sides of the folded strip.

Cut on both sides
 Unfold and - voila - a perfect fabric hexagon with plenty of seam allowance all around.
Perfectly cut fabric hexagon!
Now they are ready to be pinned. I like to paper punch the center for the pin (and it also helps when I remove the paper).

Fabric pinned to paper hexagon
Look at the next photo. The left side shows how I cut and pinned my fabric for at least 15 years! Oversized rectangles. Then I would trim them later. The one on the right shows the fabric hexagon cut using my ruler. I like this method better, don't you?

Old way on the left; new, streamlined way on the right.
Make sure you move the ruler over like this. Do NOT flip flop it
Don't flip flop the ruler or you get this alien.

Don't flip flop the ruler!
I've done the math for you (aren't you glad?) And as I was working this out, you will see that the surprise comes in the relationship between the paper hexagon and the horizontal ruler line you use to make those cuts. See if you can find it.

For cutting fabric hexagons (always round up if within 1/8"):

  • 1" paper hexagon measures 1-3/4" high. Add 3/4" for seams. Cut a 2-1/2" strip. Align 1" ruler line of ruler with raw edges of fabric at top.
  • 1-1/4" hexagon measures 2-1/4" high. Add 3/4" for seams. Cut a 3" strip. Align 1-1/4" ruler line of ruler with raw edges of fabric at top.
  • 1-1/2" hexagon measures 2-1/2" high. Add 3/4" for seams. Cut a 3-1/2" strip. Align 1-1/2" ruler line of ruler with raw edges of fabric at top.
  • 1-3/4" hexagon measures 3" high. Add 3/4" for seams. Cut a 3-3/4" strip. Align 1-3/4" ruler line of ruler with raw edges of fabric at top.
  • 2" hexagon measures 3-3/4" high. Add 3/4" for seams. Cut a 4-1/2" strip. Align 2" ruler line of ruler with raw edges of fabric at top.
Thanks for your interest in this time saving method. Forget the various sizes of templates. Forget the clumsy rough-cutting around a paper hexagon. Next week I'll share some great (and very quick) tips on cutting diamonds and jewels.

And if you need a multi-sized 60 degree ruler, check out my Etsy store. I have a 6-1/2" and 8-1/2" size. They come with directions on how to cut all sorts of hexagons, half-hexagons, triangles and half-triangles for traditional sewing. And I've included the pattern for the Happy Hexie Table Runner as a bonus with each ruler!

Lots of beautiful hexagons
If you'd like to revisit any of my English Paper Piecing posts over the past 8 years, look on the right side bar and you can click on lots and lots of links! So much eye candy (and tutorials there, too!)


  1. Great instructions and beautiful them all...

    1. Thanks! When you are happy with your fabrics, you are happy with your work, right?

  2. As usual, you are awesome😍

    1. Oh, Connie. I think you are biased! Glad you enjoyed what you saw today.

  3. Thank you for sharing, looking forward to more on cutting all shapes from rulers that I have, vs expensive templates

  4. Game changer! Thanks so much. I'm a quilter so I have many rulers in my arsenal. My least favorite part of EPP has been cutting the fabric. Now, with many jelly rolls already cut at 2 1/2" strips, I can cut fabric quicker and easier! YAY!

    1. Yes, the 2-1/2" strips are perfect for use with the 1" hexagon papers. Glad you like that simple technique!

  5. Thank you for sharing this.
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