English paper piecing is an old technique often associated with patchwork quilts. Because this method of piecing is so time consuming and cumbersome, a lot of people avoid patchwork. English paper piecing involves cutting the pattern pieces from paper.
Old letters or envelopes were used because they were made of sturdier paper. This method was widely used with silks and other thin fabrics to add stability to the design. The paper pattern was traced around on the fabric with a ¼ inch seam allowance. The extra quarter inch was folded around the paper pattern and basted.
The paper-pieced fabric pieces were then arranged with right sides facing in whatever design was desired. These pieces were then whip-stitched together. This method of paper piecing produces very accurate pieces, but does take a lot of extra time.
Foundation piecing is often referred to as paper piecing today. However, this type of paper piecing is very different from the English paper-piecing method described above. Foundation piecing has been around for many decades. I think of Victorian crazy quilting when I hear the term.
In foundation paper piecing, newsprint, old catalog pages and even old phone book pages can be used to make the foundation paper blocks. The blocks are made up of odds and ends of fabric pieces that are arranged until the entire paper-pattern piece is covered. This method is called string piecing. String quilts can be designed to have a scrappy look, using up all leftover fabric pieces.
There are a couple of different ways to string quilt. The fabric can be cut into at least 2" x 12" strips and sewn to the paper pattern. Or the fabric can be used in whatever width and size they are, without trimming, and pieced together to cover the paper pattern. The finished blocks can be arranged in different ways to produce different designs.
Whatever method you choose to try, I am sure you will have fun using up leftover fabric scraps and making a cozy, one-of-a-kind creation.