Hexagon Piecing

comments: 99

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Oooooh, I had a feeling. I had a feeling these would be addictive. I've wanted to do this — English paper piecing — for a while but I wasn't sure I could handle another distraction. I'm still not sure I can handle it, but let's just say I am completely distracted now.

Before I go on in this direction, I will say that I did finish Arden's quilt already. I just need to photograph it. So I am, at least, a little bit collected. I'm about to go into a collected trot here, to use a horsey term. A collected hexagonal trot.

Here's how you do this: Get a whole bunch of hexagon papers (do yourself a favor and splurge on these already die-cut heavyweights. Mine were $19.00 for 600 1"- [2.5cm-] sided hexagons, and they are totally reusable, so to me, this is a purchase that is well-worth the money, since your wrist will already be getting enough of a workout without having to cut out all of those hexes yourself). Then cut a whole bunch of 2 1/2" (63mm) squares of your favorite quilting cottons with a rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat, and clear plastic ruler. (If you want to make a different-sized hex, the size of your square will vary relative to the size of the hex; a chart to help yo determine how big to cut your squares is here.) Then get a straight pin, a sharp, hand-sewing needle, and some cotton thread (the same stuff you'd use in your sewing machine).  Pin the hex to the wrong side of the squa, fold the fabric over each edge of the hex, and baste (through the paper) in place. I tied knots on the front sides of the hex in both the beginning and the ends of the basting thread because it is easy to (after the hex is stitched to six other hexes) remove the basting thread from the front by clipping each stitch and pulling on the knots.

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Many tutorials that I found on-line and in some old books that I have want you to trim the fabric into a hex, leaving a 1/4" (6mm) seam allowance, but that seems like extra work, and if the Paper Pieces peeps say you don't have to, I believe them. Wrapping full squares worked just fine for me. To stitch two hexes together, just place them with their right sides together and whipstitch along the top edge, being careful not to stitch through the paper — just grab a few threads from each hex and make small, even stitches.

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I stitched twice through each corner and knotted at each end. I'm sure there's a way to carry your thread around to stitch each seam of the hex (to another hex), but that proved to be too much for my addled brain to manage, so I just finished off every seam before starting the next. Here's another view of one seam, kind of tilted open:

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To make a flower, I stitched all of the hexes to the center hex, then once all six sides of any hex are attached to other hexes, you can clip the basting stitches and take the paper out. This allows you to fold that center hex, making it easy to stitch the sides of the other hexes together to form the petals.

This is not sewing for the faint of heart — when I was at Fabric Depot buying the hexagon papers, I was asked by the saleslady what my pain threshold was, and I answered emphatically, "High!" (And by the way, my cutting mat, pin holder, and most of my tiny calicos come from Fabric Depot, though I have an enormous stash of calicos, collected over twenty years, so a lot of fabrics that you see me use come just from my own shelves. I have been getting a lot of questions about fabric lately, so I will do a whole post about that soon, and give you some great local sources when my head is more unstuffed.) Sewing hexes takes some precision and patience, but if you have those tendencies (and I would say I do, generally, unless it really doesn't matter, and then I don't), you will like these. I think this is a nice tutorial that will get you started on a little placemat and doesn't make things more complicated than necessary.

I still haven't decided exactly what I will do with mine, though I have a few ideas. One is to stitch at least a few of them to a oatmeal-linen wrap skirt that I bound the edges of with one of the fabrics that's in the hexes. There's also potholders, bags, placemats, pillows, stuff like that. Another idea is to make little collections of similar flowers and then cluster them together in random groups, and then cluster the random groups together, and then applique the whole big cluster to a whole cloth, either a runner, or a tablecloth, or maybe even a quilt. That would be a seriously massive project. I don't know if my pain threshold is that high. It's high, but I don't know if it's that high. I only have five flowers done, so perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.

99 comments

Wow. I think whole hexagon quilts are so beautiful but I think it I tried it would end in tears.

wow. it would take me a YEAR to do five flowers. but, oh. so. neat.

i wish i were you! don't i?

I agree that a hexagonal quilt would look beautiful, but just be far too much pain. Your flowers are so neat and lovely.

Apparently girls used to do paper piecing at school here in the UK (it is English paper piecing after all) I have a feeling that's why my Grandmother never touched them again!

I use little mylar hexagons...they have a hole in the middle so you can just 'pop' it out with the stick. I'm making a Grandmothers Flower Garden and I'm up to 35 flowers! Started back in March. Then the hand quilting....I'll race ya! LOL

Xina

You explained it really well! There's an EPP group here: http://quiltwithus.connectingthreads.com/group/englishpaperpiecinggroup that may be good for some inspiration on what to actually DO with all those flowers. Vicki Bellino, who taught me how to EPP, is super into it. She's always got some EPP patterns that may be good for inspiration, too. http://bloomcreek.blogspot.com/
My friend started a large (6") hexagon quilt that is mostly linen with a few prints thrown in. She wanted it to be bed size, but now she may just applique in on a large piece of linen, make that into a quilt and call it good. :)
Happy piecing!

But Ali, I don't understand the unclipping of the basting stitches. Yes, you do that to remove the inner papers, but aren't you left with flowers that flap open, so to speak, therefore not with straight outer edges? Can anyone kindly explain? Cheers,

Steph

I can't wait to see what you come up with. I do believe this would be just too much for me.

way cool - who new little sturdy papers already came in hexagon shapes ?? - not me. You're making me want to sew says the girl who hardly ever sews. Merci for the great tutorial.

Hi Alicia!

Welcome to the addictive world of hexagon square quilting! I´m an addict nutcase, and I love sewing those small pieces of fabric.

I have made two quilts for my daughters, and some more things with them (bags and pillows). If you´d like to see them, I´ve posted them on my blog (search for 'english paper piecing' on the box "Pesquisar"). You´re welcome!

A small clue: I use rigid plastic for the inner hexagons, cut from school plastic folders. They´re reusable, sturdy and I think they make the sewing more easy.

Can´t wait to see what you will do with your flowers... ;-)

Cheers from Brasil!

Cristine

http://www.terracotabolsas.com/blog (my blog)

You may have just pushed this knitter over the edge into the Land of the Hexes. Gee, thanks..

My sister and I used to do hand piecing with papers when we were young - a very English thing. It is portable, which is a good thing - but we never got as far as a quilt, just cushions.

Pomona x

oh good grief I'm old and out of it. I didn't even know you could paper piece hexagonal blocks. duh. d'oh. Time for me to come into the 21st century!

Looking forward to seeing what your charming blocks become.

Loved seeing the Bee and dear Miss CMPP!

I have been digging through my old quilting books lately to find a good simple tutorial on these. Thank you!! I want to do a couple and put them in a couple of old wooden hoops and mix them in with my photo wall to try to break things up a bit. Next project will be figuring out the dresden plate. I am a person that likes to do EVERYTHING once :)

I started English paper piecing on a road trip from Oregon to California this summer. I could do it easily in the car (as long as I didn't lose a pin or needle!). I bought some quilt plastic & cut out my own hexagon, then cut out my own papers from freezer paper, and ironed them all onto a piece of fabric, then cut them out. Seemed to work great. The papers stick to the fabric till I'm ready for 'em. Not sure how to finish -- I mean after they're all sewn together scrap-style, do I quilt around the "flowers" to the batting & backing? I will continue to try to do research on this finishing part. Thanks & good luck!!

Oh WOW! I love the idea of this but I'm really not sure my pain threshold is high enough!

How neat is that?!!? That's gonna be gorgeous!

They are addicting, aren't they? I'm using 1.5" hexagons and Civil War era repros. It's my "go" project. Have never worked on it at home. Have 12 flowers (3 rings each) done. I'm also using the plastic, but have taught the traditional method using paper. I like the plastic.

Ooh how exciting! I started my english patchwork in July and am loving the process :)

http://itsacreativeworld.typepad.com/creating_memories/2009/07/im-on-holiday.html

This was how I made my first quilt top, shame I never backed and quilted it x

i get lost in your blog for long periods of time sometimes... you're always up to something creative and its fun to be inspired by you!

i love vintage quilts and just did a post on them... feel free to link your favorite quilt to my blog! xo.

I sometimes use the little mylar hexes (and they have other shapes, too, I still have to open up the package with the triangles), Quilt Patis I think they're called. But if you get *way* into paper piecing, you can also look for those punches they sell for scrapbooking, I've made 1" and 1.25" hex punches out of regular office supply paper, and it works great. Isn't as labor intensive as it sounds, you can do 100 with just a bit of a bruise on your palm. :0) Can't wait to see what you do with your little beauties!

Hey Alicia, Go to the Moda website. They have the cutest and I do mean cutest hexagon pin cushion pattern in the free stuff section. I started doing these this summer. Don't know if you have seen the Cricut commercials on TV...I use mine to cut hexagon papers. I buy pads of scrapbook paper on clearence, place the paper in the Cricut, bring up my hexagon file and click cut...whatever size I want...pretty cool. These are reusable also. Check out the Moda website!

By the way, it never occurred to me to just use squares of fabric rather than hex shapes. Thanks for that, it will make things go *much* faster!

thank you very much, I've been thinking about hexagons later and this little lesson is just perfect!!

I'm working on hexes right now. It seemed so fiddly and that's perfectly suited to me : )

I don't baste all the way through the paper, though. I'm new at all this sewing business. Does it work better if I do that?

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About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.