Hexagon Piecing

comments: 102

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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.

102 comments

I must be just as nutty as you 'cause I love doing these! I learned while at Old Sturbridge Village years and used their reproduction fabrics:-) Very pretty!

I made a grandmothers flower garden quilt last year from 3069 hexagons and i loved EVERY single stitch.

I saw a tutorial on the net that when you attach the fabric to the papers you sew them at the back only and not through the papers. Makes it much easier to remove them and you don't need to take out the basting stitches. It saved me tons of time!!

http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/2007/03/english_paper_piecing_tutorial.html

This is really neat! I doubt that I'd have the patience for it, but I'm definitely saving this post for future reference.

Ok, that seems like an INSANE amount of work! Dang they're cute though!!!

I'm a quilter-perfectly obsessed, but there isn't enough time in the world for me to attempt one of these quilts.

I'll stick to my hand applique, and my hand quilting.

Great choice of fabrics! I'm a big fan too - see http://mousenotebook.blogspot.com/2008/09/beauty-of-patchwork-quilts.html for a post I did about my own patchwork and my Granny's beautiful work from the 1960s :-)

I started on mine last summer and work at it in little bits whenever i get the itch. However, I didn't realize that I should be sewing THROUGH the paper when basting the hexes! That makes so much sense and would make them so much neater for finishing!! Excellent!

Yours looks lovely in progress btw.

alicia, they are darling!!!

can't come at a better time. my one and only girl is leaving for college next year and i just left a part-time job that had me working on weekends. i will be an empty nester with a busy sewing machine. hexagons will fill my nest!!!

oh my, it looks so hard and would take me forever. i would be lucky to make one coaster, but i do love seeing yours.

Hexagons! delicious! As always, your fabric is fabulous, too :)

I would NEVER have the patience to do that, but it is beautiful. You do amazing work

I love your site. I made a beautiful pillowcase out of my hexagons all in red and white calicos and polka dots. Don't think I will ever go for a quilt size, except perhaps, a baby quilt, but you are right. Totally addictive. Perfect craft for a sweltering hot inside day or a blizzard outside inside day!

I've always wanted to do this! Wonderful pictures and explanations, thanks! I'll have to check out the tutorials when I'm in "go mode".

i went from reading, to skimming, to skipping & looking at the pictures. my brain hurts--i do not consider myself a sewer, and i have trouble following written instructions--give me diagrams any day!

I had no idea they made hexagon papers! This is seriously the best thing since sliced bread.

I started a hexagon quilt in high school, thinking I could take the completed quilt with me away to college. Ha! It's 13 years later and it's almost big enough for a twin bed. :-) Granted I haven't worked on it consistently, but it's a thrill to see it oh so slowly increase in size

Alicia, there must be something in the air, because I was doing this while sitting in North Carolina with my mom and visiting. One evening we looked down at a stack of these on my lap and mom said, "Well, if you do about a thousand more of those you might have a quilt one day." They are so addictive, you're right!

Love to live vicariously thru you... beautiful work as always!

Just gorgeous! I cannot wait to see it all finished. I wish I had your eye for fabric combinations! I am a big chicken when it comes to paper piecing.

So glad you're doing this! I've always wondered precisely how the hexes should be stitched together - your photos make this clear.
Bravo! Looking forward to seeing more of what you do with these babies (I vote quilt!).

Katy, Hampshire, UK says: August 13, 2009 at 11:28 PM

This is how my Mum taught me to sew when I was little! I had totally forgotten about it. I didn't realise it was an English thing.

Oh, you'll be fully addicted soon enough! I started my twisted hexagon quilt in March 2005, and I'm close to the end ... of finishing the top! Granted I took a year off from it, but still!

http://buttontreelane.blogspot.com/2009/08/tiffin-for-two.html

What memories this post brought back. I used to make these hexagon quilts with my mum and sister when I was about 9 or 10. We cut the hexagons from old magazines and used all the dressmaking scraps to make quilts/bags or whatever. I had a half finished quilt of my mum's in the wardrobe for years. I guess it must have been thrown out - what a terrible shame. But you've now inspired me to make another. When I saw your close up pictures of how to sew them together I could almost feel that needle in my hand, I could picture some of the old fabric scraps and magazine hexagons. Thank you so much for this trip down memory lane.

I was very excited yesterday when you mentioned posting about English Paper Piecing hexagons. You see, I recently purchased some hexagon paper pieces. I saw a cute project somewhere and was totally captivated. My first project...a coaster. I can't wait to see what you do with yours!
Elaine
www.MissLCrafts.blogspot.com

My favourite type of piecing. Once you have prepped it is mindless and you end up with something beautiful.

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About Alicia Paulson

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.