A Hexie Tutorial – All Points Patchwork Blog Hop!

hexie placemat with candl

I’ve created a hexie tutorial for All Points Patchwork Blog Hop. As you may know: I’m a hexie addict. So when Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod contacted me about participating in her Mug Rug Blog Hop, I couldn’t say no! She has recently published the book: All Points Patchwork that is chuck full of all sorts of tips and tricks for English Paper Piecing (EPP). She covers everything you can think of… and then some. It’s a great book to add to your quilting library!

mug rug blog hop

In this post, I’m going to show part of my design process, as well as my stitching process for a EPP hexie placemat.  In the near future, I will have a full pattern available for this project – check back soon.

I am a very visual person, so the way I design is by trial and error with a physical layout. For this project, I used a card table covered in batting as my “hexie play station”, and really just arranged and re-arranged different hexies until I was happy with a design!

hexie layout

When I have created hexie quilts in the past, they have been larger projects with more pieces, allowing a more detailed imagery. A small placemat bears some difficulty in creating a unique design. Using patterned fabrics helps.

How I Stitch My Hexies – Planning

For large quilts, I use a hexie grid over an image of what I want to create, and color in the hexagon shapes accordingly. This abstractly represents the underlying image. Once I have this basic solid-color layout, I baste hexies in those colorways with patterned fabric, and physically lay out each hexie and arrange them until I’m happy. That usually is the hardest part of making a quilt like this.

hexie jellyfish quilt top
Jellyfish Hexie Quilt top

Once a design is all laid out and I’m happy with each hexie placement, I start sewing my pieces together. Some like to sew these as flowers and piece them that way, but I like to sew the hexies in rows, then sew the rows together.

hexie placemat in progress

I have recently been introduced to Kimono Silk thread – and it works amazingly for piecing without the stitches showing!

How I Stitch My Hexies – Basting Each Hexie

How do I stitch my hexies? I use both a ladder stitch and a whipstitch. I worked on some illustrations to show my process. This is just the way I do it – everyone has their own style. In All Points Patchwork on Page 48, Diane explains how she sews these together… and on page 200 she describes a ‘skimming whipstitch’ which I use a lot!

I use either 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch hexie paper templates from PaperPieces.com. This is a small size, and easy for me to manipulate in my hands. I punch a hole in the center of the paper template. Then I fold a small square of fabric around the shape (see illustration below) and use large stitches to baste the fabric onto the paper without stitching through the paper. With larger pieces, you may need to baste through paper.

hexie basting illustration

Once all my hexies are basted, I lay them out on my design board. Then I sew the the basted hexies together into rows using a ladder stitch.

How I Stitch My Hexies – Stitching Hexie Rows

First, bring your threaded needle up under the fabric on the backside of your first hexie, in the center of that side. Then, with WRONG sides together, stitch it to the next hexie in the row using a ladder stitch. Stitch from the center to one side, then back to the other side, then back to the center. This double stitching is great reinforcement.

ladder stitch piecing hexies epp

When finished with the ladder stitch, pass the needle from the front through to the back, without catching any fabric – if you do, that little stitch will show.

peicing hexies epp

I take a small stitch and tie a knot on the backside of the newly added hexie to end that first stitch. Next, run the needle up under the fabric on the next side to be sewn and tie another knot (or cut and tie another knot). From that knot pull your needle up through the center and add another hexie with WRONG sides together and use the running stitch again as before.

hexie piecing
hexie piecing

How I Stitch My Hexies – Stitching Hexie Rows Together

Once all the rows are stitched, you can stitch the rows together. To sew the rows together, I lay them flat next to each other and use a skimming whipstitch from one end to the other, knotting at each corner.

stitching hexie rows illustration

When I am sewing the rows of hexies together, I wrap my project around a bolster pillow to make it easier to work with. Since I’m right-handed I like to hold the strip I’m stitching on the left side using my left hand to hold everything in place while I stitch… I rest my left hand on the bolster.

hexies around bolster pillow

How I Stitch My Hexies – Removing Paper Templates

Once all the pieces are sewn together, it’s time to start thinking about quilting and binding. Also time to pull those papers out! The tools I use for this is a wooden skewer and a seam ripper.

removing basting stitch

First I snip the basting with the seam ripper.

pulling hexie basting out

Then I use the skewer to pull out a basting stitch or two. This is when the hole punch in the center of the template comes into play.

pulling hexie papers out


The skewer then goes into the punched hole of the template… and pops right out! You can leave the snipped basting stitch as is, or you can pull the threads out too.

pulling hexie papers out

Personally, I like to pull all the threads out – it soothes my OCD tendencies, and I think it looks better! Also, if you pull the threads out, the paper templates stay fairly flat and are reusable after ironing!

epp hexie paper removal

How I Stitch My Hexies – Quilting

I am currently out of spray baste, and don’t want to buy anymore since I don’t have a good place for glue basting at my house. So lately I’ve been thread-basting by hand. For a small project like this, it took me about 15 minutes. I use Sharon Schamber’s technique described here.

thread basting hexie placemat

This way of basting is fantastic! It holds everything in place so well, and is very easy to work with compared to pins. It’s how I basted the Jellyfish too. From here I had to do a lot of thinking on how to quilt this! Since the pattern is busy, I decided to go loud and use pretty colored #8 Perle Cotton threads with bigger stitches.

How I Stitch My Hexies – Hexie Binding

I also made a hexie binding for this project. You just need to make a copy of your project and string together hexies to make the shape of it. I needed a printout to mark off as I stitched so I put the hexies together correctly… and still made a few mistakes!

hexie binding ring

Once the binding was complete, I pulled the papers out and pressed with starch to keep the folds as crisp as possible.

papers out of hexie binding

In hind-sight, I think I would leave the papers in until the binding is stitched onto the front. It would make it easier to stitch! But this was my first attempt at a hexie binding and I’m learning as I go!

trimming hexie quilt

Before I could stitch the binding on, I had to very carefully trim out the extra batting and backing. Take your time here – a wrong move could go South quickly! After trimming it up, I pinned the binding (right sides together) to the front.

hexie binding ring

I stitched all around the edges, making sure to avoid catching any batting or backing… and I also tried to take small stitches. Sometimes I back-tracked to make sure there were no large gaps in my stitching. When it was sewed onto the front, I turned the binding to the back and used my skewer again to pull the points on the hexie shapes.

pulling points out of hexie binding

I then double checked my stitching around the edges.

check hexie stitching

And lastly I stitched the binding down on the backside to finish.

hexie binding stitches

How I Stitch My Hexies – Quilt Finish

Voila! My completed Hexie Placemat is ready for use! There are 324 pieces in the front, plus another 68 pieces for the binding, for a total of 392 hexies in this project.

finished hexie placemat with lit candle

The final measurement of this placemat is 15″ x 19″ using 1/2″ hexies. For a larger quilt, you could use 2″ hexies for this pattern, and make a 60″ x 77″ quilt! I will have this pattern available soon with step by step illustrations and hexie graph paper too.

hexie placemat back

For amazing instructional photos and information on paper piecing, check out All Points Patchwork by Diane Gilleland. Her step by step approach makes it easy for anyone to jump in on the hexie train!

For even more inspiration and information, check out the other stops on this Mug Rug Bloghop:

Monday, 9/14: Hanna Andersson, http://www.ihanna.nu/
Tuesday, 9/15: Maryline Collioud Robert, http://www.maryandpatch.blogspot.com
Weds, 9/16: Gail Lizette Weiss, http://gaillizette.blogspot.com
Thurs, 9/17: Ula P, http://www.luluandceleste.com

Friday, 9/18: Caroline Heinrichs, http://www.goodearthquilting.blogspot.ca