I’ve been working hard over the last month or so to create patterns for all of my hexie quilts and projects, and I finally finished them all! I have them up at Craftsy.com where they might be seen a bit more than here. I’m really happy with the work I put in, I think they’ll be good.
It was interesting going back in time and looking at my notes to how to do certain things, and how those things evolved over time. I really do love working with the hexie shape!
Do you EPP? Which one would be your favorite? Leave a message below telling which pattern you’d choose and why. I’ll do a random drawing for a winner who will get the pattern of their choice in a digital .pdf format! Drawing will be on September 5, 2017.
I’m currently stitching another Hexie Hummingbird Quilt (No.2) and right now it’s at the piecing stage. Instead of making flowers, I stitch individual pieces into rows then sew the rows together. I made an illustration of my stitching:
To sew the individual pieces together, some people sew with right-sides together. I was taught to do it a little differently by sewing with wrong-sides together! I also switched my thread up to a fine silk thread (Superior Kimono Silk #100) and the needles used are John James #10 Sharps – it’s what works for me.
I use a ladder stitch, and start in the center, work my way to one side, then back to the other side, then back to the middle. I try to stay on the ‘inside’ of the paper template.
This means it’s double stitched and I can easily ensure no large spaces between my stitches – they are tight and hard to pull apart. And when you “open” the row to see the front, you see no stitches at all.
My Sunday will be filled with more sewing while watching my nephews play with Legos and watch all the Star Wars movies. I think I’ll be able to get a lot of sewing done today!
I’m steadily making progress on my Hexie Hummingbird! Currently, I’m stitching the rows to each other.
While I make the rows using a ladder stitch, I change it up when I’m sewing the rows together and use a whipstitch. I think it’s easier to work as a flat piece when the rows are coming together.
To start, I take the piece I’ve stitched together an place in on my design board exactly where it needs to be:
I check my layout to make sure it’s in the right place then pin the two sides where I need to start stitching:
From here I flip it over and start my stitch a little in from the edge:
The blue fuzzy thing I’m working on is a stuffed animal in the shape of a bolster pillow. I find by using this pillow on my lap while sewing, it helps me keep the piece flat while working on it, I can see my stitching better, and sew with less stress on my wrist… I can also wrap it around the pillow as it gets larger.
I start stitching here and work to the edge then back up the way I started:
I’m testing a fine silk thread as a double strand right now. Usually I use an all purpose thread, and that can be used as a single strand. I’m still undecided as to which way I like better.
I like using the whipstitch here because you can really tighten it up and make super strong seams – and you can’t see them from the front:
So this is my progress! I’m looking forward to the appliqué process – it will be a new thing to try for me! I just love how quickly this project is going – and it’s because I didn’t do a full hexie background. Food for thought!
Tonight is the PMQG meeting, and they’re having a mini-trunk show of all the quilters who had quilts show in the PMQG section of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Since I’m in that group, I’ll be bringing some quilts to show tonight, even my hexie quilts! I’m a little nervous, but really excited to be able to share my quilts again!
I’m working on a Hexie Hummingbird right now, and I sew in rows, and in my previous post, I show how I take my hexie-row sewing to go. In this post, I’m going to show you how I stitch these little guys together! *I feel the need to say: this is my own technique – it may not be the “right way”, but it works for me!*
First, you’ll need all your ‘tools’. For me, this is a well-fitting thimble, John James #10 needle, Superior Silk Thread, Thread Heaven, and a scissors.
After threading my needle, I run it through the Thread Heaven – this makes the thread easier to work with and last longer. I make a quilters knot in the thread – and start in the center of my first hexie, and tie a knot:
Then I push the needle up through the center, staying on the inside of the hexie:
Next, I take the hexie I’m going to add and make sure it’s nicely aligned to the first hexie, with WRONG sides together, and then do a ladder stitch to one end:
Flip the hexies over and ladder stitch all the way to the other end:
Flip the hexies again, and ladder stitch back to the center:
‘Open’ the hexies, then carefully send the needle through to the backside without catching any fabric (if you do catch fabric, you’ll see the stitch on the front):
Tie a knot on the back, close to where the thread emerges from the front:
From here, you can make a running stitch up to the top, where the next hexie will go, and make another knot – this way, if the running stitch accidentally gets snipped, the knots will keep the stitches in place:
Voila! Well stitched hexies… with NO stitches showing!
I have just finished sewing all my rows for the Hummingbird – next up I’ll be sewing these rows to each other.
It’s really going fast! It makes such a difference with the decision to appliqué this onto another fabric, rather than making a full hexie background. It feels real good to be able to get a hand-project done quickly!
I’m just about ready to start stitching my new hexie hummingbird design, and I thought I’d share how I take my hexies to-go with me so I can work on piecing anywhere!
I physically layout my whole design before starting to stitch. That means you need to have a layout space large enough for your project. The hummingbird is on the smaller side, so it fits on card table. For other projects I’ve used a 4′ x 8′ piece of foam insulation covered in batting and rested it on a table top.
Once you have your layout exactly how you want it… you can take your piecing on the go with a handy little roll:
Here’s how (get ready for a few photos!):
You’ll need • a long strip of batting about an inch wider than your hexie pieces, • a strip of fabric same size as the batting strip, and • a scrap of practice quilting
The scrap of practice quilting should be the same width as the fabric and batting. Roll it up and secure it with paper clips.
Next, start laying out a row of hexies – centered onto the piece of batting:
Continue lining up your hexies exactly as they are in the layout:
Leave a little space between separate rows, so you don’t accidentally sew them together.
When you run out of space, lay the strip of fabric over the hexies.
This piece of fabric will keep the hexies from sticking to the backside of the batting.
From here, take the pre-rolled quilted scrap and place it on the end where you just ended your layout. This piece will keep your hexies from getting bent in the roll.
Carefully roll it all up, adjusting the fabric strip as needed:
Now you can pin it on the sides to keep it all in place:
When your ready to stitch, place the roll in a small plastic container like this:
I put a spool of thread behind it for stabilization, because this roll is a little small for the container. Once in place, you can un-pin and carefully start to pull the batting:
Lay the batting over the edge of the container and pull as you need – it’s sort of like a Pez dispenser for hexies! It’s a great way to sew in rows and keep all your hexies exactly as you had them laid out.
Once you have a completed row stitched up, you can lay it back on your design table, and start on another row.
If you try this little hexie-dispenser idea, please let me know how it works for you!
As you may know… I’m a hexie addict, and 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!
In this post, I’m going to show part of my design process, as well as my stitching process for an EPP hexie placemat. In the near future, I will have a full pattern available for this project – check back soon.
When I have created hexie quilts in the past, they have been larger projects with more pieces, allowing a more detailed imagery. A small mug rug or placemat bears some difficulty in creating a unique design.
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! For this design in particular, I wanted to incorporate many bright colors together… without a rainbow effect and without it getting too busy.
If you have many different colored hexies, this is a really fun way to realize ideas. For my larger quilts, I layed hexie graph paper over a picture of what I wanted to create and colored in the hexies accordingly to abstractly represent the underlying image. Once I have the basic solid-color layout – I physically lay out each hexie and arrange / re-arrange the individual pieces until I’m happy. That usually is the hardest part of the whole process and can take months to do.
Here is a video of me beginning to lay out my Jellyfish – this was 4 days of work, and the actual layout I used took over a month to finalize. Even then, I feel like I could have reworked it a million times over. Sometimes… part of the design process is knowing when to stop.
Finished Hexie Top – 1/2″ hexies
Once a design is all laid out and finalized, I start sewing my pieces together. Some people 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.
I have recently been introduced to Kimono Silk thread – and it works amazingly for piecing without the stitches showing!
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!
To baste hexies I personally use either 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch hexies, using paper templates from PaperPieces.com. I punch a hole in the center before covering with a square of fabric. This is a small size to some, and can be basted only on the back without going through the paper. With larger pieces, you may need to baste through paper. I love this size because it’s very easy to manipulate the fabric and hold it in place with one finger.
Once you have a bunch of hexies basted, you can lay them out as you like, creating a design that is pleasing to your eye. Then when you’re ready, you can start sewing the strips of hexies together. To sew the strips, I use a ladder stitch. I start in the center, stitch to one side, then the other, then back to the center. This keeps the knots from the edges and reinforces the stitch.
Make sure to catch the fabric on the inner edges, that way your stitch will virtually disappear when you ‘open’ your pieces. This was the first ‘trick’ I learned when I started making hexies – thanks for the insight, Rachel!
When passing the needle through from the front to the back, try not to catch any fabric – if you do, that little stitch will show.
I take a stitch and tie a knot right on the inside and run the needle to the next side to be sewn and tie another knot without snipping the thread. You can snip the running stitch between hexies when you take out the basting… or you can leave it there.
Then, when all the strips are stitched, you can stitch the strips together into rows. To sew the rows together, I lay them flat next to each other and whip stitch from one end to the other.
When I am sewing long rows of hexies together, I sometimes 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.
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.
First I snip the basting with the seam ripper.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Once the binding was complete, I pulled the papers out and pressed with starch to keep the folds as crisp as possible.
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!
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.
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.
I then double checked my stitching around the edges.
And lastly I stitched the binding down on the backside to 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.
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.
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:
I’m going to show you yet another step in the hexie quilt process: Removing the paper pieces! Some people remove the inner papers as they go on a project like this, but I prefer to leave them all in until I’m finished with the quilt.
I work in rows so I don’t lose my place. You’ll notice I have a large seam allowance on the back so that the papers are totally covered. I like it like this. When I quilt it, all that extra fabric will boost puffiness and texture.
I start by using a seam ripper to snip the basting thread near the beginning knot
Then I use a wooden skewer or toothpick to pick out the basting thread
Then I use the skewer to stick in and through the hole I punched in the paper and…
These last two weeks just flew by while I’ve been stitching the Jellyfish together! I’ve had a few people ask how I stitch my hexies, and I use two different styles. To sew my rows together, I use a ladder stitch, to sew the rows together, I use a whip stitch.
I’m not quite ready to start stitching row to row, but I thought I’d share how I stitch the hexies into rows:
First I tie a knot a little left of center below the stitch line, then I take a small stitch and run my needle up and out, now I’m ready to grab my next hexie
I put the hexies together with the WRONG sides together and a ladder stitch out to the end of the first hexie.
Then I flip my hexies over and ladder stitch all the way to the other end
I flip the hexies one more time and stitch back to just left of center
I ‘open’ the hexies and put the needle to the back – right where the last stitch was. I don’t pick up any fabric here – if you do, that stitch might be visible
On the back side I take a small stitch on the new hexie where the needle came through
and tie a knot and run the needle under the knot to the other end of the hexie where I start the process again
For me, this leaves no thread showing on front, and the seam is nice and tight with no knots on the ends. This leaves those points nice and open for when I sew the rows together
So, this has been what I’ve been doing with my free time. Not too exciting, but the progress has been good and steady.
To celebrate, I’m going to be posting some free downloads. You’ll find my Unbe-weevil-ble quilt pattern, and a file to print to cut your own 1/2″ hexie paper templates. I’ll be adding my layouts for the Squid and Dragon Hexie quilts soon too – kind of exciting to be able to give back a little!
Timing is on my mind as I feel I’m going very slowly on the Jellyfish Hexie Quilt… I’ve started sewing rows together from the bottom up. I’m sewing about 25 hexies together a day, so I am making some progress.
Missing rows are currently being stitched together – bottom right rows completed.
I figure it will take about 3 months to sew the rows and another 2-3 months to sew the rows to each other. Fingers crossed to finish this year! Here’s my layout sheet – you can see I make really good use of it for note-taking, counts, and a little math. I used a piece of cardstock for the dragon quilt… much better than regular paper.
Jellyfish Pattern – all marked up, and a row of stitched hexies.
Help me celebrate my big 200 by leaving me a comment. (comments make my day!) I’d love to know if you have done English Paper Piecing before, and if so – what was your first project… and how long did it take you to finish? If you’ve never tried EPP, what would you make if you did?
A friend of mine just asked me a bunch of questions about how I make paper-pieced hexies, thanks for the inspiration to write about it, Karen D.
There are many steps and procedures to making an English Paper-Pieced (EPP) project. Since I’m a hexie addict, I thought I’d share a little about my process.
**I should mention: I’m a self taught graphic designer and beginning quilter with a passion for hexies and color. While I’m creating, I don’t worry about how I’m “supposed to” do things, or the “quilt police”. I just do things the way that works best for me until I’m shown something better. You may already know way more than I do… and that’s okay.**
Most people think of the Grandmothers Flower Garden design when they think of hexagons. It’s a great place to start – they make beautiful quilts, and you don’t have to think too much about the design until you are sewing the actual “flowers” together.
Grandmother’s Flower Garden Quilt – maker unknown (found by my neighbor) – Quilt top quilted by Nancy Stovall
Personally, I love the idea of quilts with more of an iconic design and bright colors, almost like a show poster. When I was shown how to make hexies for the first time at a PMQG meeting in 2010, I finally realized a way to create the type of quilts I wanted to make.
I use Adobe Illustrator to design my quilts. It’s a great program, but sometimes I wish I used a program that figured out your fabric requirements for you. One of those programs is the Threadbias Design Tool, I’ve heard great things about this one, but haven’t used it myself.
In Illustrator I work with color to differentiate between colorways… but I may not use the same colors in fabric as the design illustrates. I create the design in actual size on the computer so I know how big it will be. The image size is reduced to fit on a sheet of paper and I print it out, and that becomes my pattern. I name each colorway, and count how many hexies are in it.
As you can see, I labeled my colors: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H plus the background color, and a border color (which is not represented on my pattern). I counted how many hexies for each color way and wrote them down on a piece of paper, cut them up and put in individual baggies ready to collect hexies in that colorway
Once I have my counts, I get my hexies out. Before I do ANY sewing, I take the time to punch a hole in each hexie. This step is very important! It will save you so much time when you are done with your quilt top and need to take these papers out. I use paper pieces from Paperpieces.com. It is worth the money to have exact sized pre-made hexagaons! I only wish they came with a pre -punched hole.
I’ve never used plastic templates or cut them myself from old cardstock. I know some have had great experience with this… but not me. Seems to take way too much time.
The last thing I do to get ready is to prep a layout board. You can use a design board (rigid foam insulation covered with batting that rolls over to the back and is taped to the backside – here is a tutorial) to lie on a table and hold your hexies for layout before sewing them together. The board should be bigger than your finished quilt size. When I laid out the Dragon quilt, I used a 4’x6′ board which was just barely enough space to work within.
This board will need to find a good flat home for as long as you are sewing this quilt together. I was lucky enough to have the space in the corner of my sewing room, but while I was sewing it together, I was very limited in what I could do in my workspace. The Jellyfish I’m currently working on will be about 2’x4′, much smaller, but still tough to find space for it. It’s an issue I’m still pondering.
Once you have your board ready, design done, and hexie pieces prepped, it’s time to put a sewing kit together! You’ll want something that can hold 50 finished paper pieces (you have to work hard to make that many in a day), a small scissors, a whole package of needles, a thimble, a spool of thread, and space for 50 fabric squares.
MAKING EACH HEXIE
For the 1/2″ hexies, I prefer 1.5″ squares of fabric instead of an actual hexie shape with a 1/4″ seam allowance. It’s much faster to cut the fabric pieces that way, and I like how they bulk up (after being quilted) with the extra layer of fabric on the backside of the hexie.
Here is a ‘not so great’ video I quickly made just to show how I sew each one together. I don’t sew through the paper template, just the fabric. The main trick is to make sure the fabric is tight around the paper template each time you make a stitch. Because these are 1/2″ hexies, I only need to sew the corners. The same works for 3/4″ hexies too, but once I get to 1″ or larger, I have to sew through the paper.
Once I have all my hexies made for a quilt, I lay them all out on the layout board I discussed earlier. This part is super fun, but I can become obsessive with finding just the right spot for each hexie. By laying them out before sewing, you have full control of how the design will look before stitching them all together.
When the hexie pattern is complete on the layout board, I pick a diagonal row to start stitching together. Here in the squid quilt, you can see the row I was working on because it’s missing.
To stitch the hexies up into rows, I start with two hexies WRONG sides together. Using a ladder stitch, I start from the center, work to one side, then the other, then back to the center to tie a knot and secure it before moving onto the next hexie in the row.
How did I keep my pieces straight to know exactly how to sew them together?
I made a “tool”: I used a 2″ wide x 18″ strip of batting to carefully set my row of hexies on in the order they were to be stitched, then I covered that with a 1.5″ wide x 18″ piece of fabric. Then, starting from the furthest hexie, roll it up. As you open your “roll” for work, it should start with the next hexie in the design.
I stick the roll in a little plastic container with the batting on the bottom and carefully pull the batting as you need hexies, they will pop out like a little Pez dispenser, and you can roll the “used” batting under the other side as you go. I may need to make a little video for this at some point too!
Sewing these strips takes some time, as they are finished I put them back on the layout board and keep going. In this photo, you can see the middle strips are sewn. You WILL need a thimble for this work, and even still I ended up with a nice callous on a couple fingers.
STITCHING ROWS TOGETHER
The last bit is to sew these rows of hexies together. I personally found that it worked best (for me) to lay the piece flat and whip stitch together making knots at every corner point. Here is a picture of the seams on the back of the dragon quilt before I took out the basting and papers.
When all the rows are stitched up, you can take out all the papers. First I go over the whole quilt snipping the basting on each hexie, I leave the thread in place. Then I use a toothpick and “grab” the hexie by the punched hole with the toothpick and just pop them out.
When you’re done you end up with a big pile of hexie papers. On this quilt I also picked out all the basting thread.
After a little press with the iron, most of these pieces are reusable! Once you get to this point, you need a big pat on the back… maybe even a celebration! It’s the best feeling in the world to finish a project like this… maybe that’s why I’ve started another one 🙂
So that’s about it for the way I make my hexies… how about you? Do you have any fantastic hexie tips to share?