This tutorial for our NEPP Hand Sewing Kits, but can work for any running stitch application.
*Note: I am self taught. I tend to over-do things with hand sewing because I want it to last. I am always learning – if I learn something new to make this process better, I will update as necessary!
To start, I use these tools:
Thimble – Dritz Soft Comfort Thimble size M – it’s inexpensive and works pretty well.
Needle – John James Sharps 12
Thread – Superior Kimono Silk Thread #100
For our kits, I would recommend laying out all the pieces before sewing – it’s easier to check placement that way, but it’s not necessary.
Get ready for some photos and sorry for the few blurry ones…
Start by taking some thread from the spool, and threading your needle (don’t cut the thread – making sure it’s the right end to use), then tie a knot in the thread directly to the needle:
I use a very fine silk thread, so I tie it twice – really tight and it still has no problem going through the fabric with the needle:
Now, pull about 12-18″ of thread from the needle to the spool and cut. You don’t want it too long, just enough to go from your hand to your elbow – to make a nice one-pull stitch. Make a quilters knot at the other end. There is a tutorial here by Amanda Lipscomb on how to do that. Again, since I’m using fine thread, I “wrap” the thread about 6 times instead of 2.
Time to pick the two pieces you want to sew together. From your layout, start at the center and flip one piece over another at your chosen seam, to make sure you are sewing the seam in the right direction. I’m right-handed, so I pin the left side, then stick my needle in the right side, connecting the two points on both fabrics:I always check the backside to make sure the points are lining up before starting:Then run your needle from the back to the front a stitch away from the point:This is where I go a little overboard and tie another knot here – I like to knot at every corner just in case I sew a wrong piece in, or the wrong side… I can take out any one stitch without any other stitches coming out:From here I take a backstitch to the first point:Then it’s time for the actual running stitch:I take about 3-5 stitches, then check the back before pulling it through:Adjust as necessary to make the stitch lines line up as much as possible – this will give you very accurate seams. Pull the thread through and take a backstitch before your next running stitch:Continue on to the end point – bring the needle to the top:Always check your backside (*giggle*):Take a backstitch:Tie a knot:YAY!! You made your first Y-seam!
Every seam is done the same way… to get to the next seam, put your needle from the back to the front, right on the point. Be very careful not to catch any other fabric:Check your placement and put the next piece on by connecting it at the point:Pin the other end in place:Pull needle to the back then back to the front about a stitch away from the point. I also use a wonder clip here to make sure the seam allowance of the first piece does not interfere with the stitching. The most important thing: Only sew two pieces of fabric together at a time, do not catch any other fabric, especially when knotting at the ends!!:Tie a knot, backstitch to the point:Check the backside:Start your running stitch and continue:Keep going until you get close to the end of your thread. Get to the end of a seam and tie a knot as usual, then tie another knot into the seam allowance of the top fabric (only one piece of fabric) – do not tie the ending knot into both fabrics in the seam allowance.
I really hope this is helpful in getting someone new to feel comfortable in starting a hand sewing project like this. Happy Sewing!
I’m talking color today! Since I missed a day in the 31 Day Blog Challenge yesterday, I decided to beef it up today! 😉
If you do any printing, these acronyms might look familiar. Since I work with this every day, I realized that I know a few things that some people may not – and I thought I’d share a few interesting bits.
As quilters, you may have noticed on the selvages of fabric yardage, there are colored spots. They are usually circles, but sometimes the spots are different shapes (when the designers are being fun!) and the number of dots change from fabric to fabric.
Each spot represents an ink color used in the print. Each one of those colors is mixed and printed individually. To make sure colors print correctly, the PMS or Pantone Matching System is used. PMS colors are used primarily in fabric printing and screen printing where only one color can be used in a screen, or printing plate. There is a PMS color matching guide book printed each year, where specific colors are numbered. Since these colors are printed as hard copy, and they all match exactly – you know if you ask for PMS 802C, you’ll get exactly what’s printed under 802C – which happens to be a neon green.
Most ink manufacturers have a mixing guide based on PMS – so when we go to mix an ink, we can look up the number with the ink maker and find out the exact measurements of base ink colors to use. For instance, the grey colors below are PMS 431 (lighter) and PMS 432 (darker). The formulas to mix these two colors are very different, even though they are close to the same color.
The formulas look like this:
PMS 431= 47.25% White / 45.96% Black / 6.53% Blue / .26% Red
PMS 432 = 58.1% Black / 25.71% MarineBlue / 9.1% Green / 7.09% White
Once the PMS colors are mixed, they can be used in a screen (stencil) or printing plate.
When printing on paper, and most other print applications, these grey inks would be created in a totally different way. A series of different colored dots would mix to create them. CMYK stands for: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and K for Black. This type of printing uses very small of dots of these transparent colors that overlap and create a full ranges of ink colors. Inkjet printing mimics this process for home printing use. When printing magazines, packaging, etc., it’s called 4-color Process Printing. This is done on large machines, and color correction is done by increasing and/or decreasing the size and saturation of dots used for each color.
CMYK is now used in the way of digital printing. There are companies like Spoonflower that use this process to print fabric, and a whole bunch of new t-shirt printing companies that use this process on shirts and apparel. This technology is getting better and better every year. It works great for custom items, especially for photographic images where hundreds of colors are actually used. However, color saturation and ability to match exact colors still leave a lot to be desired.
RGB and HEX are both terms for colors on a screen. RGB or Red, Green, and Blue are the three hues of light that create all colors on computer screens, monitors, lit signs, etc.; and HEX codes are used for identifying it’s specific colors.
When designing on a computer, you are looking at RGB color, and when you print you will be using either CMYK or PMS color. The transition between the two can be challenging the first time you try to print something.
If I were designing a T-shirt or fabric, I would use PMS colors. I would use the printed book as my guide since the monitor only shows color in RGB. The PMS colors would be specially mixed and used as solid or spot color fills.
If I were designing a magazine ad, I would use CMYK. CMYK is printed as a tiny dot matrix of these four colors that overlap to create full color prints. I may even throw in a special PMS color pop, if I have the extra money for printing.
Since RGB is the color source used on any screen, everything I design starts here. If I were designing a website, I’d use HEX color codes to choose specific colors.
You may have designed something on your computer screen, then gone to print and your black turns out to look a little grey…? That is because you are designing in RGB for something that will print as CMYK. For anything printed, change your settings to CMYK and you will have much better success.
I’m hoping this all makes sense – once you understand how different color terms are used, it makes it easier to print with feelings of security.
I recently designed a new quilt that will need to employ foundation paper piecing for accuracy. I was pretty hesitant to start making blocks until I was shown a really neat technique at our PMQG sew day by Rozina who was working on a Pickle-Dish block.
After she showed me how she did paper piecing, I went out and bought a roll of freezer paper and just jumped right in. This is a pretty easy way to get accurate piecing… AND not have to rip papers out at the end.
I haven’t managed to film a good working video yet, so get ready for a lot of photos!
The blocks of this quilt are all the same – using different fabrics. There are 15 blocks in the quilt pattern that are split on an angle to make the inner triangle. Each block finishes at 6.5″ x 9″ – I inversed my pattern and printed it on a piece of lightweight newsprint paper.
From there, I cut freezer paper to 8″x10″ sheets – this gives me plenty of room for additional seam allowance. I took 8 sheets of FP with the paper side up (wax side down) and stapled the paper pattern to the top. I stitched through all layers without thread, then carefully took out the staple. I trimmed the paper to 3/8″ around the pattern to account for seam allowance. This gave me 8 freezer paper templates with perforated lines, ready to use. These templates can be re-used quite a few times, but I opted to make a template for each block to keep things organized better. My machine did fine with 8 sheets, you may need to test yours.
Now the tricky part:
Here is the section of the paper pattern I’m going to demonstrate – it’s highlighted – Block #B1.
I marked the freezer paper with pencil on the paper side – so the marking is inversed. That is a hard thing for my brain to get around due to my dyslexia – I have to triple-check my markings before sewing, and I still get some things mixed up… but basically, if I flip the freezer paper over, the markings will match my pattern.
Heat up the iron, I’m ready to start sewing!
I start from the center section of the block – for this demo, “X” is for solid yellow. I put the fabric right side down, and lay the freezer paper over it (wax side down) and press. Don’t worry about the wax paper on your ironing surface – it peels up easily without residue while still warm.
You can see here while I’m holding this up that the fabric is now adhered to the freezer paper. See how there is at least 1/4″ of extra fabric around the whole “X” section. There is excess on this piece I used, I need to trim that off.So… lay the paper/fabric piece on your cutting table, fabric side down – and carefully peel back the wax paper to the perforated line that marks the “X” section:
Now you are ready to trim that extra piece off, but make sure you add 1/4″ seam allowance first.
Now you are ready to add your second piece of fabric- which, for me are these dots!
With the paper folded over, you can check to see if the fabric is large enough to cover the perforated shape plus seam allowance.
Once you have your fabrics together (right sides together), it’s time to sew. I sew right next to the freezer paper fold. Sometimes I catch a little of the paper, but that’s okay, as long as it is very close to the fold.
Now it’s back to the iron. I lay the piece down so both fabrics are on top,
then I fold one fabric back and press out, just on the seam (very careful NOT to touch the freezer paper!)
Then I flip the whole thing,
double-check the seam matches up to the perforated line,
fold the paper back over the fabric and press.
Now I have two pieces stitched together, and I’m ready to trim the dots and add my next section.
So, I fold back the paper to the perforated line that denotes this section,
And trim adding 1/4″ seam allowance.
Add next piece of fabric (solid yellow in this case) and sew closely to the folded paper line.
Open and press as before, careful not to iron over the wax part of the paper.
And… as you can see… I make mistakes sometimes! This second solid yellow piece is sewn on backwards – it doesn’t cover it’s “X” section the way I sewed it on, so I had to do a little seam ripping. It didn’t affect the paper at all.
I was able to reuse the piece, I just had to carefully place it before stitching so it would cover the whole section, and still have seam allowance.
After stitching and pressing, this is how it is supposed to look!
I keep adding sections, one at a time, out to one edge,
then start in the center again to work toward the other side.
Once all the sections are covered, I consider the block DONE! I’m leaving the paper on and not trimming the sides until I’m ready to start sewing them together.
All my markings are still on the back – which should make layout a snap.
Here are three finished blocks all lined up:
I’m so excited to start sewing this quilt together! I guess you could say I’m a little obsessive – all I want to do is sew. Things like eating, cleaning, and work tend to become frustrating distractions, and I have to check myself to make sure I stay grounded. I have to say, with corporations trying to destroy our planet, and politicians just helping them along… it’s extremely easy for me to lose myself in a project like this.
I hope this little tutorial was as informative and inspiring for you as it was when it was shown to me!
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:
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?