This paper piecing Monday is dedicated to paper piecing the English way, a technique that is used for a number of great patterns including my favorite, hexagons.
English paper piecing is the simple method of wrapping fabric around a paper/cardboard template to form shapes usually with neat crisp edges. The process involves a lot of hand sewing starting with basting of the fabric to the paper template, followed by sewing the blocks together through to hand quilting (the preferred form of quilting with hexagon quilts in particular).
I was recently introduced to this form of paper piecing at my local Modern Quilt Guild,. At the meeting we were given instructions, advice, some 1 inch hexagons, some 2 1/2 inch square cuts of fabric, a needle and thread and sent off to make hexies. I did not realize it would be so addictive, and now only a month or so later I have feverishly made 400+ hexies.
My hexagons are 1 inch (hexagons measurements are done by the length of its side) which I have found to be the perfect size for me – not so small that it is daunting and fiddly but big enough that some nice fussy cutting is possible. I started this project using hexies that I cut out myself using a template I downloaded from the web. There are some great hexagon templates on-line including Texas Freckles downloadable 1 inch and 1 1/2 inch templates that can be found here.
After calculating that I would need to cut out at least 400 hexagons I decided to get someone else to do it for me and went to Paper Pieces and ordered 500 of their pre cut hexies. Paper Pieces has an array of sizes and patterns and it is worth checking out there site if your project is going to be bigger than a pillow!
We got some great instructions on making hexagons at the meeting, but the internet has also been a wonderful resource for “how to” for me. Texas Freckles has a great video tutorial on both basting the hexagons and piecing them that you can find here. Amy at Badskits has a great illustrated PDF tutorial that you can find here. And Jaybird Quilts did a hexagon focus as part of their quilt basics series which can be found here.
Some of the most helpful tips we got at the Guild meeting were:
1. Punch a hole in your paper template. It will make removing the paper easier when the project is done.
2. Attach your fabric as firmly as you can to the template to avoid slipping when basting, as you tend to be working with a small margin of error on pieces this smalls. Some people used paper clips, some people used pins, I used the paper piercers go to – Elmer’s glue stick.
3. You can be a little messy when basting, no one will see it in the end.
One of things I love about English Paper piecing is that it is so portable. I made a big dent in my hexagon production during a long flight back from Australia recently. The kit I put together for that flight has travelled with me to Guild meetings, doctors appointments, Game of Throne screenings etc. My kit is pretty simple:
- A bobbin of white or cream cotton
- A thimble
- Needle and needle threader (my eyes are not what they used to be(
- A paper clip and pins – just in case the glue does not stick
- The smallest least threatening pair of scissors I could find (so TSA would not freak out)
- My prepared hexies and my completed hexies are stored in the bottom compartment.
About a week ago, as my hexagon collection grew, I realized I did not know what I wanted to do with them all, so I started looking at both traditional and modern hexie quilts. Hexagons are believed to be one of the oldest pieced patterns, with hexagon templates for quilts having been found in England dating back to he 1770’s. With such a long history and the modern resurgence I had a lot to think about.
After much umming and ahhing I decided I wanted to so something modern that tipped its hat to the past. I love the depression era hexagon quilts and in particular the flower patterns that were prevalent and so settled on doing a version of that pattern. My first experiment was this block.
I was going to put a border of white hexies around the block (as is done in many traditional quilts) but I thought it was not quite modern enough for me. In the end I went with this.
I love the black and white center. It makes the colour of the flowers seem so much more vibrant and modern. I have pieced together 9 flowers so far and I am loving it. I am learning so much as I make this quilt including:
1. That my stitches (I am using a whip stitch to piece) is what is holding these hexagons together so I have to make my stitches small. I am trying to get about 10 stitches per 1 inch side, though I am not always successful at that.
2. Unlike basting the hexagons, with the piecing your stitches need to be neater.
3. It is not going to be perfect and if some stitches are showing slightly it is okay. When you look at this quilt you will know that it is hand stitched, which is a good thing.
4. I may only have one of these in me and this is a quilt I am keeping!