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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

How to make a hexie quilt using English paper piecing.

Today I thought I would give you a little tutorial on English paper piecing.

I used to make lots of quilts but my favourites are getting worn and needing to be patched so I decided to make a new one. There's nothing quite like snuggling down with a quilt on the sofa on a cold winters night to watch a good film. I have made some 'clever' quilts in my time with intricate designs but realised that I prefer the plainer, more traditional ones so I decided to go with a scrap hexaginal quilt with a vintage feel to it. It turned out I didn't have enough scraps so I did end up buying fabric but only in fat quarters to retain the scrappy feel.

This method of quilt making is not for the faint hearted or anyone that wants a quilt in a hurry. It's a slow process but if you enjoy hand stitching it can be pleasurable. It is also very portable!

Many of these quilts are made with tiny hexagons but I didn't want a UFO on my hands so I have used hexagons with sides that measure 3 inches. This is how far I've got so far. It is about five feet long and still has some growing to do.
Paper templates are the first thing you need. Each one needs to be the size you want the finished patch to be, without seam allowences. These can be purchased already cut or you can make your own. I prefer to make my own and use paper from old magazines. If you decide to make your own and don't know how to draw a hexagon there are many tutorials online. I would suggest that you make a template from cardboard and use that to draw around. If you draw around papers that you've already cut they will slowly get bigger.

Next you must cut your fabric out. To get the correct size pin a paper template on to the reverse side of your fabric and cut it about 1/4 inch larger.
Now using the paper template as a guide turn the edges of the 
fabric and stitch to the paper with large tacking stitches in a contrasting thread. These stitches will be removed later.

Before you know it you will have a stack of hexagon patches basted to paper and ready to be joined!
This is the tricky bit! Hand stitching is not usually as strong as machine stitching so your joining stitches must be tiny and very close together. 
Take two patches and place right sides together. You need to stitch along the edge where the fabric turns over the paper. Try not to stitch in to the paper. I have used a neutral cotton on this quilt but if you are using strong colours you may need thread to match. Use a good quality thread which is strong. I always make two stitches in the corners or even a blanket stitch as this will be the weakest point and more likely to come apart as construction commences. I've taken a photo of the tiny stitches but am not sure if they will be clearly visable.
You can join your hexies in rows or you may prefer to start with a central patch and work out from it. Remember every time you come to a corner to add an extra stitch or two for strength. When a patch is joined to another one on all sides you can undo your taking stitches and remove the paper. Do not remove the papers from the outer edges which have not yet been joined to another patch.

Whilst you are stitching all of your patches together you will have plenty of time to think about edges and borders. I intend to have a plain, cream border and then some more patches outside that but haven't decided on the edge yet. It can be squared up or left with a sort of zig zag edge which is what you get with the hexagons. If you want the edge squared up at any time. Either for joining a border or for the edging you will need some half hexagons to fill in the spaces. Just cut your papers in half and proceed as normal.

Before you embark on a project of this kind I recommend that you search for images of hexagon quilts because there are many patterns which can be made from them. Pinterest is always a good resource.

Oh yes I forgot to mention that I wanted my quilt to be a little different and slightly quirky so a few of the patches are made up of more than one piece of fabric. Some almost look like crazy quilting. I have kept this to a minimum but they are there on close inspection. See if you can spot any in this pic.
If you have any questions please ask in the comments box and I would love to see your creations as well. I will keep you updated but don't hold your breathe because it will take some time.

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