Monday, December 12, 2011

Hexagon Piecing

When I first started thinking about making a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt, I looked at hexagon quilts online.  Almost everyone used English Paper Piecing, but the idea of that really did not appeal to me.  It seemed like so much more work. (I'm not alone in my opinion, Jinny Beyer says basically the same thing in her book Quiltmaking by Hand).  So I decided how big I wanted my hexagons to be, downloaded a hexagon shape from the internet, and made a template:

On my template you can see the little holes I punched where my quarter-inch seam allowances cross.  I cut my fabric shapes out (not all at once!) and used a pencil to mark little dots on the backside of the pieces.  Then I piled the pieces in a ziploc bag and stuffed them in my purse.

All I need are my pieces, thread, needles, a few pins

and some scissors
and I'm good to go.

(You may notice that these pictures are taken inside of a car.  That's because most of my hand piecing takes place on the road.  Here I am waiting for my son to get out of basketball practice.  I thought I'd show you hand piecing in "the field", so to speak :)

The few places I found that didn't use paper piecing still sewed their hexagons together in a complicated way, going round and round, skipping every other piece.  I couldn't figure out why they did it like that. It made more sense to me to piece them in rows, then sew the rows together.  I made a prototype, saw that it worked, and that's how I've been doing it.

First of all, I set my hexagon block up the way I want it. Then I start with a row.  Take two pieces, put them right sides together, and pin them in such a way that the pins come out where the dots are:
Check the back side to make sure the dots are lined up.

Take a threaded and knotted needle (I use quilting betweens just because I like short needles, but use what you like) and insert it at the first point.

Sew across the piece in a small running stitch, making sure to stop at the other pin point.
Do a little backstitch, knot off your thread, snip and first piece is done.  Smooth the seam allowance to one side (doesn't really matter which). View from the back:

View from the front.  I take my fingernail and smooth the seam flat.  There is no ironing going on in the car :)

Repeat until the whole row is finished:

Repeat THAT until all your rows are finished, then lay them out in order.

Pick which two rows to start with and lay them out carefully.

Flip over the top row onto the bottom row and pin the two first pieces together like you did at first, making sure dots (or seams) line up.

Thread your needle with a long strand of thread and begin as before.  When you get to the end of the seam, pull the seam allowance to the side, out of the way.  In hand piecing the seam allowances are left free -- they are not sewn down.

It's a little blurry, but can you see what I'm talking about there?

Take a backstitch at the end of that seam, then pivot the piece around and pin at the edge of the next seam, like so:

Sew to the end of that seam, again keeping the seam allowance out of the way.  Don't forget a little backstitch at the end.

At the end of some seams, you pivot the piece, like we just did.  But other seams require you to go to the other side of the seam allowance, like below.  The way to do that is to simply stick the needle through.  This will leave the seam allowance free and put you where you want to be.

Here's a closeup:

And here's another view:

Keep sewing along, one seam at a time, until you get to the end of the row.

One row completed:

Now this is not that hard, but do keep checking on what you are doing.  Don't get cocky, or you will end up with THIS:

ARRRRGGGGGHHHH!  No matter that I have made over 50 of these suckers, every once in a while I get this.   After removing the stitches (the seam ripper is my friend, the seam ripper is my friend), I can see what I did wrong.  See how I started on the very END side of the top row instead of the bottom angled side?

This time I am careful and it WORKS!

TAA-DAA!  A completed hexagon block!

And my time (this took two times, thanks to my mistake)  in the car has been well-spent!

Hopefully this has been clear.  If not, you can comment or email me.  If you are really serious about hand piecing though, you should get Jinny Beyer's book.  It will walk you through every step of making a quilt.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting my home tour, Angela...and I do sooooo wish that you could visit and we could just sip our coffee (or tea) and sit and chat about all sorts of things!
    Again, you have amazed me with your quilting, making something that looks (to me) so difficult, so doable.
    Love your daughter's knitting projects too!


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