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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hexagon Tutorial ~ Part Two

Sewing a Hexagon

Now that you have all of your tools ready, we can begin making a hexagon!!

No matter what size hexagon you decided to make, cut a piece of fabric large enough to give yourself a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance!  Be sure to punch a hole in your hexagon paper
before you begin stitching.


Pin the paper to your fabric and cut a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Err to more seam
allowance than less.  It doesn't have to be precise or accurate
at all, so eyeing it is perfectly fine.
A smaller seam allowance can work, but it can turn an easy job into a difficult one.
I didn't start out with these applique pins....with the nice white glass head.

I started with these little applique straight pins.  They work, but as time went on they
began to hurt my fingers.  I splurged a whole $6 on the better glass head pins. 
Money well spent!

I've also seen some people use paper clips instead of pins. 
I tried it but decided I liked the pins much better.
Truth be told, you don't need pins, but they really make the job easier,
in my humble opinion.  Try these options for yourself and do
whatever works well for you!

Use a single strand of general purpose thread no longer than 18 inches or so.
Run the thread over the Thread Heaven, thread the needle, and tie a knot at the end. 
 A thread longer than 18 inches will likely just get caught on the pin
and/or the hexagon corners.

Fold the top seam allowance over the paper and mitre fold the seam at the left so it fits the corner snugly.  Bring your needle under the seam allowances and up thru the fabric
near the point of the hexagon. 

*You may find it very helpful to pin the top seam allowance in place.  I do this because it makes for a tighter seam and...after making lots and lots of these... releases the stress of holding the fabric from your hands.  This gets to be a very real concern! After I made dozens and dozens of hexagons my hands began to hurt from the pressure of holding everything in place.  Save yourself the hurt and use the pins!

* Don't bring the first stitch too close to the point of the hexagon because you'll get a wonky dunce-cap kinda point from it.  Better to begin a bit lower! 

Take two stitches at the top of the seam.  With the second stitch,
I catch the loop to make a knot.  This will stop the thread from releasing the stitches
so you don't have to constantly maintain pressure on the folded seams.

Bring the needle down a bit further and repeat with two more stitches,
catching the loop on the second stitch as you did before. 


Rotate the hexagon and mitre the next seam to the left.  Take one or two running
stitches to bring the needle across to the next point.  Do not pierce the paper!  These basting stitches should be made in the fabric only.

Stitch as before taking two stitches near the top, loop knot, then two more stitches
a bit further down with another loop knot.

Continue until all six seams have been turned.  Knot the thread and cut!
You can remove the pin.
I didn't need to use my thimble when making the hexagons, but if your
fingers get sore, you certainly should.

One down.....that wasn't too hard, was it?  They are just too cute!

You may feel all thumbs at first, but hang in there!!  The thread will get caught on the corners
of the hexagon or the pin.  It just will.  If you get frustrated, write me a note....I will
sympathize with you!  Just keep stitching!

Prepare to become addicted!
(And yes....you can blame it all on me!)

In my next post, I will cover how to stitch the hexagons together.
Happy hexagons!  Pam

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hexagon Tutorial ~ Part One

Hexagon Supplies

I am very happy to report that my hexagon quilt is now in the hands of Ronda, my very talented friend and most excellent quilter.  Before I took the quilt top to her, I did take a quick photo so I can show you how it's progressing.  Drum roll please...........

PWSC J3 - Elizabeth's Prairie Garden
This is the first project I've ever made using hexagons and I have to say that it is something I know I will do for the rest of my life!  Those hexies are sooo cute and addictive!!  Nearly every fabric I encounter I think would make into an adorable hexagon, so I have a constant running pile of fabric squares ready to work on.  It takes only a few minutes, once you get the hang of making them, and before you know it, you've made enough to begin sewing them together.  And.... just as everyone always says, they really are the most portable little project!  A small bag of fabric squares, hexagon papers, needle, thread and scissors equates to many hours of sewing time. 

So...let's get you started making hexies!

English Paper Piecing

Here are my recommendations for basic supplies: 

Fabric swatches, hexagon papers, needles, general 50 or 60 weight sewing thread, silk thread, applique pins, Thread Heaven, thimble, needle threader, and either tweezers or hemostats. 

There are lots of opinions about the "right" supplies to use.  I will share my favorites with you and why they work well for me.  You may have a different choice and that's just fine.

Hexagon Papers
I looked into many of the available template & paper hexagon options and chose to work with pre-cut papers by a company called Paper Pieces.  There are many great options here and like so many quilting techniques, all are good....you just have to decide which is the right one for you.  I didn't want to spend my time cutting my own papers...I wanted to spend it sewing.  I chose to buy mine from Paper Pieces because they came in a wide array of sizes and pieces in the package and are very affordable. When choosing yours, one thing I would make sure of is that you can fold the sewn hexagons in half.  This was crutial for me when piecing them together.  More about that later.

Hexagons come in a wide variety of sizes and the size refers to the measurement of one of the six sides of the hexagon, not the width.  I chose to work with a 1 inch hex, which measures about 1 3/4 inches across.  The size was large enough so it would be easy to handle and shows a nice amount of fabric.  I also punched a hole in the center of my hexagons (before sewing them) so it would be easier to remove the papers when it was time....glad I did that, too!  Paper hexagons are available at your local quilt shop and at http://www.paperpieces.com/ 

It's no surprise that you'll want to use 100% cotton fabrics, but depending on the size of the hexagon you're making, and the project itself, you may want to choose certain types of prints.  If you're making really small hexagons, then you'll want to choose small prints.  When making my quilt, I stayed away from tone-on-tones that read one color and looked for fabrics that had a cute print or multiple colors.  If I were making a large super scrappy quilt, then I'd probably use anything and everything. 

Regular readers of my blog know that I love to starch my fabrics before cutting them, but I don't recommend using starched fabric when piecing hexagons.  I did piece several with starched fabric and it was harder to push the needle through the fabric.  Not so bad when you're sewing one or two, but awful when sewing a couple of hundred!  I got great results without the starch.

I recommend using two different threads - one for making the hexagon and a different one for piecing them together.

When sewing your hexagon around the paper, use any regular or unwanted (rarely used color, etc) 50 or 60 weight thread!  All you're doing is basting the fabric to the paper (thus takingon the hexagon shape) so the thread will never be seen.  It won't be removed either.  So...empty your bobbins, use odd colors, buy whats on sale. 

When sewing your hexagons together, I highly recommend using silk thread.  Silk thread is strong and very thin.  Your stitches sink into the fabric and are nearly invisible. This is very important as you don't want your stitches to be seen on your quilt top.  I use it for needle-turn applique as well.  I like using YLI silk thread (although there are many good brands out there) and have it in two colors, although it's available in a variety of colors, but I don't think it's necessary to purchase lots colors.  My favorite colors are taupe #235 and black # BLK.  I pieced all of my hexs together using just the taupe color and it worked just fine.  Silk threads are a bit pricey, however, a spool lasts a long time.  For example, I made 72 needle-turn basket blocks and pieced more than 200 hexagons before I emptied one spool.  There are some pitfalls to be aware of when sewing with silk thread and I'll help you thru those in future posts.

Use a single strand of thread when sewing the hexagons around the paper and when piecing them together.

When you're sewing the hexagon around the paper, use whatever needle feels comfortable to you.  At this point it's not as important to pick a particular needle.  For general use, my favorite needle is an embroidery needle, size 8, by Piecemaker. 

When sewing your hexs together, it's very important to have the proper needle.  Choose a small needle (small in diameter not necessarily length) that will pierce a small hole for tiny stitches and work well with the silk thread.  There are many types that will do this.... straw needles, milliners needles, and my personal favorite.... an applique needle, size 10 Gold'nGlide (gold eye) by John James.  Try them until you find the right one for you!

Once you find a needle you like, I do recommend buying a package or two because your needles dull from use against the papers.  You'll notice when it's a bit of a struggle to sew and you'll want a new sharp needle. 

Thread Heaven
Thread Heaven is a wonderful helper with any type of thread.  (It's the little blue square in the photo.)  It's filled with a substance that coats your thread so it's less likely to knot and tangle.  I use it on most every type of thread, but it's very important to use it for the silk thread which wants to twist and tangle more than cotton thread.  I've never had a problem with silk threads tangling since using Thread Heaven.  It's very inexpensive (about $4) and lasts a very long time. 

Applique Pins
These pins are very short pins made to stay out of your way when appliqueing.  You can use a regular size pin when sewing your hexagon around the paper, but the shorter applique pins lessen the chance your thread will become hooked on it.  Another inexpensive tool that will last many years! 

I'm not a person who sews with a thimble very often, but I guarantee you will need a thimble when piecing the hexs together!!  I tried sewing without one for awhile and had a nice hole in my finger to show for it.  Invest in a comfortable thimble.  That doesn't necessarily mean lots of money.  My favorite (and only) thimble is the leather one shown in the photo (the other one is an antique).  It's soft, nicely broken in and costs around $5.

Needle Threader
This is an optional notion.  Technically, you don't need to have one, although you probably have several lying around.  We will use this when I show you a great hint about working with silk thread.

Tweezers or Hemostats
We'll use either of these to easily remove the papers from our hexagons. 

Gather your supplies and get ready for my next post where I will teach you how to sew the fabric around the hexagon.  Please ask for all of these supplies at your favorite quilt shop!  They are usually happy to order whatever items you need.

If you have an alternate method of making hexagons and would like to share your technique or a favorite notion or hint/tip you use when making hexs, I invite you to leave a comment!  That way, we can all share in your knowledge!

Oh....and one more thing.....my hexagon quilt isn't quite finished!  No, I'm not talking about the quilting!   I'll still be adding a thing or two, so stay tuned and thank you for visiting with me today.  The next step in making hexagons is coming soon.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Subscribe by Email!

Just a quick note to say that you can now subscribe to my blog via email!  Just add your email address in the box to the right where it says - Follow by Email - and you'll receive my posts in your email inbox!  It's that easy!!

As of this morning, I have four more hexagons to sew to the quilt center!!!!  I have errands to run today....you know the exciting kind....post office, dry cleaner, grocery store (I may sneak a stop at Starbucks for my favorite drink - Cinnamon Dolce Latte....yum!).  When I get home, I'll sew those last four hex's and do a happy dance!!!  I'll have to choose the border fabric, sew it on, then off to the quilter!  I look forward to that moment (sigh) as I'm really happy with how it has turned out! 

Hope you get some stitching time today!  Pam

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Designing by Day ~ Hexagons by Night

Hello to all my quilty friends!

I need to fill you in on what's been cooking here in my studio.  I've been working on a lot of projects these last couple of months.  Four major projects that have all had September or October deadlines.  All are very exciting, and yet very frustrating because I've been sworn to secrecy!  Now... I can keep a secret, no doubt about that, but that doesn't mean I want to!  I think about what I want to write in my blog all the time.  I'm busy doing these fun and exciting things, yet I can't tell you about them right now!  So frustrating!  I will have loads of fun stuff to write about soon....some of my news I can share with you in the spring, but what about now?  The reason I'm sharing all of this with you is to...well.....explain why I haven't been more of a chatty Cathy.  I've been designing all kinds of things by day, and working on my hexagon quilt at night. 

Speaking of the hexagon quilt, I really thought I'd be finished by now.  It's holding up the release of Journey Three!  I have one more round of hex's to stitch....then I can work to complete the quilt, and so that's what I will be doing today.  I picked up a new audio book from the library yesterday so I'd have something good to listen to while I'm sewing and a stitchin'.  I just have to have this quilt finished in the next few days!!

You have all been very patient, too!  Hanging in there with me while I try to get all of this stuff done for Journey Three.  The minute the hex quilt is finished, I'll take a photo.....not a teaser photo....a photo of the whole quilt and post it.  Then, as the other quilts are bound, I'll show ya those too! 

Every hard working quilter needs some time away with friends, don't ya think?  Well, this quilter is looking forward to going on a retreat!!  Next week, I'll be headed to the retreat at Primitive Gatherings, Lisa Bongean's shop, along with my designer pal Tara Lynn Darr of Sew Unique Creations, and several other of our best quilting buddies.  We'll be shop hopping along the way, too!  Now that my iPad is up and working for blogging, that means that I can share all kinds of goodies with you.  Hey, maybe there will be a photo from one of the shops of a project that grabs your heart?  No...that's not a bad thing, that's a good thing!!

Well....I'd better get started with my hexagon quilt.  It's been nice spending a few minutes with you!  I hope you enjoy your day.....Pam

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Favorite Red Fabric!!

Do you remember when I talked about this lovely blue fabric and that it's one of my all time favorite fabrics ever?

 And how I knew it came in red, and I didn't think I had any until......

I found that indeed I owned it and forgot!

I vowed I'd use it in a quilt for Journey Three.....and I did!!

Here's your last preview of a quilt for Journey Three. 

The red print will be a border, blue print is sashing, and the light is the background.

The blocks are made from an assortment of blues....



....and butternut golden browns. 

Just what did I make with my fabrics?

For many months I've been making lots of hexagons?  I mentioned this in a prior post
when I was talking about managing my stash and how I love to display the hexagons 
where I can enjoy them as I work to make enough for the quilt.

They are so cute and soooooo addicting.  In Journey One & Two, we've been hand piecing Yo-yos and the bonus projects have used the Yo-yo's we've made.  Well....changes are coming in
Journey Three!  Hexagons will replace Yo-yos!!  I'm so excited!!  I've been having such fun
making hexagons.  Lots of hexagons!  When I look at a fabric I can't help but think about
whatit will look like as a hex.  Just whip one up!  If you love fabric, then you'll love making
hexagons from them!  Very soon, I will have a complete tutorial on how to make a
hexagon sewn the English paper piecing way.  I have designed a small quilt using the
hexagons as the bonus project for Journey Three.  I've been working on it
in the evenings and I'm almost finished.  I can hardly wait to show you!

Until next time.....feed your soul with the stitches you sew!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Safely Back Home

Well, our trip to San Francisco has come to an end.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  The highlight was our hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley - a thrilling first time for us both!  Now, of course, it's time to settle back into our daily routines.

I wanted to share another Journey Three sneak peek with you!  I love the combination of blues with greens.....here are the fabrics I chose.

These are all of the fabrics I used in my quilt.

The border is the navy with little green leafy twigs on it.  Love that fabric!!
Also.....a better look at the assorted lights.

The green background fabric in the photo is for a little border and setting squares, along with a close-up
of the blue prints I used.

Then....the green prints.

And just what did I make using these fabrics?

I'm getting ever closer to revealing all of the new projects for Journey Three.
All of the quilts have been pieced and are being quilted, bound and photographed.
Once they are all done, I can begin to show them to you.  Believe me, I
can hardly wait!!

I'll give you another sneak peek in my next post.  

Here's another tid bit......during the big reveal, I have a kit for nearly
every Journey Three quilt and will be raffling them off,so please
hang in there with me and stay tuned!!

Thanks for taking a moment to be with me today!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Laci's of Berkeley, CA

Yesterday morning, we set out to visit Laci's located in Berkeley, CA. I heard about Laci's many years ago and once I knew I was coming to the bay area again, I just had to check it out.

Laci's boasts a huge inventory of lace making supplies from all over the world. They also have a museum with rotating exhibits on a wide variety of subjects from vintage lace, ribbons, nineteenth century foundation garments and dresses, and sewing tools. Unfortunately, the museum was not open
as they were in-between exhibits. That didn't matter...they had tons of good stuff there. Since I don't work with lace, my attention went to the vintage sewing items which were so fun to look at and admire.

They had a wonderful library of all kinds of pattern books and informational books on every subject related to needlework. Here's a look at the books I found.

You can visit Laci's for yourself at www.Lacis.com. Guess what? I posted this from my iPad! Feeling like I'm the Geek of the World!!!!

Location:Stevens Creek Blvd,Santa Clara,United States

Saturday, September 3, 2011

San Francisco

On Friday, I stepped away from my everyday life for a few days to get some rest, have some fun, and visit my favorite American city, San Francisco!  We rode the cable car to Fisherman's Warf, the went on to Napa Valley where we enjoyed a dinner on the Wine Train which travels thru the Napa Valley vineyards....wonderful!

Serendipity struck yesterday morning when my hubby and I were dining at a local breakfast spot downtown, when who got seated next to us but my cousin Pennie and her husband, Dave!  They live in southern California and we don't get to see each other very often.  We had no idea they were coming to San Francisco and they didn't know we were either.  We were and are still stunned that we not only ended up in the same city, but in the same area of the city, with hotels one block apart, eating at the same restaurant at the table next to us!!  It's truly a small world!!  They joined us on the cable car and our visit to the warf.  So fun!

I plan on visiting Laci's - a shop in Berkeley that I heard of many years ago that specializes in vintage fabrics, laces and antique sewing tools.  I'll let you know what I find.

I am still struggling to post to my blog using my iPad which is the whole reason I bought one.  I am determined to get it working!  In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying the long Labor Day weekend doing something you love. 

Thanks for stopping by....Pam