HomeMy WebsiteAbout mePocket PatchworkFreebie Patterns

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.



  1. Looking forward to the next tutorial! Thanks for doing it! And I love your little quilt - can't wait to see what you are adding

  2. Thank You---------I have been reading for a year or more about everyones hexis and didn't take the plunge into makeing some because frankly, I just didn't know how. I thought that when they said 1" hexi, it was 1" width, I knew my fingers would never be able to manage that. I will get my supplies together and will be ready for lesson #2 . Thank you again.

  3. Pam ~ that is a great tutorial ~ do you cut the fabric in the shape of a hexagon? or use squares? I may get some together for my road trip later this week (-;

  4. I joined PWSC for this first time - start next month. I'm kind of excited about the hexis because I've never done them before! I've heard so much about them, nice know that I'll be learning them.

  5. Love your quilt! Thanks for doing this tutorial on hexies. They are so tempting!

  6. You are like the energizer bunny............
    Great tutorial, getting supplies ready to go. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  7. I've been wanting to do these forever! Thanks for a great start, Pam! I look forward to your next posts on this!

  8. Thank you...this is excellent. Love the details and hints.

  9. I love making hexagons. I make my own paper hexagons using a scrap booking punch, quick and easy!

  10. Thank Pam for doing this tutorial. I guess I'm adding a new hand project to my list! ;o) Looks like fun! Cheers!