Anemone quilt: how to do hexies

It’s this quilt again.

Pauline said she couldn’t get her head around how I made the hexie flowers, and could I explain? It’s not at all hard to do, but a bit tricky to explain in words, so there will be lots of pictures. You can click and zoom on any of them. This isn’t going to be interesting or new for everyone, but if it demystifies the process for even a couple of you, I’ll be happy.

Let’s get started. For each flower you need a centre and six petals. In this quilt all the centres, or hearts, are black. To save time, I just cut squares that will accommodate the 2″ hexie papers*, rather than laboriously trace and trim out hexie shapes in the fabric. You can fold and hold the fabric in place if there’s a bit extra, but with the trimmed shapes, you might need clips, pins or tape to hold it in place while you stitch. Most of my hexie quilts use much smaller papers, but I liked the big ones to showcase the fabrics.

Then start wrapping each hexie paper with the fabric and stitching it in place. This is called ‘basting’. Fold a corner of the fabric over the paper, stitch down until the next corner, where you fold the fabric over again and stitch down to secure the fold. I start with a good knot, which at the end of the process I use to help me pull out the basting at the end.

At the end, simply do a double stitch to secure, and snip the thread. Now repeat that six more times with the petal fabric.

Once you have all 7 hexies done, arrange them around the heart so that the pattern is pleasing, if appropriate. You can obviously use all different fabrics, or two, or three or just one.

Take the heart hexie, and one of the petals, laying them face to face. Knot the end of your thread. Start stitching along the edge where they meet. The stitches should pick up just a few threads at the edge of the hexies, and not pass through the paper at all. Work on the basis of at least 10 stitches per inch.

When you reach the end, pick up the next petal in the layout, lay it on the front of the heart, face to face, and continue with the thread from attaching the previous petal. Carry on all the way round until you reach your start point. Do not knot off and cut the thread.

Put the edges of the two adjacent petals together, and using the same thread, stitch these two edges together. Knot off and cut the thread. Work around the flower to attach all the petals to each other.

You will end up with a neat, crisp flower on the front.

At this point you have a choice. If you have used lightweight fabrics, quilting cotton, shirting, etc, you can leave the corners of the fabric on the back, as they won’t make an enormous difference when quilting. If you have used firmer or heavier fabrics, it would be a good idea to trim them off to leave a ¼ to ½ inch seam allowance, depending on how close to the edge you have basted. This will reduce the thickness and weight of the final quilt.

Use a pair of sharp scissors and snip away the excess fabric. You don’t need to get an immaculate result, just tidy it up a bit.

So there you are, a pretty, tidy hexie flower. There’s an endless variety of ways to join these. As you can see from the photo at the beginning, I’m separating the flowers with polka dot hexies. You can also surround them with a border and then a separator, or you can create diamonds using extra hexies, and so on. A quick search on Pinterest for ‘EPP’ or ‘Hexie Quilts,’ or a simple Google search will show a huge choice. One of my all-time favourites is a baby quilt using white petals, yellow hearts and green borders and separators, like a field of daisies. All the fabrics were different, which gave it a visual richness that flat, same fabrics would have lacked in this simple design.

Once you’ve joined flowers together, you can pull out the basting from all the hexies except the ones around the edge. Press well first, then unpick the basting, starting with the end stitches and pulling on the knot once you have one or two stitches left. Slide the paper out. You can use it again. It may need a bit of an iron to flatten out; papers get creased when you fold your work up between sessions.

I’m sometimes asked why I stitch through the papers instead of stitching only through the fabrics. It’s because I’ve tried both ways, and I prefer this one. It gives a crisper edge and sharper corners, as the fabric is tensioned over the paper more than using the other method. You may find the fact that you don’t need to unpick the basting is worth the lack of precision. Alternatively, you can buy little glue sticks you can run along the back edge of each paper and stick the fabric down. I don’t like this method as sometimes my papers stay in for years on a long term project, and by the time I remove them, the glue has stuck tight and shreds of paper remain, which is a Bad Thing, and ruins your papers for future use.

I hope this has clarified the process for you (looking at you, Pauline!), and that you might be tempted to give it a try. Who knows, being in lockdown might actually provide the impetus of boredom needed!

If you do, I’d love to hear about it.


Note: hexie papers are sized according to the length of each side, not by diameter. You can buy them from any quilt shop in packs of 50 or 100, and in a variety of sizes. 2 inches is a fun size to start with, as you get results quickly, but isn’t such a great way to bust your scraps if that’s what you want to do.

Parterre 2: the how-to, and the first block

With everything ready, I had no excuse.

Et voilà! This is Block 1 of dunnamany, but at least 36.

So, on the offchance that you might want to know how to make it, here’s a few words and pictures.

Cut a piece of tear-away stabiliser a bit larger than the finished block, and lay it on top. You should be able to see the layout through it fairly easily. If not, thicken the lines with a black marker. Mark the corners of the block on the stabiliser.

Cut all the templates out of your chosen fabrics. In an ideal world, you should starch the fabrics first, as this makes it much easier to cut the shapes out. Note: I wanted two cream fabrics in each background so I’ve created a template for only half of the background. You can make it all in one piece if you lay the edge on a fold. I use a fine lead mechanical pencil on the right side of the fabric in most cases, and then cut very accurately on the line with scissors.

Once you have everything cut out, you’re good to go. I’m using yoyos I already have, but to make them in the correct size, you need to use the 4 inch template I’ve drawn. It’s also quick and easy to make them using a yoyo maker: this is the one I like, by Clover.

Start in the middle with the two background pieces (or one large piece if that’s what you’re going with). Lay them in place and pin to stop them sliding around. Then lay over the leaves, overlapping the seam allowances at the bottom, folding the top one under. Finally, add the two corners. Pin everything in place, flip the stabiliser over and check the back to ensure the seam allowances are even and fully overlapped.

If all is well, baste down the leaf and inner edge of the corner pieces and remove the pins. Leave the pins in the background and at the bottom of the corner pieces.

Blanket stitch down the basted edges and remove the basting. Lay down the length of ribbon and lightly dab glue stick on the back. Stick down on the centre line of the background, bottom edge flush with the seam allowance. The top edge will be concealed by the flower. Top this with the 3 inch flower circle. Baste the flower circle in place and blanket stitch both this and the ribbon stem down.

Lay down the last two corners and baste in place, turning under the seam allowances on the arms to give a finished edge. Blanket stitch, and remove basting.

Turn the block over, tear away the stabiliser and trim out the seam allowances and excess fabric behind the flower head. Finally, apply glue stick to the back of the yoyo, stick it down in the centre of the flower and blanket stitch around the outside. In case you’re wondering, that yoyo is dark blue, not black.

And you’re done!

Simple perfection

I Pinterest.

And the other day, this love and the hours I spend trawling for inspiration were fully, fully justified when I discovered there a tutorial which has been a total game-changer for me.

My quilts are more known for being colourful or an interesting concept or design than for the perfection of my piecing. I freely admit that my favourite mantra is “Finished is better than perfect”. This lack of skill (or perhaps my stubborn refusal to unpick something just a bit wonky when I’m on a roll) has put out of reach my long-time ambition to create a postage-stamp scrappy double quilt. Can you imagine the escalation of non-matching corners across a full size quilt? It didn’t bear thinking about, and knowing myself thoroughly, I sadly put the idea on a very distant back burner.

But look at this baby!  Check out those corners!  See how crisp and perfect and lovely it is!

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 12.30.33 pm

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 12.30.50 pmOK, I’ll stop taking the credit now, and give it where it’s due. I used Elizabeth Hartman’s postage stamp block tutorial. It’s beautifully explained and photographed, all laid out with the kind of detail and clarity any moron or person in an extreme hurry can understand, and it uses no special tools, only things that any average sewist will have on hand. You need only the smallest amount of patience at the start, and after that, it goes astonishingly quickly

It’s so wonderfully simple: cut your squares a tiny, tiny bit smaller than a 2″ grid marked on a square of lightweight iron-on interfacing. Arrange all your squares with edges touching. Press. Crease the interfacing along the gridlines and stitch along the creases. Gently slit the interfacing to open the seam allowance and press open. Do the verticals, then the horizontals. Result: Perfect squares that line up exactly.

I did one thing differently from how she suggests you proceed; instead of making a fabric grid to place under the interfacing, I drew my grid directly on the back of the interfacing with a fine tip biro, and placed the whole shebang on a white cloth so the lines showed through. Oh, and I made mine much smaller, on the assumption that as I could easily stuff it up, there was no point spoiling lots of interfacing. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried! I may eventually make her white fabric grid, because it’ll save ruling lines on every block, but for now, it’s quick and easy to do it my way. I’ve already made this cutie’s big sister, and have another big pile of colourful scraps pressed and lined up on the cutting mat. Obsessive, moi?

The upshot of all this unseemly glee and self-congratulation is that I have now added the postage stamp quilt to my To Do list. Best of all, because I can make it one scrappy block at a time, I can do it almost by stealth, and as part of the monthly ScrapHappy block post that Gun and I do on the 15th of each month. Watch this space. One of these days, I’ll be doing a “Tah-daaaah!” post, and there will be a beautiful postage stamp scrappy quilt to show off.

And a whole lot less scraps to store, not that I’ll ever stop creating them….