Thursday, January 15, 2015

What size of hexagon should I use?

I'm often asked "what size of hexagon should I use?" and the answer is "it depends". If you have a specific project in mind that may dictate the size of hexagons. Albert Small made some incredible quilts some of which have 15 hexagons per square inch! That's a lot of very tiny hexagons! To read more about Albert and his quilts visit the Illinois State Museum.

If you want to make a traditional Grandmother's Flower Garden then really you can use any size. The smaller the hexagons the more you will need and the heavier the quilt top will be. The larger the hexagon the fewer you will need.

When you look at a single hexagon it is difficult to gauge size of block that will result. Today I thought I share with you a comparison of different sizes of hexagons and the size of the block they will produce. In the following picture there are rosettes made of hexagons that range in size from 3" to 1/2". The size of the hexagon is determined by the length of each of the six sides. The rosettes in the picture consist of a central hexagon surrounded by two rounds of hexagons. The first round is made up of six hexagons and the second 12. Each round thereafter would increase by six hexagons.

The large rosette on the left is my New Hexagon Millefiori Quilt that I am making as part of Katja's free Quilt Along. I still have one more round of hexagons to go. Each hexagon measures 3". The rosette on the upper right is 1 1/4". The rosette below it is made of 1" hexagons. The rosette on the bottom left is made of 3/4" hexagons and on the bottom right 1/2" hexagons.

The rosette made of 3" hexagons measures roughly 26 1/4"  from top to bottom and roughly 24" from side to side. It wouldn't take many large hexagons to make a quilt!

The rosette made of 1 1/4" hexagons measures 10 1/2" from top to bottom and 10" from side to side. This is the size of hexagon that is used in Di Ford's quilt Road 66. The instructions are in her book Primarily Quilts. The blocks each have one more round of background fabric and they are connected with diamonds. Only 18 blocks are needed to make the quilt!

The rosette made of 1" hexagons measures roughly 8 1/2" from top to bottom and roughly 8" from side to side. This is one of my favourite sizes of hexagons to work with. It fits neatly in my left hand when I am sewing the units together and it is large enough that the work goes fairly quickly. I used the 1" hexagons to make my Value Proposition quilt and Stars in the Loft. The brown plaid was not fussy cut however I noticed that each hexagon had some dark along one side and light on the opposite so I made a point of placing the lighter section toward the centre. Careful consideration of how the hexagons are placed can create the illusion of fussy cutting without the effort! Thoughtful placement of fabrics produces a more polished block,

The rosette made of 3/4" hexagons measures roughly 6 1/2" from top to bottom and roughly 6" from side to side. This is another of my preferred sizes to work with. I can create greater detail in terms of arrangement of hexagons. I used it to make my Good Golly Miss Mollie quilt and Lozagons. If you read my REWIND blog post about fabrics I use you will be interested to know that the six hexagons in the first round are made from 100% cotton that I found in the home decorator department of a fabric store!

The rosette made of 1/2" hexagons measures roughly 5 1/4" from top to bottom and roughly 4 3/4" from side to side. I've got a quilt top that I made with these hexagons but I've not yet shared it with you! I need to be able to get outside to take pictures but it is just way too cold these days! What I can tell you is that the quilt top is very heavy because there is more seam allowance on the back than there is fabric on the right side! This block is another example of thoughtful fabric placement. Notice that there are little paisleys in the third round and I've made sure to place them on the inside edge of the round! 

The size of hexagon you use will be dictated in part by personal preference and the size and type of quilt you want to make! I know that 1" sounds small but I find that it is a great size with which to work. So what about you? What size of hexagons do you like to work with?

I hope you enjoyed this comparison of hexagon sizes. I've posted master templates for 1/2", 3/4" and 1" hexagons on my blog and you will find them by clicking on the tab English Paper Piecing Instructions & Hexagon Fun. Be sure to use the same hexagon product for your entire quilt so if you use one of my template do not use other hexagons; this will ensure accuracy and consistency. If there is interest I will prepare and publish a template for 1 1/4" hexagons.

If you leave a comment and don't hear back from me it means you are a no reply blogger. Until I post again, happy hexagoning!
Karen H


  1. My first hexie project was with 3/4" and recently I have mostly worked with 1." I have worked with bigger sizes (1.5" & 2") but find them harder to work with because they don't fit in the hand as well. They all have their place in different designs tho so I "struggle" along to get the look that I want. LOL

  2. oh, my goodness! I can't even imagine making a quilt like the one in the photo with those tiny hexies. awesome!

  3. Your hexie projects are gorgeous !

  4. I like 1", mainly because that was the size I started with all those years ago. I was given a bag of papers cut from magazines, lots of completed hexies in sludge colours, which I dismantled and mixed with better colours, to make my first little quilt.
    What I have enjoyed is, experimenting with de constructing the hexy while making the Soupcon quilt. It remains my favourite quilt and I'd love to do another similar project one day.

  5. Very helpful information, Karen. I'm back to work on the Value Prop motifs -- will post pictures in the next couple days on the Flickr page!!

  6. Really like the colors in your rosette for the sew-along. Fun to see the rosettes next to each other for size. I bought the book the other day for the 3" hexagons & they seem huge!! I usually work in smaller sizes. I just finished a small wall hanging up in half inch hexies & it takes just as long to piece as the three fourth inch ones. I thought about one of the gorgeous quilts shown on Grit's site. That would be heavy. She used a lot of solids successfully though----so many quilts tops on my brain!!

  7. I've mostly used 1/2 inch papers, so when I finally got my New Hexagon book in the mail Wednesday, I was shocked at the size! I can see that it will make a nice sized quilt pretty quickly. Sadly, I can't get started yet as I am leaving on retreat. I'm already looking forward to getting home and starting the Millefiori quilt along! By the way, I would love to see a page of the 1.25 papers--that quilt is on my someday list.

  8. Another very helpful post. So far I have worked with 1/2" and 3/4" size templates. Time to move up to the 1" I think. I've decided to make a truly scrappy quilt with 1" hexies - on my wish list now.

  9. Wonderfully informative. I am a new follower of your blog and delighted to have found you!