Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mixing browns for the border and some reader questions about English paper piecing

The Green Parrot hexagon quilt is coming along nicely. You may recall that I added the dark brown border to the sides of the middle section. If not, here it is.

The same dark brown will border the entire quilt however I didn't quite have enough fabric (I was 10" short) so what I did was cut all of the hexagons that I could with the fabric I had and divided them into two equal piles, one for the top section and the other for the bottom section. I placed the top section on the floor and started placing the dark brown hexagons working from the middle top out towards the corners. I also placed some on the sides working up towards the corners. When they were all positioned I counted the number of hexagons I needed for the corners and cut them out from the new dark brown fabric. I stitched all of the brown border hexagons together into one long noodle and attached it to the top section.

The browns are different but because they will be placed strategically it will appear as though the addition of this fabric was intentional rather than out of desperation!

I've also cut out the olive-brown hexagons for the next round and I've basted them, stitched them into a noodle and attached the noodle to the left side of the middle section. There is not as much as an ombre effect as I would have liked however the fabric is a repeat of what is already in the quilt and I like the way the border looks. The final round will be the pale green from the centre (or at least that is my plan at this moment in time but that could change)!

I had a lovely email from a reader who is going to start her first hexagon quilt and she wanted some guidance on English paper piecing. The first bit of advice I always offer is to start out by making one hexagon rosette. While you may like the look of hexagons and English paper piecing you may find that it isn't your cup of tea. Before you cut up a stack of fabric make sure that it is something you will enjoy.

I was asked about basting the hexagons. I prefer to baste from the back so that the thread does not pierce the paper. This allows me to use my papers multiple times. I published a little tutorial here. Basting from the back will feel awkward at first but stick with it. If you baste through the paper the basting thread must be removed but if you back baste the thread stays in. You just pop out the paper! One advantage of this method is that the seam allowances remain held down in place.

If you thread baste through the paper you don't need a lot of stitches. You will notice in the example at the top that there are four stitches (see picture on left) and one of those four is just an extra stitch to hold the basting in place before I clip the thread which does not get knotted at the end in this method.

If folding over the seam allowances is a challenge try finger pressing them over the paper before you start basting. Eventually you will find that this step is unnecessary because you will know that the edge is folded over right at the edge of the paper.

An alternative to thread basting is starch basting the seam allowances. There is an excellent tutorial on this method at Traditional Primitives. She uses freezer paper hexagons and once the seam allowances are starch basted she removes the hexagon and reuses it!

Starch basting method from Traditional Primitives

I was asked if I press the hexagons after they are basted and the answer is a big "no"! You may find that there are slight variances in the size of your hexagons. If there is a soft crease you can ease in the extra bit of hexagon but if there is a hard crease from pressing it makes easing very difficult. I find that I never have to press my hexagon quilts until I am ready to baste them for quilting. They are handled so much that the folded seam allowances are well pressed with my fingers.

That's it for today. If you will be in the Toronto area next weekend it is Quilts at the Creek and I'll be doing a trunk show Saturday and Sunday. It is always a great show and a beautiful venue!

Until I post again happy sewing.
Karen H


  1. I just posted a blog too-excellent post Karen-thanks for the tutorial on stitching I found one really similiar-and sooo much easier too and I am so happy you pointed out why not to press, as many that I read on how to-says to press I can see why that may not be a good idea enjoy the trunk show-sounds awesome

  2. This piece is looking wonderful, Karen -- I don't press my basted hexagons but your explanation of why not to do that helped me understand why sometimes I get two touching that seem slightly different in size in spite of the papers being consistent! Thanks!

    1. Sometimes it happens that one hexagon is slightly larger on one edge even when they aren't pressed. What I always do is start sewing just in from the corner so that my knot isn't right at the corner. I'll stitch a few stitches and then I align the end point and sew across easing in any fullness. If the size difference on a 1" hexagon is greater than 1/8" I know that once of the seam allowances was not folded tight against the edge of the paper so I'll determine which hexagon is the problem and will rebaste it! If it is 1/8" or less it can be eased in with no problem at all.

  3. I use the "papers" from paper pieces and I punch a hole in the middle before basting with a hole punch. That hole makes it easy to pop the paper out when the time comes. Found your site a week ago and have had a wonderful time reading 25 of the current posts.

  4. Thanks for the tut - I'll give it a try. That hexagon you fussy cut is gorgeous. And the parrot quilt is coming along fabulously.

  5. I have not had much success with freezer paper, as the edge was not firm enough edge to iron against and the starch made it even softer. If i were going to do it that way, I would use Mylar plastic for the template.
    Like you, I baste, although I like the glue pens. They are expensive here in England, but nice and quick, so I can get on with the exciting part- sewing them together!

  6. The Brown hexies given a ' good ' look to th others. It is like a painting. I make my hexies in the way you did with the blue one. I never make a knot, but a few stitches on the same place.. It is a relaxing technique, EPP. Groetjes, Dientje

  7. Your hexagon projects are so inspiring! I love looking at your quilts. I bought Enduring Grace years ago and had forgotten about the great hexagon quilt in it until I saw yours. It's beautiful.

  8. Karen, this is coming along so lovingly and so beautifully!