Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hexagon patchwork : English Paper Piecing

My goal for this year is making a miniature quilt. I found that English Paper Piecing is the recommended way for small geometric shape/tessellation quilts. I started with hexagon patchwork. At first I thought it was time consuming method as we had to work twice (I mean basting and piecing steps) and why the stitches are shown. I had tested and tried in different ways, tools and materials. The tips and technique that I share below was what I found and the way I work.

I: Materials and Tools

Paper Template - My favorite paper is 170 gsm cardstock. I had tried typical printing papers, cardboard and expensive plastic templates and don't like them all. I also printed and cut all paper templates myself.

Needle - I prefer short and small needle like #12 quilting needle.

Thread - I always leave the basting thread in my quilt so white threads/batting colored threads are my choice. I use both polyester and cotton leftover threads for basting. For piecing, I use coordinated color 50 wt cotton threads. At this time, 50 wt Aurifil is the best.
Fabric - Tight weave fabrics as quilting cotton, lightweight cotton are the best. I tried to use lightweight linen and the result is really bad. If I have to use them again, machine piecing and lightweight woven interfacing may help. Precut fabrics are awesome for hexies.

Plastic template - The most fun part of patchwork is Fussy cutting/Crop cutting. I make cutting templates from clear PVC sheet. I usually use square shape. If the prints are close or small hexies( 3/8inch or smaller), I will use the circle. Hexagon with 1/4 or 3/8 seam allowances is my last choice because it is the hardest way.

II : Basting

Just like the traditional way, I place the paper template to the wrong side of the fabric square. Fold the seam allowances over the template and baste.

I use paper clips, small binder clips and plastic binder clips for secure fabric and template while basting. I use a small back stitch to secure the two edge at each corner. If the edges are longer than 1 1/4", I will sew a few running stitches in seam allowances. The stitches will not go through paper template.

III : Piecing

 I use small, short whip stitches. I had tried ladder stitches and I got the weak and crooked seams. My favorite way is whip stitch while holding the folded edges together, not right side together like traditional way. With this way, the needle will catch only the back fabric and the stitches are almost invisible.
I found that plastic binder clips are useful when work with small size hexies. In this photo, they are 3/8 inch hexagons.

 For a hexagon flower/Grandmother flower, I assemble the petals (6 outer hexagon) and then join this c-shaped unit to the center hexagon.

For larger scale hexagon patchwork, I join them by row and then sew each rows together.

IV : Removing the template.
I just use my hands to remove the template. Use left hand to open the seam allowances, then grab the flat edge of template with right hand and pull it off. For 1/2" hexagons and smaller sizes, I use tweezers.

Happy sewing.