Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 6–9

It’s been four weeks since I last posted about The Hexagon Project. I’m happy to say that I maintained my pace of one block per week and have four new English paper piecing flower blocks to share.

Angled View of Four Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Hexagon Flowers

Lessons Learned ... So Far

As I’ve mentioned before, this is my first EPP project. I’ve been sewing — both by hand and machine — for years, but each new technique comes with a learning curve. Following are a few tips and preferences I’ve discovered based on my EPP experience so far.

Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Block Number Six in Beige with Red Flames and Bananas

Quilt piecing is usually done with quarter-inch (0.64 cm) seam allowances, and I cut my paper and fabric pieces accordingly. However, due to the folding and handling, I would prefer closer to 3/8-inch (0.95 cm) seam allowances in order to prevent the paper pieces from popping out as I sew.

Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Block Number Seven in Red and Star Print

But I’ve also learned that I don’t need to cut the fabric exactly at the outset. It’s common for sewists to fold a square or even an odd-shaped scrap over the paper template then trim as desired after basting. I’ve been machine-sewing long enough that my brain doesn’t automatically think that way for piecing, but I can see that it would definitely be a time-saver that doesn’t waste fabric.

Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Block Number Eight in Fish Print and Red

I’ve discovered that I prefer stitching dark-colored hexies because it’s easier to see how much fabric I’ve picked up on the needle. The light colors blend too much with the shine of the silver needles. I’ve seen some black sewing needles available online, but haven’t decided yet if it would be worthwhile to buy special needles then switch them out every time my fabric color changes.

Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Block Number Nine in Beige and Brown

I’ve read various opinions from others as far as what type of thread to use for hand piecing, and I think it really comes down to personal preference. I’m using cotton hand quilting thread, simply because I’ve acquired a lot of it over the years and this is a good way to use it up. I have spools of white, ivory, beige, and red; so far, those colors have worked well with my fabric colors. Yes, the stitches are a bit more visible than if I used a finer thread weight or a closer color match, but that’s never been a big concern for me with quilts.

Using Sheer Fabric Gift Bags to Separate Hexagon Flower Pieces

As far as storage and portability, I have everything I need tucked into a small tote bag. My favorite “hack” has been re-using small sheer fabric gift bags to separate the hexagons for each flower block. The small gift bags fit inside a larger gift bag, keeping them together in the tote. I can carry enough coordinated hexagons for multiple flower blocks every time I take my sewing out of the house, the bags look cute, and I didn’t have to buy anything extra.

Design Board of Rigid Insulation Covered with White Felt

Depending on the print, I can be particular about how I lay out the hexies before sewing them together. I use a “portable” design board at home. I use the word “portable” loosely because my design board is a one-inch (2.5 cm) thick piece of rigid insulation that measures 24 by 24 inches (61 by 61 cm). I have a piece of white felt stapled onto the board to help grip the fabric blocks. The board isn’t truly portable in the sense that I can carry it around with me wherever I go, but it makes it easy for me to move unsewn blocks from room to room without disturbing them. If I get ahead of myself with basting, I can arrange up to six flower blocks on the design board.

Straight View of Four Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Hexagon Flowers

I now have nine completed blocks, and I’ll have another update on The Hexagon Project in about four weeks. In the meantime, do you have any tips for hand sewing or EPP?


  1. LOL. My "portable" flannel was is 48" by 24", but it lets me move it anywhere in the studio. Rather than have to go to the wall, I bring it to me.
    Pat F in Winnipeg

    1. Haha, yes! If it can be moved, it's portable.


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