Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hexagon / English Paper Piecing Tutorial

My first tutorial!! OK, I know it is pretty basic, this is (hopefully) a good start for someone who hasn't paper-pieced before. English paper piecing is a type of hand-piecing fabric shapes using paper templates. Fabric is basted to the paper templates and then sewn together. The paper can be removed after all of the pieces are attached to each other.

basting the hexagon to the paper piece

A note on sizing: These hexagons are measured along 1 side. So, a 1" hexagon will have a finished size of 1" along 1 side.

You can find these hexagon templates in my etsy shop on the sidebar, they have built-in seam allowances for perfect cutting. Tabslot is the name of the etsy shop.

STEP 1: Gather your materials. You'll need a rotary cutter and a template (if you don't have a plastic template, cut one out of paper, and use it as a guide to draw a hex on your fabric - then cut using your ruler as a guide).

STEP 2: Cut out your fabric. Make sure you have at least 1/4" seam allowance all around the hexagon. Some people cut squares from their fabric and baste those directly to the hex paper (this is totally fine, it's a matter of personal preference), but I like my backs neat and tidy, and I think you can get more out of your fabric if you cut a hexagon.

STEP 3: Grab a hex paper to use for basting. You can buy these precut, or cut your own. I use regular printer paper (use your junkmail to recycle). I re-use my papers many times, just iron them after you pull them out. TIP: You can use a hole-punch to make a hole in the paper to make it easier to get them out after you take out the basting stitches.

STEP 4: Place your fabric wrong side down on a hard surface, and place the paper centered on top of it. Finger press one side down using the paper as a guide.

STEP 5: Continue finger-pressing. I first press three opposite sides (not touching each other).

STEP 6: Finger press the remaining 3 sides. Prep your needle and thread.

Some notes on thread: I first tried using red thread, thinking it would make it easier for me to keep track of. I ironed it, and it bled. Don't use red thread. I then used my cheap 100% polyester thread, thinking it was a good way to use it up. I ironed it on hot and it melted to my hexagons. If you use poly thread, turn the heat on your iron down.

STEP 7: Start basting! I like to put my needle in through the back first, that way it's easy to find the knot to clip later.

STEP 8: Bring your needle back up through the paper and all near a corner.

STEP 9: Take a stitch over that corner and back down though the paper, then back up near the next corner.

STEP 10: Continue this pattern all the way around the hexagon until you come back to your first stitch. This will hold down the corners of the seam allowance, giving you that nice, crisp hexagon shape. Tie off to your first stitch (or how ever you are most comfortable tying off - keeping in mind that these stitches are made to come out).

STEP 11: Cut your thread and baste your next hexagon.

STEP 12: Admire your adorable new creation. This is what the front will look like. Now's a good time to give these guys a good hot press.

PART 2: joining your hexagons

STEP 1: Take 2 hexagons and place them right sides together, making sure you note where the sides to be sewn together are. Things can sometimes get all mixed up with these 6 sided guys.

STEP 2: Insert your needle under the seam allowance but on top of the paper, going directly through a corner. I am right handed, and I find it easiest to sewn the side from right to left.

STEP 3: I use a ladder stitch to connect my hexes. Follow the red arrows above to see the path that the thread will travel. I keep the hexes right-sides facing while I sew, but thought this view provided a clearer explanation of the stitch. After my needle exits at the end of the seam, I come back in for 1 more locking-stitch to really keep the corners together.

STEP 4: Tie off and admire your work! I find that the ladder stitch is pretty invisible, even for beginners. I like to piece columns first, then sew the columns together to make a field.


  1. Excellent first tutorial. :) I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone sews these little dudes together at the PMQG meeting.

    Also, I love that cracked-out owl in the last picture.

  2. Nice tutorial - of course, now it will be nearly impossible for me to wait until the meeting to start working on my first hexies.

  3. hey, just wondering when you take out the paper bits. do you do it after you have sewn a row or a whole bunch or???

    thanks! ps your little plastic things are freaking awesome!!! you should sell those at MD. seriously..

  4. You have an excellent tutorial! Love it.
    I am into patchwork recently and is really tempted to get one of your hexagon templates :D

  5. Can you do a half hexagon tutorial? I cannot figure out how to cover them attractively!