Picture Tutorials: Hexies for Beginners

Have you already seen my video tutorial for connecting hexies?  You can find the video over here (click to open in a new window). But you might want to start here if you’re a beginner or for a refresher walk-through.

First Steps in English Paper Piecing (EPP) – Hexagons (Hexies)

In that video, I tell you that I must share with you my back to basics, first steps process for EPP (English Paper Piecing) in a future video.  And I will do that.  I also share with you that I started this hexie project about 2 years ago – that’s true – and here’s the evidence! I just was looking through my draft blog posts folder, and in there (since 2017, I know) was the perfect starter tutorial!

I was staying at a retreat centre in Auckland (you can find that post over here) and bought the fabric you see below from Patchwork Passion in Auckland, find that post over here!).

So here we go!

Step 1: What do I need?

There’s all kinds of specialist bits and bobs that people say you need.  I say, keep it simple.  You need:

  1. Fabric – I bet you have enough in your stash.  Even so, it’s a good excuse to shop!
  2. Paper pieces – you can make your own out of left-over cereal boxes or heavy magazine covers – lots of people do.  I bought mine, to be honest,  and use 3/4″ inch paper piece precuts from Paper Pieces(I have no affiliation).
  3. Clover clips – I use the red ones. I think you REALLY need these to stabilise your work.
  4. Needles – I can’t stress enough that you need quality needles. Sharps, embroidery needles, whatever you fancy. I favour anything with a slightly larger eye as my eyesight prefers them! I use a manual needle threader.
  5. Cutting device – I precut my hexie material into strips and then sub-cut them into squares/slight rectangles – I expect you need a rotary cutter for the strips and you can then use scissors if you want to sub-cut or the rotary. It’s up to you.
  6. Clear ruler – I use my favourite large 6×12 for strips and then use a smaller square, whatever’s to hand, for sub-cutting.  The kit you see above is my ‘on the road’ kit, so everything is the ‘travel version’.

Step 2: Deciding how to cut your fabric

Important Note on Measurements
My hexies are 3/4″ inch for this project. Note:that measurement, 3/4″, indicates the width of one side of the hexagon.  The distance from flat side to side is in fact 1.25″ and from point to point is 1.5″.  Even with that knowledge in hand, look how the hexie in the pic above and below is slightly bigger than 1.25″ – this looks more like 1 inch and 5/16ths.

For this reason, I cut the strips of fabric (WOF – width of fabric) at 2 inches.  The usual advice is to add 1/2″ inch to the size from flat side to flat side, but for a 3/4″ inch hexie, it’s easier to cut 2″.

Step 3: A note on fabric choice

It’s a bit late in the day to mention fabric choice, but just a quick note – I’m crazy about using up all the fabric in every crazy which way possible, including where it’s not supposedto go! However, for hexies, I have found to my own detriment that getting your tonal range right at the get-go will save you a lot ofextra effort as it takes so long to work on a hexie project (two years and counting on this one!).

I wanted to work out a kind of faded red, cream and blue look.  Some American friends will identify this as a ‘quilt of valor’ or Independence Day colourway… but here it’s intended as a faded French tablecloth colourway.

Okay, so I’ve cut all of my strips to 2″ wof, what’s up next?!

Step 4: Cutting your strips into hexies

Like almost all patchwork projects, we are aiming for a 1/4″ inch seam allowance.  Let’s look at how best to do it before discussing the cheat!

Set your hexie paper flat sides parallel to the cut side of the fabric strip. Yes, I am including the selvedge edge in my project, but don’t feel you have to do this!

Next, carefully measure a 1/4″ inch seam allowance along the top left side and carefully trim using a rotary cutter.

Repeat and trim the bottom left side, discarding the trimmed pieces.

This leaves one side of the strip ready to go!

Next, we are going to cut the right top and right bottom sides in the same way, giving a 1/4″ inch seam allowance.  Note: go the WHOLE way from one side of the strip to the other.  You can’t see it in the picture below, but I have used my rotary cutter to go the whole way from edge to edge for both cuts.

Can you see what I mean in the picture below? If you do this carefully, the left side of the remaining strip is already DONE for the next Hexie cut!

So here we are, my little pile of trimmed hexies!

Step 5: Baste stitch your hexies

I have followed a number of tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere on how to baste hexies (Google those, there’s loads of brilliant help out there!).  Here’s my take on it that made sense to me, at least!

First off, I hand baste, I don’t use glue.  It might make things a little faster, but I don’t want that glue on my papers or in my project.

I fold over one seam, that is a 1/4″ inch of overhang fabric and hold it in place with a clover clip. I finger press the other side which gives me the shape of the seam.

Holding that side in place, I fold over the next side of the hexie and place a holding stitch at the corner joint of the two seams.  From top of Side 1, push the needle through to the paper level, up through Side 2 and repeat – now that joint is held.  I try and make the distance of the stitch across the joint/corner be as tight as possible – about 1/8th of an inch or a millimetre.

Finger press the third side and then repeat the rules above, putting in two stitches to hold the joint and move to the fourth side.  Repeat until you have to remove the clover clip.  At the final corner joint, tie a simple knot by sewing through the final loop of the stitch or any other method you prefer to sew a final knot.

Step 6: Layout your project

Thinking of the tones you have selected, layout a portion of your project and test how you want it to appear.  In my Hexie Stars project, I’m creating diamonds, which go together into a six-pointed star.

And here you go, here is my finished diamond, ready for use in the whole project (as yet unfinished!).  For a video tutorial about connecting the diamonds, simply click here.

All comments and clarifications are welcome – feel free to share this tutorial if you liked it!

Patrick xo