What can I say… I can’t stop making them, little 2 inch wide hexagons have started to take over all and everything…there is a pile of ironing draped over the banisters upstairs that is threatening to tumble at any moment and a list of chores as long as my arm but all I want to do is make hexagons and sew them together…..
I’ve become like those ladies at Bingo with all their cards spread out before them…instead of cards though it’s umpteen needles all threaded up with different coloured basting and tacking threads, to keep stopping and starting to thread a needle is an interruption to the hexagons so I like to thread up nearly two dozen assorted “sharps” and applique needles and pin them to the cloth on my sewing table…nothing is coming between me and my hexagons.
The other day I wrote about how I like to empty out a scrap box of fabric and make hexagons from a proper old assortment of prints and fabrics…..for the most part I don’t fuss too much about ironing the fabric first, I’m happy to just pin and cut round the papers.
When I sew the fabric around my papers I do it a bit differently from how you may have seen other people do it, I don’t sew through the papers but just through the fabric. I don’t have any problems with the hexagons dropping out while I’m working and it saves me the bother of having to un-pick all those tacking stitches. For the most part I use a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance, veering towards 5/8 of an inch, but even then it’s only guessed at, the bigger the hexagon shape, the wider the seam allowance.
I wrote about this briefly the other day but was later asked if I could explain how I sew the hexagons in place so that they aren’t loose and liable to drop out when you pick them up….
I start off placing a hexagon on the fabric, pin though the centre and cut around the fabric, judging the seam allowance by eye….. then fold the fabric over one side of the paper shape and carefully down over from the top, you want the fabric nice and tight around the paper…and then pin into place, going through both the paper and fabric. Depending on the type of fabric I’ll sometimes pin every other corner or even every corner if it’s particularly slippery fabric….. however, after a while of making the hexagons, you may find for some fabrics you don’t need to pin all the corners but instead can fold the fabric over as you sew round….always pin the first corner though as it keeps the fabric that bit more secure. (it also helps if you have long nails to hold the fabric in place…if not you may find using pins easier).
Or, if you have them, those little Clover Wonder Grips are very good and they also hold the fabric to the paper, I find they are especially good for wool cloth fabrics which easily become bulky when you fold them over, if I’m going to suggest to follow any one rule then it is to use what you have and which feels comfy for you.
Fold the fabric down along the top edge and the bring the fabric over from the side so you have a second corner covered, hold the fabric securely with your thumb nail (apologies for my grubby nails but I’d been weeding earlier in the day)…just like before, you want the fabric to be nice and tight around the paper template.
Using a fine sharp needle make a series of small stitches through the layers of fabric but not thought the paper to hold the corner seam in place….
Start at the bottom of the fold and carefully make 3 or 4 stitches upwards to the top of the fold…try to use small stitches and insert your needle almost directly under the line of where the fold edge lays….work up to the top and then make one or two stitches back down to the bottom again….keep working round in this manner.
Keep the end pin in place until you are ready to sew the last corner, and keep the central pin in place until the last corner is actually sewn.
As you sew the fabric, the hexagon is rotated clockwise in your fingers, as you move your hands it feels like you are working anti-clockwise so it feels a bit odd to begin with.
Using really sharp and fine needles does help a lot as does using good quality tacking thread…. I tend to favour vintage cotton basting thread as that seems to be less tangly, but more often than not I just pick out what thread is in my sewing basket, but find I need to cut shorter lengths if I’m using a synthetic thread or blend.
I also find it easier to use a contrasting coloured thread to the fabric so I can see my stitches easier.
For hexagons that have sides wider than an inch, you may like to run your thread along through the fabric in a series of small running stitches, still avoiding going through the papers.
I’ve found this method works fine on hexagons with sides of up to 2 inches (4 inches wide across the centre of the hexagon)… when they get bigger than that you may want to increase the seam allowance to a half inch all round, as the sides will begin to gape a little, and the extra seam allowance will provide more security and stop the paper dropping out.
Not sewing through the papers is also better for your needles, we all know cutting paper with fabric scissors will blunt them quicker than anything and sewing through all the papers isn’t particularly good for needles, some needles can be sharpened in a bag of emery but many, like the Clover Black Gold ones won’t like that treatment one bit (the black coating comes off the Clover Black Gold…..
This method means that once you have attached your hexagons together, you can easily pop out the papers and re-use them without needing to snip and cut away the basting/tacking thread. The basting/tacking thread also serves a purpose, it keeps the back of the fabric in position and stops it all flaring out and being messy, it also helps to give the patchwork some structure and stability.