Always Quilting recently blogged about hexagons and the pleasures of their constuction as well as the advantages they present for portable sewing projects. http://alwaysquilting.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/hexies-can-mak…rtable-project/
One of my “current” projects uses some hexagons in its design and so I’ve been using the English paper piecing technique a bit recently. In addition, several of my “forthcoming” projects also use this technique, so it has given me the opportunity to try out some methods and I’d like to share with you the way I have found works best for me.
First you need to prepare your papers. Traditionally quilters made their own papers from stiff paper or lightweight card (old greeting cards are often a good weight), but these days it is easy to buy pre-made papers in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. One of the advantages of buying pre-made papers is that they are accurately printed and cut. If you would like to make your own you can go to http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/hexagonal/ and print them from your computer. This site is worth checking out, as it allows you to select your shape and size requirements.
Once the papers are ready, you need to attach them to the fabric. In the past quilters would pin or use a paperclip to hold the papers in place and tack them in position, usually through both the paper and fabric.
Just this week I saw advertised some papers which can be fused to the fabric. They are made from soluable applique paper, and are currently available as pre-cut hexagons in 3 sizes with more to come. After construction you can leave the papers in as a stabiliser or wash your item for a softer look. http://www.hugsnkisses.net/index.php/shop/other-thingys/applique-paper-precuts.
Some sewers advocate using a the Sewline gluestick . A dab of glue is used in the centre to hold the paper in position, and then around the edges to secure the seam allowance in place. This removes the need for pins or tacking, but when I tried this for myself, I found it quite difficult to remove the papers and as a result, the fabric edges also frayed and became messy.
Instead, I now employ a small dab of glue, just in the centre of the paper as before, so that I don’t have to use pins which tend to distort the shape.
Then I tack the paper to the fabric, but I do not go through the paper, just the fabric, using a small overstitch to hold the fold in each corner and a small running stitch between corners. I use a fine thread, Aurifil 50 weight, for this task, and try to use a colour which blends in. This means that I do not have to bother removing the tacking threads before appliqueing the hexagons to the background fabric..
It is important to iron the shapes as you make them before joining them together.
Once the hexagons or other shapes are ironed and you have a nice crisp edge, you can whipstitch them together taking care to make sure that the corners meet neatly. Sixteen stitches to the inch is the recommended size for whipstitching. As before, Aurifil 50 weight is ideal and makes it easy to achieve almost invisible stitching. Once again, I iron my joined shapes, with the papers still in place, before I applique them to the background.
In the next photo you can see how I have used a shape with a curved edge. A small running stitch along the curve helps to gather in the fullness. Corners and straight edges are dealt with as before.
Lastly, before appliqueing the shapes onto the background, you need to remove the papers. This is done easily by flexing the hexagon and “popping” each paper out. Small tweezers can assist with this. As I said, I do not bother to remove the tacking. Generally, papers can be re-used several times.
The curved shapes used in the photo above only required joining at each tip as I was making them into a wreath. You can see how effective fussy-cutting can be.
The curved shapes form the centre of my current project which is “Louisa” by Carol Roberts. http://www.cherrypiedesigns.com/ This is what the completed centre looks like.
And if I remain on-task and am not too distracted by other projects or the housework, I will hopefully be able to share with you the finished quilt, or at least quilt top, before too long.