I have spent many enjoyable hours in my life making lovely items from scraps of material. I hope I can inspire some of you.
Firstly, a note on templates
The first thing to say is that for this patchwork technique you will need paper templates. These can be purchased, but why pay for them when they are so easy to make? If you have access to a computer and some basic computer skills, it's very quick to make up a template sheet and cut them out yourself.
You will find detailed instructions on how to make your own paper templates towards the end of this article.
Other Materials Required
As well as templates, you need to have at hand the following items.
- Fabric marker.*
- Sharp scissors.
- Material scraps. These can be obtained from commercial outlets, but you can use scraps from old clothes or household fabrics. I keep a 'piece bag' of scraps for this purpose.
- Sewing machine and thread.
*There are specialist fabric markers on the market but a pencil will do.
Step 1 - Plan your design
Decide how many templates you need. For a first attempt, keep it simple and start with a simple flower shape which will require just seven hexagons.
Once you have mastered the technique, you might like to continue working outwards from the centre flower. For just one extra round you will need a total of 13 templates, and then for another round after that, a total of 19 hexagon templates.
Step 2 - Prepare your fabric
Have ready a range of fabric scraps. Cotton is best, although you can mix with other types of fabric providing they are all of roughly the same weight. It's best to avoid thin, slippery material such as silk or taffeta.
Using a scrap of material larger than one of your hexagon templates, on the wrong side of the fabric, take a fabric marker (or a pen or pencil) and draw around the template. Then allowing a further 1 cm beyond the line you have made, cut the scrap of fabric. It should be big enough now to encase the template when the edges are folded back.
Step 3 - Tacking
Once you have cut out your fabric hexagons, wrap each one around a template and tack into place, as shown in the photograph below.
Using a steam iron, press gently. Don't make the mistake of having the iron too hot as this can distort the fabric at an early stage and ruin the end result.
Step 4 - Join tacked hexagons
Using tiny overstitches, with papers still in place, join shapes together. Press gently with a steam iron. The underside of your joined hexagons should look like the example below with the paper templates still in. Turn your work to the right side and once again press gently.
Don't throw the templates away. They can be re-used over and over again.
Turn your work over, and once again, press gently.
Step 5 - Finish the block
Choose a contrasting square of background fabric. A block quilt is often made up of 12-inch squares, but your finished block can be of any size as long as each of the blocks in your quilt measures exactly the same. Remember to allow for seams.
Carefully pin the hexagon flower into place so that it lies flat on the background fabric in the position that you would like it. If you want it to lie in the centre of your square, visual placement is perfectly adequate and there is no need to measure.
The image below shows hexagons slip stitched onto the background material so that it gives an invisible finish, but any method of appliqué can be used, such as satin stitch or another decorative finish.
Et voila! Dead easy. All done by hand and quite beautiful. Possible variations in size, texture and colour are, of course, limitless.
You only need about 30 blocks or so for a large quilt. If that sounds daunting, you could make a smaller lap quilt or a cushion.
Of course, you do not have to make a square block. There is nothing to stop you from continuing to make as many rounds as you like. Just continue to work outwards until you are satisfied with your design.
If you do decide to make a full quilt, why not make things more interesting by varying the design with other blocks such as Dresden Plate blocks. For full instructions on how to easily make Dresden Plate blocks, see my hub, Dresden Plate Patchwork Block: Five Easy Steps.
Instructions on how to make your own hexagon templates
To make a template sheet, I use the 'insert shape' facility in Microsoft Word to create the desired shape, format it to the desired size, and then use copy and paste to replicate the shape and fill the whole page. I can print as many pages as I need, cut them out, and save the file for use another day.
There are, of course, other software applications such as paint and drawing packages that can be used.
Preparing the templates for cutting
When designing the print layout for your paper templates, choose a layout which allows you to make the minimum amount of cuts. In this case where we are using hexagons, arrange the shapes in the manner shown below and cut along the straight lines.
In the illustration, you can see that there are 13 full hexagons on an A4 sheet. You may think that this is a waste of paper as the shapes are not nested into each other, but the layout shown allows you to make sweeping cuts along straight lines. By cutting through, say, four sheets of paper at a time*, this will give you 52 hexagons very quickly. The next cutting gives you 104, and so on. So you can see that this is a much less laborious way of cutting out your templates, particularly if you are starting a large project.
*Note that when cutting through several sheets of paper at the same time, make sure you secure each of the pages so that there is no slippage. The best way to do this is to use a glue stick to secure each sheet at the top and bottom.
Cutting out the templates
You can use scissors to cut out your templates, but don't use your best scissors as cutting paper will blunt them. In fact, the best and quickest way to cut your shapes is to use a rotary cutter and cutting mat. In this way, the process can be sped up considerably and you will have plenty of perfectly cut hexagons in double quick time.
Use a medium weight paper. If the paper is too thick, not only will it be more difficult to cut through, it will be more difficult to sew through. If the paper is too thin, re-use of your templates will cause them to wear out more quickly.
A Good Investment
So if you are thinking of developing your patchwork activities, the purchase of a rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat is a good investment. As well as cutting out paper templates, a rotary cutter can be used to cut through layers of fabric.
A self-healing cutting mat does exactly what the description implies and allows you to make endless cuts with no apparent damage to the mat so that it can be used over and over again. This is an essential item for use with a rotary cutter to protect the surface that you are working on.
I had no trouble buying both of these items on Amazon and I have found them indispensible. The use of a rotary cutter to cut out fabric for use in any kind of patchwork ensures that the end result is accurate and precise.
I cannot stress enough the importance of accuracy. The more accurate your cutting out, the better, as it is fundamental to achieving a neat, flat finish to your block. And when joining together multiple blocks to make a quilt, you will find that the edges of your blocks will fit together without any problem and there will be no puckering or pleating when you stitch them together.
© 2017 Annabelle Johnson