Patchwork Quilt Designs: Hexagons
My First Piece of Patchwork Was a Hexagon
My mother came to visit for a few days in 1983 and she showed me how to make a paper pieced hexagon. I was fascinated by the possibilities and made a few cushion covers with fancy edges around the hexagons.
I began to play around with these hexagons that I was tacking over papers to see what else I could make besides rosettes.
Unaware that you could buy isometric graph paper, which would have made designing faster, I continued to fiddle with designs using the hexagon patches.
Someone Once Asked Me
- I am busy making my hexagon flowers — what do I do next?
- Join them together?
- With a plain colour between each flower?
- How do I finish the edge?
- With a half hexagon?
- Or leave the edge uneven?
- How do I attach a sashing or edging by machine?"
Many people have asked me those questions, so...
Join Together Into A Quilt
The most popular methods of assembling hexagons into a quilt are to:
- Join seven hexagon patches into a rosette, and then join the rosettes together, forming adjoining flowers. (Pictured right.)
- Join the hexagon patches randomly (like Margaret did above) or in a colour gradation.
This article is not meant to be instructions on piecing these, but I have included a video in case you are unfamiliar with the English method of paper piecing.
Triangles and Diamonds
Exploding Hexagons Into Triangles
A hexagon is based on a circle so it can't be turned into a traditional block for a quilt.
Looking at the graph paper diagram, you see that it is composed of six equilateral (60°) triangles.
These triangles form diamonds when two are joined. In the diagrams, I show how that works when designing.
You can join three diamonds into a baby block by having light medium and dark diamonds. The outside 'block' in Little Boxes is white, grey, and black. (Pictured below.)
Templates for Patches
English paper piecing requires one paper template (often old letters in the past) for every patch on the quilt. I used to take out the ones from the middle to eke out my supply and reuse them as I worked outwards.
Hexagon templates are available online or you can search for instructions on how to draft them.
Templates for diamonds and triangles are drawn from the hexagon template you start with.
Half-hexagons for making straight edges are also drawn from the original sized template.
Free Printable Templates
- Blank Hexagon Templates | Printable Hexagon Shape PDFs
Printable hexagon templates for your creative craft or project. Can be used for decorations, stencils, labels and printable stickers.
Hexagon Graph Paper
What You Need to Start Designing
- Hexagon graph paper or
- Isometric Triangle graph paper, if want to do more than hexagons.
There's a link below for free printable graph paper.
- Felt tipped pens in several colours or colour pencils
Free Printable Isometric Graph Paper
- Free Graph Paper
This letter-sized hexagon graph paper is spaced with hexagons half an inch apart. Free to download and print
There are two main types of hexagon quilts:
- One patch designs
- More complex designs
Let's see what we can do!
One Patch Designs
Using Hexagons Only
- Colour one hexagon, in the centre of your paper, yellow to represent the flower centre.
- Colour six hexagons around the yellow one. (Picture above, right.)
- Colour one of the next rosette petals adjacent to one of the first petals.
- Draw as many as you want, in different colours. (Diagram right.)
Once you have made some rosettes, you can use the colours of your fabrics on the graph paper.
Grandmother's Flower Garden (or Garden Path)
A Very Traditional Design
In the past, the path was almost always mid to dark green. Nowadays, quilters often put a white path in, especially if they use pastel coloured fabrics for their flowers. A green path would overshadow the soft fabrics.
As before, start with a flower centre, build a rosette, then surround it with green hexagons. In the diagram, I left all the rosettes blank, so you could see the green path.
You start in the centre and work outwards.
In my design I 'joined' four hexagons to form a diamond shape. Next, I coloured all the way around that shape, which emphasised the diamond. I added one more row around.
After that, I added the hexagons to each side of the centre diamond in order to alter the shape somewhat.
Start your design in the same way. Continue until satisfied.
Landscape or Picture Quilt
A Variation on Random Coloured Hexagons
Start with a photo of a simple landscape, or sketch one with not much detail.
Begin by colouring a patch of sky. Don't forget to put in some clouds!
Next, add some mountains below. Colour in the grass, a path and maybe some rocks.
Fun, isn't it?
More Complex Designs
Using hexagons, diamonds and triangles
The simplest of the designs with additional shaped patches, you join the rosettes with diamonds and triangles.
Make scrap rosettes (as shown in the diagram), or design on isometric graph paper, in order to plan colour placement. An example might be gradated colours moving across the quilt with black setting triangles and diamonds, which would make the rosettes glow. White triangles and diamonds would completely change the look of the design.s
Colour rosettes side by side on isometric graph paper and begin to colour the shapes between.
As you design, be mindful of whether your rosettes are light or dark, scrap or co-ordinated. The area behind them can either dominate or be background.
Another possibility is to make this the centre of a medallion quilt, adding rows of hexagons, or half hexagons, to surround the rectangular or square centre design.
Now you are a hexagon quilt designer!
Sixty Degree Triangle Designs
I became obsessed with the shapes derived from hexagons that I was playing with, especially the triangles and discovered a book based on these in 1986. It is long out of print, but that shape, born out of the humble hexagon tradition, became my specialty.
The other surprise was that you use rotary cutting and machine piecing to sew the designs. Much faster that English paper piecing!
I began to teach people all over the eastern states of Australia to design with them. From simple to complex, they all start with isometric graph paper.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Jan T Urquhart Baillie