August 4, 2011

Tutorial: Hand-Sewing Hexagons

Remember these from the other day? After a few productive lunch breaks at work this week, they've been turned into this....

...and soon, they'll be turned into something else - tune in next week for a little quilted pouch tutorial I'm putting together ;)

Aside from all the personal issues our family has been dealing with the past few weeks, another reason I haven't been posting much lately is because I've been working on several different tutorials for you guys. A while back I declared I was taking a break from swaps. As much as I love swaps, I had over-committed myself for months and felt like I never had time to sew anything other than swap/bee/commissioned projects. Sadly, it rarely left me enough time to do what I'm most passionate about - designing patterns and teaching new quilters. I'm trying to focus on adding more quality content to my blog, so I'm excited to say that I've put together another free tutorial for you guys - yay!

I love hand-sewing, and it's always handy to know a few basic stitches. My hand-sewing knowledge has served me well in emergency wardrobe situations, and especially on long road trips. Hexies are a fabulous portable project, and I usually keep a little zipper pouch in my purse with some needles, hand-quilting thread, scissors, paper templates, and some fabric squares.

I'm using my fancy schmancy new GO! Baby to cut scraps into hexies, but you can easily trim them up by hand. What's nice about this cutting machine is that you can layer up to 6 pieces of fabric, so I like to find larger pieces and fold them so I have to do even less cutting and prep work.

Using this die is much the same as any other. Just layer your fabric over the desired cutout in the "spongy stuff" (there are 3 sizes to choose from on this die).

 Slap the cutting mat on top...

 ...and then crank it through the machine!

Ta-da! Now I have a small pile of lovely 2" hexies. Each of the six sides measures 1", and the hexie as a whole has a diameter of 2".

Next you'll need to print out some paper templates. I find using paper templates is easier than marking your seam allowances with a pen, because it gives you a sturdy framework for your hand-sewing. If you would like to use paper templates, I suggest going to this free website where you can customize and print your own.

If you're making 2" hexies like me, you'll need 1.5" templates (each side will be 0.75"). To generate templates of this size, merely type "0.75" in the "Hexagon Size" box and click "Download PDF".

Before we move on to the next step, if you're cutting these by hand rather than a GO! machine, you will need to cut a stack of 2.5" squares. Center one of your paper templates over a square, pin it in place, and trim the fabric so that you have a 1/4" seam allowance on every side of the template (see picture below).

Now on to the hand sewing. If you plan on doing any decent amount of hand work, I recommend buying some hand quilting thread. It's sturdier than machine thread and rarely knots up or tangles on you. If you'd prefer not to go out and buy new thread just for this, then try picking up some beeswax and you can run your regular machine thread through the beeswax to strengthen it.

To make your endknot, wrap one end of your thread around your finger 2 or 3 times.

Slide the loops off the end of your finger and run the tail end of your thread through all the loops. Pull tight to create a big, sturdy knot.

Select one side of a hexie, and fold the seam allowance down. Finger press the edge a little to help it stay down. 

 Bring your needle through the fabric and paper from the back, and pull until the knot is secure against the fabric.

 Fold down the seam allowance on the next edge of the hexie, tucking under the excess fabric at the corner to create a little fold.

Take your needle back through the hexie to the other side. 

 Pull it tight. If done correctly, your first corner (and subsequent corners) should look like the photo below.

 Move your needle down to the next corner, and repeat the process.

 Your hexie should now look a little something like this...

And if you flip it over, it should look something like the photo below.

Finally, when you're finished sewing all the corners, the side facing you should look like this...

And like this when you flip it over. When you're done sewing, there is no need to clip your thread or tie it off. Simply leave the long tail because this acts as a basting stitch, and it will be removed once you've sewn all your hexies together.

Once you have a decent pile of hexies, grab two to sew together. Here is where you'll learn how to do a whipstitch!

Place your hexies right sides together, and line them up as perfectly as you can. At the bottom edge of one side, run your needle through both hexies, and pull until your knot is tight against the fabric. You want to insert your needle just below the folds, catching only a tiny bit of the fabric. This will keep your seam allowance as close to 1/4" as possible, and will also make your stitches less visible from the front.

To make your second stitch, you won't alternate sides like you do with most stiches. The easiest way I can think to describe the whipstitch, is that your stitches will always initiate from one side. Since I'm right handed, my stitches are always initiated from the right side of the seam.

You can see in the photo below that I brought my needle back over to the right side to initiate my second stitch.

Here, you can see what it looks like after I've made my first two stiches, and am about to make my third.

Stop sewing when you reach the end of that side, because you only need to attach the two hexies along one side.

 To tie off your thread, make a small stitch at the end and pull the thread through until you have a small loop.

 Run your needle through the loop...

And then through the larger loop that is created when you took the needle through the original small loop. Pull it tight to knot the thread. 

When you "open" up your hexies, they should look like this. See how the stitches are barely visible from the front?

Sew your hexies into rows, depending on how large you need your finished project to be.

I needed about a 5.5" square, so I made 23 hexies and sewed them into rows as pictured below. If you'll be squaring off your hexies, you'll need to off-set the number of hexies in each row. Mine alternate between 5 and 4 in a row.

Now to sew your rows together...

See how the hexies fit together like a puzzle when you lay the rows next to eachother? We're gonna sew the first two rows together along that zigzag-like seam. I numbered the first few sides to show the order in which we're going to sew them.

Sorry for the confusion, but I changed up my rows a little bit after I took the previous photo, so the hexies below might look a little different...but don't worry! It doesn't change how we're going to sew anything.

When you're ready to sew that first seam, line up your hexies (right sides together) along that edge and sew together - you'll do it exactly the same way as we did above when making the rows.

It might be a little more awkward because paper hexie chains will be dangling around while you sew, but you can easily fold them back out of the way.

When you've finished, your rows should be attached like so...  (you can see where the first two sides are attached, and where you'll make your second seam)

Fold your rows so that the next two hexies are lined up properly (right sides together), and begin whipstitching them together.

 When you're done joining your first two rows, they should look like this...

When you go to attach the next row, you'll line up your hexies just like you did in the previous steps, and whipstitch together in order.

Here's a photo of my hexies after the third row has been attached....

And here's a photo of all the hexies joined together. You can see that I've started removing the basting stitches and paper templates from them.

And there you have it! Now you know how to 1) paper piece hexies, and 2) do a proper whipstitch. Give yourself a big pat on the back, and possibly a delicious cookie if you have one handy. Sweets are always the best reward for a job well done, right ladies?  ;)

P.S. If you want to sash your hexies (examples here) and need to square them up (aka lop off the ends), make sure you press out the seam allowances and give yourself 1/4" on each side. I forget to do that sometimes and it screws me up!


Thank you! A picture IS worth a thousand words. Excellent tutorial.

Great tute, thanks Kaelin. I've been thinking of you lately (not a stalker, I promise!) and hope you are doing okay.

This is the best hexie tutorial I've seen lately - I've always been so confused and daunted. Thanks so much for the clear instructions and VERY helpful pictures :)

lovely tute Kaelin ...

I know there are many ways to do this, but I just baste through the corners of the fabric, not through the paper, that way I can reuse my templates for much longer.

I also change to a much finer sewing needle when joining the little darlins up ... makes the whipstitch almost invisibubble ...

Lovely to see your tutes - look forward to the next one - I know what you mean about swap overload! LOL

Awesome -- thanks so much for the lovely tutorial!!!

Hello, Daiwabo elephant! Your hexagons look adorable.

I ordered the Go hexie die as well, will have to give this a go. I am normally FAR too lazy....

I've been thinking about trying these out. When do you take the papers out?

I see this blog post is a couple years old, but it wad a huge help to me! Thanks!!

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