Monday, January 30, 2012

ABC of Quilting Post # 16

The second topic for today is

Piece by hand : English Paper piecing 

We have a guest blogger today to tell you more about hand piecing. Please welcome Doris

from Threads of Conversation. Just a look at her blog and you will know she is a pro! I loved her creations... Head over to get inspired!

Hi--I'm Doris, and I live in Des Moines, Iowa.  I've have blogged for nearly four years now at Threads of Conversation--sharing my sewing endeavors, occasional travels and family fun times, and the ups and downs of a busy life.  I come from a maternal line of quilters and seamstresses (mother, grandmother, great-aunts...) some of whom were hand-piecers--their (now) vintage quilts greatly admired even by my very young child's eyes.

I taught myself to hand piece in 2010, after falling head over heels for Janet's quilt, tracking the pattern source down it's origins, being given the issue of the magazine with the pattern in it by an Australian blog friend, and vowing to make it, now matter how long it took!!!!

I started my Candied Hexagon quilt in early 2010.  I've posted updates occasionally here and on flickr, but never quite got around to posting a tutorial on my method of hand-piecing this quilt.  So, when Shruti asked for contributors to her ABC's of quilting series, I jumped at the chance to tell her readers AND mine how I do hand-piecing.  Today I'm going to show you how I made this hexagon star block:

Basic tools you will need for hand-piecing:

  • a lightweight, durable thread (I use Aurifil 50 wt in Ecru for all my hand-piecing)
  • a few pins
  • a good thimble (my favorite)
  • and size 11 straw needles (my recommendation!) 
  • templates

There are MANY options available for templates for paper piecing; including hand-drawn/traced or PDF paper templates, hand made freezer paper or plastic templates, add-a-quarter and add-an-eighth rulers for adding your seam allowance to a template, pre-cut paper shapes for English paper piecing, like those tiny hexagons pictured above by Paper Pieces, or plexi-glas templates such as the Marti Michell set I am using to cut out and hand-piece my Candied Hexagon quilt:

The great feature of these templates are the holes for marking your seam stop/start points on the reverse side of your fabric.  I use a 28mm rotary cutter (the "tiny" blade) to cut my fabric around the edge of the plexi template, having marked my pencil dots through the holes first.  Then I set the template aside, and trace my seam line from dot-to-dot. 

Cut and prepare each piece for your block and lay them out as they will be sewn together:

I start with the center hexagon and one of the pink triangles; DO NOT knot your thread, instead make a few stitches going towards the start point on your pink triangle, bringing the needle up exactly at the start point.

Then insert the needle back in to the start point, stitch back over the few stitches you just made and continue to sew your seam along the line.  This small backstitch will secure the end of each seam.

Continue stitching along the pencil seam line, bringing your needle up and out at the stop point. 

Just as you did at the start point, insert the needle back down at the stop point and backstitch 2-3 stitches to secure the end of your seam; trim thread.

Repeat this process to attach three of the pink triangles to the hexagon as shown:

Then attach a blue diamond to each side of the remaining three pink triangles; so you have four segments sewn like this:

To attach an outer Triangle/Diamond segment to the center Hexagon/Triangle segment, place them right sides together with trimmed corners and edges lined up:

Pin through ALL fabric layers AT the start/stop points on the pink triangle, with back and front  segments lined up where star points are to meet up. (See above).  On the reverse, your pins should be in nice and straight, and lined up with the start/stop points on the hexagon piece as well. 

Stitch from Start point at one end (including backstitch to secure the end of your seam) to the first stop point, at seam allowance.  Carefully insert your needle at stop point, through bothe seam allowances (really diagonally between the two seam allowances) coming out the other side at the start point marked on the hexagon piece:

Repeat to attach all three Triangle/Diamond segments to complete your hexagon star block; seams should be pressed flat towards outer edge on reverse side:

This is MY method of hand-piecing, which is just one way of doing it.  This same block could be made using an English Paper Piecing method, using the technique shown in this great tutorial on Clare's blog, Self Sewn.  She has made several beautifully hand pieced quilts, and is currently hosting a Block Party for her hand-pieced Rose Star block:

Another very well written English Paper Piecing tutorial for hexagons (a la Grandmother's Flower Garden) can be found here at Sunshine Creations.

And, of course, there is a wealth of information on my style of hand-piecing on Hand Piecing With Crispy. 

Please stop by my blog, Threads of Conversation, and say hello--I'm always interested in "meeting" new internet friends!


  1. Doris's work is amazing - so is she! Thank you for sharing this detailed tutorial of paper piecing. That quilt is going to be gorgeous.

  2. Your hand piecing is very pretty! I did think, however, that English Paper Piecing used papers?

  3. I like the triangles with the hexi, it made a really great pattern.


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