Easy {hand} Piecing: A Tutorial

Long time readers of my blog know of my obsession for Janet’s quilt, and the Candied Hexagon quilt pattern in general…  I started my Candied Hexagon quilt in early 2010.  I’ve posted updates occasionally, 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. 

Have you ever tried hand-piecing?  Do you plan to give it a try? 


Monday Guest

Hi Readers, today I am guest blogging over at Shruti’s blog, 13 Woodhouse Road, as part of her ABCs of Quilting series…

If you are here for the first time, by way of Shruti’s introduction, please have a look around.  I create one-of-a-kind applique such as these adorable onesies, available in my shop (all with FREE U.S. SHIPPING!)

Unique Modern baby quilts…like Blast Off and Noah’s Guitar… (my two faves!)

I started sewing at age ten or eleven, so I’ve tried a little bit of everything… and in addition to my Candied Hexagon Quilt project, I have other ONGOING, long-term projects, including my Nearly Insane Quilt, and some Bee quilt blocks that need completing into quilts…. Where to find the extra time, huh?!  This is one of my MANY TINY PIECES 6″ Nearly Insane blocks:

Here is a round-up of other tutorials I’ve shared:

My Portrait Placemats

Foundation Pieced Cyclone Block

Mitered Corners (for a quilt or tablecloth, etc)

Reversible Tablecloth (or Quilting Without Binding)

Ten Minute Table Runner

Felt Favor Bags

I hope you’ll visit again…  I am working on a scrap-busting tutorial that I think you will really like!  Stay tuned…

happy sewing,

Blogtoberfest Day XXVI–Tutorial: Portrait Placemats

Enjoying the Ghastlies Blog Hop?  Isn’t it fascinating to see how the same fabrics can look so different when placed in the hands of 54 different creators?!?

As promised, here is my tutorial for making the Ghastlie Family Portrait Placemats… (or maybe frame up a fun scenic Christmas fabric for your holiday table?)  Oh, the ideas…

Step 1: I started by fussy cutting my two “portraits” 12.5″ tall x 14.5″ wide (If using something other than A Ghastlie Night print by Alexander Henry, adjust your size accordingly).  I cut two pieces of “frame” fabric (Haunted Mansion by Sanae for Moda) 18″ x 20″.

Step 2: I made a paper template for my “picture frame”.  I cut a rectangular “frame” with a 12″ x 14″ opening, and an outer measurement of 17″ x 19″.  (See Photo Above).

Step 3:  Fold your paper frame in half twice, until you have an L-shaped template (four layers of paper).

Step 4:  Draw and cut a decorative frame outline onto your template.  Set your template aside.(NOTE: If you would like a PDF of the frame I drew, leave me an email address in the comments–I am unable to load PDFs in blogger). 

Step 5:  On the reverse side of your “frame” fabric, center your “portrait” (the 12.5″ x 14.5″ Ghastlies Fabric) and make regsitraton marks at the four corners (it’s hard to see, but I used blue pencil for my registration marks in the photo above–double click to enlarge).  Then using these registration marks, draw lines 1/4″ in from blue mark, creating a 12″ x 14″ rectangle centered on your fabric.

Step 6:  BEFORE YOU CUT YOUR CENTER OPENING:  Press a strip of 1/2″ wide Steam-a-Seam 2 (SaS2) along all four lines, aligning one edge of your SaS2 with the blue registration marks.  Make sure your CUTTING LINES are dark enough to see through the paper of the SaS2.

Step 7:  Cut your center opening out, being careful not to cut PAST the intersection of your two lines at the corners.  I used my 18mm rotary cutter, you may even want to use a scissors to cut into the corners for more control.  As you can see in the above photo, you are cutting away some of your SaS2, the reason you cut through it is to stabilize the raw edge of your “frame” so there is minimal fraying.

Step 8:  Peel the paper from the remaining SaS2 off, and carefully place your “portrait” face down, aligning it with your original blue registration marks in all four corners.  Ensure that both fabrics are laying flat and are lined up correctly, and then press, affixing your “portrait” to the reverse side of your frame.

Step 9:  (NO PHOTO INCLUDED, BUT IMPORTANT STEP!!) Use a fusible stabilizer, thick enough to give your “photo” an opaque backing, to cover both the reverse side of both your “portrait” and your “frame”.  I use Shape-Flex by Pellon, the same stabilizer I use for quilts made of fabrics other than 100% quilting cotton (like t-shirt quilts or my men’s suit quilt).

Step 9:  Turn your portrait over, and retrieve the paper template you made in Step 4.  Lay your template atop your frame, lining up the 12″ x 14″ opening with the fabric frame opening.  Using either pattern weights or pins, secure your paper pattern so it will not shift.  (TIP:  I save rotary cutter cases–the yellow things in photo below–and weight them to use as pattern weights-fill with sand, plaster, or anything to give them weight) Trace your pattern with a marking pencil or white colored pencil.

Step 10:  Carefully cut along your traced line, creating your fancy frame.

Step 11:  Lay your framed portrait on top of your backing fabric (wrong sides together) and satin-stitch in black thread (I used Aurifil 50wt Mako).  If your machine does not have a satin-stitch, zig-zag stitch with the densest zig-zag you can get.  I did not use any batting, or padding, which is why the Shape-Flex Stabilizer I added in Step 9 is so important, it acts as a stabilizer, and a lining between the backing and your “portrait”, as well as stabilizing the fancy cut edge of your “frame” from raveling as your handle it.


Step  12:  Final Step–carefully cut away your excess backing fabric, using a scissors and cutting along the outer edge of stitching, being careful not to cut any stitches…

Et Voila!  Two Portrait Placemats, elegantly framed… (You could easily add a sleeve to the back for hanging on the wall, or try Alidzia’s method of slipcovered picture frames. Genius!)

We are only one day away from this week’s Halloween Party giveawayRemember to comment on any of this week’s posts, and become a follower of my blog, for a chance to qualify to win:

  • ONE Scrappy Charm Pincushion
  • TWO treats of the s*w*e*e*t variety
  • THREE Holiday Fat Quarters
  • FOUR Awesome Notions (Aurifil threads, etc.)
  • FIVE…. I’m trying to decide, but a surprise is always a good thing, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading, thanks for visiting, have an Awesome October and a Happy Halloween!!!!!

Oh, and go visit these gals today–on the Ghastlie Blog Hop–for chances to win more great prizes!!!!        

Blogtoberfest Day XVIII–Fun Favor Bag Tutorial

Today I’m going to show you how to make these cute Candy Corn favor bags–but even if you don’t like Halloween decor and sewing, keep your mind open to the possibilities of these being cute little Christmas or birthday giftbags, favor bags for a quilting retreat filled with sewing notions, etc., easy favor bags for a child’s birthday party…. Just like my reversible tablecloth tutorial, the options are endless!

What you will need:
  • I used 9″ x 12″ pieces of felt from the local craft store (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics)
  • Rick-rack to match your felt/fabric (I used Wrights Canary (#086) and Orange (#058)
  • Ribbon for your drawstring (I used a printed “Happy Halloween” ribbon from Michael’s)

1.  Cut your yellow (bottom) strip 2.5″ wide, your orange (middle) strip 3″ wide, and your white (top) strip 3″ wide.  You should be able to get four strips from each piece of felt.  Cut a piece of yellow rick-rack and a piece of orange rick-rack slightly longer than the length of your strips (I cut mine 9 1/4″)

2.  Set your sewing machine to zig-zag stitch, wide enough to tack your rick-rack down while catching both strips of fabric/felt.  Abutt your two pieces of felt up against one another…

Place your rick-rack down the center of your seam, and zig-zag all three together.  Repeat with your white felt (top) strip and orange rick-rack along other side of orange strip.

3.  Cut your 3-strip piece in half, lengthwise, and trim excess rick-rack from edge.  Also, cut two pieces of 9″ ribbon for your drawstring.

4.  At your sewing machine, switch off the zig-zag, and set your seam to straight stitch.  Lay your ribbon face down (if it has a “right” side) against the ” inside” side of your bag, approx. 1/2″ down from top:

Fold a 1/2″-5/8″casing down over the ribbon and sew a straight seam along edge of casing.

When you turn it over, it will look like this:

4.  Right sides of bag facing, match up the outer edges of your bag and sew around the outer edge, starting at your casing seam line and continuing down the side, along the bottom edge, and up the second side, stopping again at your casing seam line.   (Do not sew through your drawstring/ribbon!)


5.  Before turning right side out, clip your corners.  NOTE: I sew a slight curve on my corner seam, rather than a sharp 90 degree angle, this makes a sharper corner on the outside once the felt is turned:

6.  Tie the ends of your drawstrings/ribbons together to finish your favor bag:

Fill with candy, treats, jelly beans, popcorn, pretzels, sewing notions, toys, etc…. NOTE:  I reversed my yellow and orange rick-rack on one bag to see what the contrast looked like–you could use any trims and ribbons or colors and have a wide variety of bag designs!  ENJOY!

Remember, Blogtoberfest and my Halloween Party continue until October 31st, so comment on any and all posts to qualify for the giveaways.   

This week’s giveaway includes an American Jane pattern, a spool of Nature’s Rainbow thread, and 5 fat quarters of Lizzy Dish fabric from Andover.  (Followers of my blog automatically get an extra entry):

Happy Halloween and an awesome October!

Blogtoberfest Day XII–Reversible Tablecloth/Quilt Without Binding Tutorial

This Blogtoberfest thing has me sewing like crazy–it’s good to have my sewing gumption back.  This is Part II–For Part I of the Tablecloth Tutorial, see the last post.

Today, I’m going to show you how to turn a tablecloth, like the one I made in my last post, into a reversible tablecloth (or it could be a baby quilt without binding, reversible receiving blanket, placemats, etc.).  In the case of a tablecloth, you could do two seasons (Christmas & Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day & Easter/Spring, etc.) two themes (Girl birthday & Boy birthday, Holiday & Birthday, etc.)–the options are endless and you get a two-for-one deal!

Step 1:  Create your backing, or reverse side, the exact same size as your original tablecloth (my “top” is the Halloween tablecloth above, it measures 44″ x 52″).  I made my reverse side (the cupcake print below) by cutting a center panel, adding a border strip to the narrow ends, and then adding border strips to the longer sides:


NOTE:  If you are adding a solid back, simply cut the back (or reverse side) to the same measurement as your top side.

Why did I not miter the borders on my back?  Well, first of all, I wasn’t sure I had enough of this Lakehouse confetti print for my border strips if I mitered, and secondly, it’s such a small print, that a miter wouldn’t show anyway (I never spend the time to miter something that isn’t going to show my mitered seam!)…

Step 2:  At this point you will want to measure twice (or three times!) to make sure both layers are the same measurement exactly, and carefully square up both front and back (top & reverse) sides.  Then, lay your two sides together, right sides facing, and carefully line up your outer edges:

Step 3:  Pin approximately every 5-6″ along all four outer edges before picking your tablecloth/quilt up and moving it to your sewing machine. Sew all the way around the edge with a consistent seam allowance (I used 1/4″) leaving an un-sewn opening at the middle of one side:

Step 4:  Clip your corners to reduce bulk:

Step 5:  Pull your tablecloth/quilt through the opening so it is right-side out: 

Step 6:  Press your seam, making sure you pull the seam itself to the outer edge, as flat as possible (this is the tricky part!  Sometimes using a tweezers to grab the seam as you move your iron along helps–and prevents steam burns on your fingertips!).  At your opening along the edge (where you pulled the fabric through), press under a seam allowance (1/4″ in my case) on both layers.  Carefully pin the opening closed (with a pin every 2-3″).  Then, pin both layers together along all four edges (I use a pin about every 6″) before moving to sewing machine.

Step 7:  Starting at the place where you have pinned the un-sewn seam allowances of your opening together, topstitch approximately 1/16″-1/8″ closer to the outer edge than the seam allowance you used in Step 3.  (I used a 1/4″ seam allowance, so my topstitch is 3/16″ in from outer edge).  This will close your seam opening without needing to blind-stitch it closed by hand.  NOTE:  Do not remove your pins until the next step!

Step 8:  After topstitching the outer edge, with the pins still holding both layers in place, topstitch again a few inches in from first stitch line.  In my case, I decided to topstitch 3/16″ from my inner border so it would match the outer topstitch:

You could also baste and quilt the two layers of fabric together with an allover free-motion design or a grid (which would be important if it was being used as a quilt, and washed regularly, etc), but as I plan to only use mine on special occasions as a tablecloth, two lines of border stitching is enough.

So here it is a Halloween Party tablecloth on one side, and a generic Party tablecloth on the reverse:

Remember, to comment on as many October posts as you can to qualify for my Halloween Party/Blogtoberfest Giveaways.  Today is the last day to qualify for the Aurifil Thread giveaway, and my upcoming giveaways involve fabulous FQs, a pincushion made by yours truly, patterns, and other goodies!

p.s. I’m posting this on Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday, because technically the Halloween Tablecloth is a 2010 WIP that I finished last night by making it reversible!  For other WIP posts, double click on the icon:

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

p.p.s.  The fabrics I used are two M’Liss Rae Hawley “Halloween Magic” prints from 2010 (for Hancock Fabrics), “sweet tooth” by Robert Kaufman, and “confetti parade” by Holly Holderman.

Blogtoberfest Day XI–Mitered Corners–Part I Reversible Tablecloth/Quilt Tutorial

This is PART I of a 2-part Tutorial

(Remember: Giveaways every Thursday during Halloween Party and Blogtoberfest
–the more posts you comment on, the more entries you have!)

I am making a tablecloth. however, this mitered corner tutorial can be applied to ANY quilt border, tablecloth, placemat, etc…

1. Fold your tablecloth (quilt) at a 45 degree angle, right sides together, making sure the edges of your borders line up…

2. Line your ruler up ON the fold, and draw a 45 degree line across the borders that essentially extends the fold line. IMPORTANT: This is NOT your cutting line, it is your stitching line.

3. Move your ruler over 1/4″ (size of your seam allowance) and draw another line parallel to the first one. This is your trim line, or cutting line.

4. Trim your borders down, leaving the seam allowance…

5. Start your sewing machine needle exactly at the point of intersection of your existing seam line and your pencil line. Sew your miter together, stitching ON the line your drew in step #2.
6. Carefully press your seam allowance open, then turn over to admire your good work…

7. If you plan to have an unfinished back side, you can hem it at this point and be done. In PART II of this Tutorial, I will show you how to make it a reversable tablecloth.

The fabrics I used are two M’Liss Rae Hawley “Halloween Magic” prints from 2010 (for Hancock Fabrics).  You may be able to find some on ebay, but she has similar 2011 prints currently available.

Mitered borders are one of those sewing techniques, liked curved piecing and inset seams (y-seams) that sewists and quilters shy away from because they think they are too difficult. But, mitered corners aren’t so difficult after all… Have you ever given them a try?

Are there sewing techniques you shy away from because you find them scary or challenging? If so, which ones?

Another great giveaway at Jenny’s blog–celebrating 1500 followers!