English Paper Piecing: Hexagon Flower Tutorial

I’m preparing lots of little projects for our little pumpkin due in September, and now that we know baby is a girl (yay!), I’ve been able to make plans for my pretty fabrics I have stashed. A girly Winnie the Pooh quilt is in the works…

This tutorial will be connected to another project I will be sharing with you soon, but first, I’d thought I’d show you something fun with paper piecing.

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I started learning about English Paper Piecing last fall, and I love it! Such a simple hand-sewing technique for quilt piecing and pretty applique pieces such as these flowers. It goes quickly, and it’s a sewing project I can sit in bed at night and work at.

These paper pieced flowers are meant for applique, and can be appliqued to anything – quilts, blankets, tea towels, baby clothes. I will be using this flower for one of the baby bibs I’m working on (the tutorial that is coming!)

You need very little fabric, so it’s great for using up that always-growing stack of fabric scraps. I’ve made 1 1/2″ hexagons (the standard size for paper piecing), and included my template for you to download here.

You will need:

  • fabric scraps, coordinating colors
  • small size sewing needle (I was using a #8 embroidery needle)
  • neutral cotton thread
  • embroidery/small scissors

1. Cut out the paper hexagons – you will need 6 paper hexagons for one flower. Now to cut the fabric: Lay the paper hexagon on a small square of fabric (with plenty of room to cut around still), cut 3/8″ around the hexagon to give a seam allowance. Most will recommend a standard 1/4″ seam allowance around the hexagon, but I prefer a little more.

Thread the needle and knot the end.

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2. You can use a single pin to hold the paper and fabric together and keep them in place, but I have found that using your fingers to hold it in place as you sew is adequate – the pin tends to get in the way.

Use your finger to fold and “press” the fabric over the edge of the paper.

While holding the paper and fabric together with your thumb and forefinger, insert the needle through both layers, about 1/8″ from the edge and pull through. Bring back up again in the center, the same distance from the edge, and then take the needle back down through to the front.

Remember to make sure that you are going through both layers, fabric and paper. This is not a problem if you are working far enough away from the edge. I always stay a scant more than an 1/8″ from the edge.

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2. Fold and press the fabric over the next side. Bring the needle back up, making sure to catch the corner fold to secure it.

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Continue to baste along the edge as you did the first side. Repeat the steps for folding and pressing the fabric around the edges of the paper, and then basting. Finish off with a knot.

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Continue with all of the other pieces… Here are mine!

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Connecting All the Pieces

Connecting the hexagons is as simple as whip stitching together a puzzle! Lay out all your pieces. Thread your needle and knot the end. Take two hexagons to connect, place them right sides together, aligning the edges.

1. To hide the knot: Slide the needle under the seam fold of the hexagon facing you – under the seam fold, but over the paper – bring the needle out through the fold edge. (I didn’t get a picture of this, but it’s a helpful thing to do to conceal the knot and get it out of the way!)

Now, ready to whip stitch! Insert the needle through the very edges of the fabric folds. Don’t catch the paper with the needle – pull through. Continue along the edge with the whip stitch as shown.

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Whip stitch right to the end… on the last loop, insert the needle through the loop and pull to make a quick knot. First side done! Now, what do you do?

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2. Lay out your pieces flat again. I chose to add the middle piece of the flower next. Lay the middle piece right sides together with one of the other sides as shown.

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Whip stitch along the seam, as shown and specified. Do you see how this is working?

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Now, you are going to attach the third open seam. Fold the hexagons right sides together and align the edges. Whip stitch to the end, and fasten off with a simple loop knot.

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Three connected hexagons! Continue in the same way, repeating the steps to connect the remaining hexagons.

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Keep building the pieces…

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You should have the hang of it by now! Just keep moving from side to side. Leave the papers in as you sew, you will remove them when you are finished. The last one…

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Finished. The front and the back. Isn’t that fun?

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Remove the paper – Cut the basting stitches and pull out the threads. Remove the papers. Don’t worry about the seams getting messy, you will fix that in a moment with an iron!

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Carefully press with a hot iron. Lay and lift the iron – don’t just run the iron over the seams, you will end up ironing them out! Press until flat and edges are smooth.

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I’ll be using this flower on one of my baby bibs, keep an eye out for the tutorial!
~ Jessica ~

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