The hexie flower is the most iconic block in English paper piecing, with the earliest known versions dating back to the 18th Century. They are the perfect beginner block, with small seams and no tricky points to line up, and the perfect scrap buster.
They're traditionally made from seven 1" hexagons, affectionately called “hexies” in the English paper piecing world, and arranged into a block that looks like a flower – thus the name “hexie flower.” And, 1" hexagons fit neatly inside a 2 ½" square of fabric, making it a fun way to use charm squares or jelly rolls or scraps from binding.
For most of my quilts, I cut the fabric required, make the blocks, finish the quilt, and tidy up, but for some reason, I've always kept a stash of basted 1" hexagons and hexie flowers. When I want to make a hexie flower quilt, I turn to my tin of basted hexagons, fill any colour gaps, and start stitching. If the colours suit, I bring in leftover hexie flowers from last time. After laying it out, if I discard any, they go back in the hexie flower box for next time.
Most of these flowers have been made into various Small Change Quilts, my collection of hexie quilt blocks that are appliqued to background squares. Recently, however, I found myself longing for a whole hexagon quilt, made of beautiful scrappy hexie flowers. That's how Spring Whimsy was born. And she's my favourite hexie quilt yet!
And, since Spring Whimsy is made of a whole lot of hexie flowers, I wanted to share how to make one for anyone diving into their first hexie flower quilt.
How to Choose Colours for Your Hexie Flowers
When I started making this quilt, I automatically chose basted hexagons where I had enough of the same fabric to make 6 petals for the hexie flower. But, realising I had lots of random, single prints, I started to mix it up and make scrappy flowers in a single colour, rather than a single fabric. When I laid them out, I realised I liked these hexie flowers better for this quilt design! In the end I kept only my favourite single-fabric hexie flowers and made extra scrappy ones until I was happy with the mix.
I highly recommend scrappy hexie flowers for this quilt, not just because it looks so beautiful, with the movement of light and shade like a real garden, but because you'll get great use out of the little bits of scraps you have in your stash. I also really like that when I colour the flowers this way, I can see the hexagon shape more clearly, with the lines between the petals visible. Hexie flowers made from just one petal fabric can sometimes look a bit ‘blobby’.
How to Cut Fabric for 1" Hexagons
For quilts like this one, I often dig through my scraps, and using my paper template as a guide, I cut a 3/8" seam allowance around the shape with scissors. That works well for me if I'm at my desk or on the couch.
If I've set up at my cutting table, I usually cut a 2 ½" strip from one end of my scrap, and then cut squares from that strip. The number I get from the strip depends on how big the scrap is, but I tend not to count or keep track.
For scrappy quilts like this, I cut a bunch of scrappy favourites, baste them, arrange them by colour, and sew them into hexie flowers. Then, once I'm starting to feel uninspired by the hexagons I have available, I go back to cutting and stock up my rainbow of squares for basting. I do this until I have enough hexie flowers to make my quilt.
If you'd like to know/decide how many of each print to cut before starting, I'll have the fabric requirements for Spring Whimsy listed in the next post in this series.
How to Baste Your 1" Hexagons
There are different ways to baste paper pieces for your English paper piecing projects, and I've covered that in detail here. But, for the purposes of this post, I'm going to share how I baste my hexagons, and feel free to go back and read about the other options later on.
I use glue to baste my paper pieces (I use Bostik, a lot of my US friends use Elmers). I get equally great results from a regular craft glue stick over a quilting brand. (You can read more about the pros and cons of glue brands, as well as the safety of using glue in your quilts in this post.)
To glue baste, place the paper piece on the back of the fabric piece. Put a small line of glue along one edge of the paper. Don't glue over the edge of the paper or onto the fabric. It's better still if you can leave a gap between your glue line and the edge of the paper. Doing so will stop glue getting into the fold and making it harder to stitch through.
Fold the seam allowance over. Turn the shape and fabric around so that you can glue the next edge easily. Repeat until all the fabric edges are folded over the shape.
How to Stitch Your Hexie Flower
1. Lay out your hexie flower with one hexagon at the center and the other six positioned around the perimeter of the central hexagon as “petals.”
2. Begin by placing one petal right sides together with the center hexagon, and make a knot.
3. Whipstitch along the adjacent seams until you reach the end. Don't snip your thread!
4. Open the petal away from the central hexagon, and pick up the next hexagon petal from your original layout. Position that hexagon right sides together with the center hexagon and whipstitch in the same fashion as the first hexagon.
5. Continue to stitch the remaining hexagon petals to the center hexagon until all petals are attached. Don't snip your thread!
6. At this stage, it's often helpful to remove the center hexagon's paper since it has been completely stitched in on all sides.
7. Wherever your thread is still attached, position the two adjacent petals right sides together and whipstich to join them to each other. Snip your thread.
8. Continue stitching the petals to each other in this fashion until all petals are sewn together.
Ready to make some hexie flowers?
My free Hexie Banner pattern has the sweetest little hexie flower right in the center, perfect for showing off your newest hexie flower and quick enough to finish in a weekend. Click below and I'll drop the PDF pattern, complete with printable templates, straight into your inbox!