E is for English Paper Piecing
I have to admit it, I have fallen in love with English Paper Piecing. This has turned out to be one of the most relaxing and meditative things for me to do… on the bus, in the car (passenger seat, of course), on a plane, in the park, in front of the tele, in any waiting room, at the train station… (Am I starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss book?)
Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t an easy sell. I remember about three years ago, I popped my head into CQW for something to do on a plane as I was about to go overseas.
“HEXIES” they all exclaimed, with Gerri leading the chorus.
“What???”… I just didn’t see the appeal… I didn’t quite get the idea of sewing hexies.. For what? How would I put them together?
OMG you mean to tell me that people make HUNDREDS of these for a quilt???
WHAT???? People make THOUSANDS of these for a quilts??
WHAT??? No.. Stop it right now. Do NOT tell me people make TENS of THOUSANDS of these for a quilt!!! Do NOT EVEN GO THERE!!
Rhonda Pearce’s Insanity quilt is so appropriately named!
Just the thought of making that many hexies and sewing them together made me just want to crawl into a dark corner and go to sleep. Sooooo, I gave it pass.
Fast forward three years… I am an addict…. Bona fide. Done.
I was back to commuting and have really enjoyed hand stitching. However, doing wool applique on the bus was getting a bit more challenging than I wanted and I was looking for a project to start. I had that idea that just doing hexies exclusively might just send me around the bend, so I had a wander through the shop looking at all the options that were out there… OOOOOhhhhhh, so many choices….
There were papers….there were templates…. there were patterns….
There were papers WITH templates AND patterns!!
But I know myself and thought that doing something that had too many of the same thing might not hold my interest… Until…. (insert drum roll here) the Marvelous Megan suggested that I get the Little Miss April starter pack. This is for a design by Marg Sampson George that really lets you spread your wings and exercise your creativity. Marg writes about it in her book, Taking an Element. The basic building block is a 4” hexagon — which is a hexagon with 4 inches each of its six sides.
I found this nifty calculator from CD Designs that tells you how many hexies you’ll need for a quilt.. You can pop in the width and length and size hexie you’ll need and, viola, it tell you how many you will have to make. I popped in the dimensions for a crib (American for “Cot”) sized quilt. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezey. 40. That’s how many 4” Hexagons I will need for a cot.
BUT WAIT…. The beauty of Marg’s design, is that the 4” hexies can be made up of… get this… nearly whatever you want!!! Yup. .that’s it.. Slice it up and sew it back together…. Go nuts!! Pick out how you want to deconstruct and reconstruct that 4 inch hexagon, select your fabric and go to town.
Here are some of the suggestions from the book:
You can have as few as one fabric for the whole hexie, or, if you were game to use 1” diamonds, you would end up with 48 pieces to sew together…. Cut those diamonds in half to make 1” triangles, the you can make that 96 pieces to sew together… if you made it all from 1” triangles making up the 40 4” hexies, you’d be sewing 3,840 bits of fabric together for that cot!!!! I’m not even going to think about a king size….
I have started sewing my hexies together and it has been quite a journey of exploring colour and shape as well as developing my sewing techniques.
I started out nice and safe… same same colours and symetrical groupings….really exploring some fussy cutting…..
Then I did a few that had shapes inside shapes, using colour and value to highlight the component parts of the of the hexagons … like the intertwined triangles or 3-d cube…
Then I just went wild… I had this grey and white fabric that had so much movement in it, I thought if I chopped it into little pieces and sewed it back together that it would really go pow…threw in some random Tula splashes of colour and BAM… I really like the craziness of this block…
It’s been really great to be able to take some of Marg’s classes while I’ve been working on this as she has really helped me think of colour differently and more boldly. I had this fantastic bug fabric that I wanted to use and pulled some fabrics.
They all go together… but just a tad “same, same” Margaret had a look at what I had brought and pulled a purple with flowers out of it and suggested I add that as the unexpected….I loved it…
But when I got home and started thinking about what shapes to use, it just so happened that I shifted some fabrics around and the fabulous Kaffe ended up next to my bugs… and I was off on another tangent (NOTE: the is the glory of having a somewhat messy sewing space… accidental colours!) The finished product is so far from what I had initially thought I would do, but I really like it… It’s a bit whacky…and a bit un-contained… but we all know how well bugs and flowers go, don’t we?
I’ve made eleven blocks so far and I’ll do at least 40, but might get ambitious and try to make something larger. I’m not sure how they will all cohere at the end, but I’m treating each one as an individual adventure.
In the meantime, I’ll still by riding buses, trains and planes, I’ll still be sitting in waiting rooms and watching the tele at night, so I’ll just keep on experimenting and trying. So, as I plan to board an international flight in May, I’m so very much looking forward to having a stack of papers and fabrics for the long flight… Hexies RULE!
(PS.. this is NOT going on Annette’s UFO list this year!!).