Star Hexies Tutorial + English Paper Piecing

on January 28 | in Quilting, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 7 Comments

Julie Zaichuk-Ryan from Button Button embroiders, knits, makes lace, sews and she loves English paper piecing! Today she’s here to tell us more about paper piecing, and she has a new project to share as well. Take a look at Julie’s embroidery design shop Little Dorrit & Co. (where they are currently having a Valentine’s Sale!) and her knitting patterns too. Enjoy!

English Paper Piecing (EPP for short) is at an enormous peak in popularity right now; if you haven’t been stitching fabric hexagons together yourself, you’ve probably seen some of your crafty friends doing it. But where did it come from?

English Paper Piecing, also called “mosaic patchwork,” appeared in Britain in the 1700s and grew in popularity as new printed cottons became widely available. It eventually took a backseat to quilting with velvets and silks in the Victorian era, but EPP reappeared in the 1930s, when feedsack fabrics and the Grandmother’s Flower Garden layout were widely used, and then again in the 1960s and 70s.

Paper piecing was surely a fairly painless way to deal with precise fabric cutting and seam allowances in the days before self-healing mats, rotary cutters and acrylic quilting rulers; virtually any shape or design can be patchworked with paper templates. But the hexagon is definitely the most consistently used paper piecing shape. Hexagons are EPP magic; they are quick to baste and fit together flawlessly every time.

Inspired by a quilt from the mid-1800s (in the International Quilt Study Center & Museum’s collection) and the idea that past quilters often used the hexagon as a design base even while piecing other shapes, I’ve tried combining plain hexagons with hexagons that contain a six-pointed star. This tutorial is perfect for paper piecing enthusiasts looking to add a little zing to their hexies! And the best thing is that one template will give you all the pieces you need. So let’s get stitching!

Here’s what you’ll need to make one Star Hexie:

1. Download and print your template on card or heavy paper. Cut one hexagon out, then carefully cut along the inside lines to create twelve separate diamonds:

2. Decide on your fabric layout. I used two mid-contrast prints per star and then a darker, high-contrast fabric for the outer diamonds to accentuate the finished hexagon shape. Each Star Hexie uses only very small amounts of fabric, so break out those precious scraps!

Baste the twelve diamonds in whatever way you like best; for this design, I like to baste by hand, through the papers, but any method will work.

4. To assemble the inner star, whip stitch two sets of three diamonds together, with right-sides facing each other:

5. Then whip stitch your two star halves together in the same way, followed by your outer diamonds between each star point:

6. Yay! You’ve completed one Star Hexie! Now you can combine it with others, or with plain hexagons. Simply use the template as a whole (ignoring the diamond lines).

For a modern look, I randomly scattered a few Star Hexies in with plain hexagons, which is shown at the beginning of this post squared up and ready to turn into a mini-quilt or pillow top. But of course, in the end, we’re just working with hexagons, so there’s no limit to the possible layouts!

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7 Responses to Star Hexies Tutorial + English Paper Piecing

  1. peggy says:

    Love the fabrics you used…I started doing EPP a couple of months ago so that I would have something to do while watching TV in the evenings. I’ll have to try the diamonds…have just been doing hexagons…you get more of a variation in design with the diamonds…Nice…

  2. Julie says:

    Hi Dita –

    Yes! You take the papers out when you’ve finished – I’ve offered some tips in the comments above that may help you. But yes, once everything is stitched together, you can remove the papers (and reuse them!) and then treat it the same as any other piece of patchwork!

  3. Julie says:

    Hi Bella! The paper stays put while you’re stitching because you’ve basted them in place (or glued, if you prefer) — be sure to check out the previous post from Sew Mama Sew about EPP basics (linked to in the post above)!

    When you’ve finished, you can remove the papers by first removing your basting stitches, and then just popping the papers out! The general rule is that you can remove papers as soon as that piece is surrounded on all sides by other papers – but there’s no harm in leaving them all in while you work, if you have enough papers to go around!

    I hope that helps!

  4. Rebeca says:

    Era exatamente o que eu queria fazer! Obrigada por compartilhar!

  5. Bella says:

    Is there a part 2? How do you take the paper out? How do you keep the fabric folded around the paper while you’re sewing? It seems it would be fairly fragile if it was the whole quilt. I need lots more info!

  6. Dita says:

    I’ve never done EPP before. Do you take the paper out after? Or do you just leave it there. It seems like if you leave it there, it would be pretty stiff?

  7. Terri says:

    Thank you so much for these wonderful templates. My mind spins with the design possibilities.

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