Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod is the author of Kanzashi In Bloom and Quilting Happiness, with a new book set to debut next spring. We’ve enjoyed every chapter of her exciting, passionate sewing journey over the years; right now she’s “deep into plastic canvas and English paper piecing” so we asked her to join our Slow Sewing series with an EPP (English paper piecing) project. Stitch those chilly nights away with Diane’s Hexie Diamond Pillow, and if you like what you see (you’re sure to!) head over to Diane’s EPP Pattern Shop.

Learn more about Diane on her site, and visit her on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with her current work.

Are you ready for your next hand sewing project?!

Whenever I’m showing off my various English paper pieced projects, sooner or later someone asks me this question: “Why would you want to sew all that by hand?”

…And there are the usual answers: EPP is meditative and comforting, it’s easy to pick up anytime you have a spare ten minutes and it travels with you anywhere, unlike your sewing machine.

But I think a long term hand-sewing project also becomes a kind of secret scrapbook, chronicling the moments and seasons you spent sewing. You look back on the work and are flooded with memories– how this section accompanied you to your son’s soccer practice and that section came to football practice. How you passed those warm summer afternoons on the porch making patches, and how you curled up under a blanket to watch movies as you stitched on winter evenings. You can remember the emotions you felt as you sewed on different days, and you even remember the life events that created long hiatuses in your project.

So, why would you want to sew all that by hand? Why, to help you slow down and be more present in your life! And here’s a great EPP project for giving that wonderful slowness a whirl.

Finished Size: 15″ x 15″

You’ll Need:

  • Scraps of assorted print fabrics (I used 28 scraps here)
  • 1/4 yard of light grey small-scale print
  • 1/4 yard of medium grey small-scale print
  • 1/2 yard of dark grey solid (for hexies and pillow back)
  • 16″ x 16″ piece of muslin
  • Paper hexagon templates (see note below)
  • Scissors for paper
  • Scissors for fabrics
  • Hand sewing needle (a sharp or quilting needle in a size you like)
  • Contrasting thread for basting
  • Coordinating thread for sewing (light, medium and dark grey)
  • Washable glue stick
  • Sewing machine (for assembly)
  • Ruler + rotary cutter
  • 15″ x 15″ pillow form

Note on Templates: You can download this PDF template sheet, print it six times, and cut out your own templates. If you’d rather skip that step, you can order them online from Paper Pieces.

Cutting the Fabrics:
For the colorful scraps, press your fabric and place it wrong side up. Pass the glue stick lightly over one side of a paper template, and then stick the template to the wrong side of the fabric. Use scissors to trim the fabric about 3/8″ larger on all sides.

Since you need quite a lot more of the grey templates, it’s quicker to start by cutting the fabric into 2 1/2″ wide strips. Then use the glue stick to lightly glue templates along the length of the strip, placing them 3/4″ apart. Cut the fabric between templates with scissors, and then trim the fabric so it’s about 3/8″ beyond the remaining edges.

For this project, you’ll need these totals:
– 28 assorted color hexagons
– 30 light grey hexagons
– 36 medium grey hexagons
– 10 dark grey hexagons

Basting the Templates:
For a project like this one with lots of pieces, I recommend basting the patches through the fabric only, not through the paper templates. This way, you can easily remove the templates later without having to remove the basting at all– that saves a lot of work!

Basting through the fabric is very easy. Start by folding the fabric over one edge of the template and finger-pressing the fold. Then fold the adjoining edge over and finger-press again. That creates a little fold at the corner point. Take a tack stitch by passing your needle under this fold twice. Then move to the next corner. Fold the next edge of the fabric over the template, finger-press and take a tack stitch at that corner. Move around the whole hexagon in this manner until you reach your starting point.

To end the thread, I like to pass the needle through the fabric only as shown here. Then I cut it with about a 2″ tail. That tail stays tucked against the paper template and out of my way.

Incidentally, I don’t usually baste all the templates for a project at one time. I like to mix up the tasks in my EPP projects to keep things fun. So feel free to baste as many patches at a time as you like, and then move on to sewing them. Then you can baste more when you’re ready.

Sewing the Patches Together:
I prefer a whip stitch for sewing my patches together. (You can learn how to whip stitch in this video.) Just put two patches together with right sides facing and stitch along their edges. When you’re passing your needle through the patches, make sure you’re not catching the edge of the paper template. (It won’t hurt the project if you sew through the edge of the paper, but it will tire out your hands pretty quickly!)

Follow the diagram above to arrange your patches.

For a project like this, I find it easiest to work in stages. So first, I assembled the colorful bits, with four hexagons each. Then I added the grey borders to form larger diamonds (or parts of diamonds). Then I sewed those diamonds together, and lastly I added the dark grey hexies to fill out the design.

As you’re sewing hexies together, you’ll always be folding them this way and that. You can fold your work any direction you need to so that you can match up the edges you need to sew.

As you can see, many of the hexies in your project will end up creased in several directions – and that’s completely fine.

Finishing the EPP + Cutting the Pillow Top:
When you’ve sewn all the patches together, give the pillow top a thorough pressing with a hot steam iron. Then peel out the paper templates (remember, we’re leaving the basting in). If you’d like to see the template-removal process in action, watch this video.

When the templates are out, press the pillow top again.

Lay the top out on your cutting mat and trim it to 15 1/2″ x 15 1/2″, using this diagram as a guide. (If you’re nervous about cutting into your EPP, start with the right-hand edge– see how the cut lines up with the hexagons?)

Cut a piece of muslin to match the pillow top. Pin it to the wrong side of the top and baste the layers together with a 1/8″ seam allowance.

Cut two backing pieces, each measuring 15 1/2″” x 12″. Stitch a 1/2″ double-rolled hem along one long edge of each piece.

Pin one of these pieces to the top edge of the pillow, right sides facing. Then pin the other to the bottom edge of the pillow, overlapping the first. Sew along all four edges with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Clip the corners, turn the pillow cover right side out and press. Lastly, insert a 15″ pillow form.

Have fun!