I love English paper piecing and fabrics with great big prints, but these two things don’t always play so nicely together. So I decided to experiment with super-sizing some traditional paper pieced hexagons. I love the way they showcase these three beautiful designs from Spoonflower designer Holli Zollinger: Coral Lined Mosaic, Fish Scales Slate Full, and Diamond Circles Aqua, and the chevron lines of quilting make a nice frame.
Materials (per placemat):
- ½ yard background fabric (I’m using linen-cotton canvas here, but cotton would be lovely, too.)
- ¼ yard flannel (for batting)
- 3 Spoonflower Kona® cotton test swatches in prints of your choice
- Thread that coordinates with your background and hexie fabrics
- Sewing machine with a walking foot
- Downloadable hexagon template
Choosing fabrics for your hexagons:
For this project, you’ll need prints that are large, but not too large for the hexagons. So, download the hexagon template. The hexies I’m using in this project are 4″ across, and this measurement is useful as you’re browsing for fabrics. Compare that 4″ measurement to the same measurement on the handy scale ruler that’s pictured with each fabric. How much of the pattern repeat will appear in a 4″ x 4″ area?
Now, we’ll create the big hexies and sew them together. This video shows you how:
Making the placemats:
When you have your set of three hexies all sewn together, it’s time to assemble your placemat. I highly recommend that you install a walking foot on your sewing machine for this project. We’ll be sewing through several layers of fabric here, and a regular presser foot has a tendency to shift those layers around too much while you stitch.
Check with your local sewing machine dealer, or try an online search for “(make and model of your machine) walking foot.” If you don’t have a walking foot, I’ve added some suggestions below for alternate ways you can this project.
Cut three 12″ x 16″ pieces of fabric: two from your background fabric and one from flannel. You may notice that my flannel doesn’t match my project at all, and this is okay! It’s just used as a batting layer here, and will be invisible in the finished placemat. This is a great opportunity to use up any scrap flannel you have in your stash.
Layer these three rectangles as you see here, with the flannel between the two pieces of background fabric. (The wrong sides of the background fabric pieces should be facing the flannel layer.) Match all four edges.
Now, take the hexie unit you made earlier and place it on top of this fabric stack. Center it side to side, and position the top points of the hexies 2″ below the top edge of the background fabric.
Place lots of pins all over to keep all these layers in place. Pin a couple times inside each hexie and all over the background section.
Now, head to your sewing machine. Depending on the colors you’re using, you may want to thread your bobbin with a color that matches your background fabric, and thread your machine with a color that matches your hexies. Stitch the hexies down, sewing close to all the outside edges.
If you don’t have a walking foot: You can hand sew along these edges, using a tiny hand stitch.
Next, sew right along each of the seam lines where you sewed the hexies together. If you don’t have a walking foot: You can hand sew along these lines, or even skip this step.
With the hexies in place, we’ll do some quilting to solidify all these fabric layers. I’m using “echo quilting” here, which simply follows the shape of the hexies. Start by stitching ¼” away from the edge of the hexies. Then, stitch another line ¼” away from that line, and repeat until you’ve covered the entire background with chevron stitching. I think this design accommodates precise lines or wonky lines equally well, so if your quilting lines get a little crooked, go with it!
If you don’t have a walking foot: You may want to play with hand quilting – a placemat is a nice, small project for that technique. Try drawing the lines you want to quilt with an erasable fabric marker, and then sewing through all the layers along these lines with a small running stitch.
Once the quilting is done, it’s time to bind our placemat. We’re using a time-honored technique here called a “double fold binding.” For this placemat, you’ll need to make about 60″ of binding. Take your leftover background fabric and cut two strips measuring 3″ high by the width of the fabric. From here, you can follow Heather Bailey’s excellent PDF tutorial to finish and install your binding. The’s just one small alteration to this process when you’re binding a placemat. Heather’s tutorial says to begin sewing the binding on “in the middle of one side.” With a placemat, begin sewing the binding along the bottom edge of the placemat, about 2″ from one corner.
Give your freshly-bound placemat a good pressing, and you’re all set! Variations: You can do all kinds of fun things with this design. You might use a background fabric with a tiny, subtle print alongside those large print hexies. You might quilt it in a more free-form pattern. You might bind it in a contrasting color. You might even arrange your hexies in a different configuration. Have fun giving this project your own unique stamp!
About Our Guest Blogger
Diane Gilleland blogs, podcasts, publishes, teaches, and makes videos about all things crafty over at CraftyPod.com. When she’s not doing those things, she’s doing whatever her cat tells her to do. And what’s wrong with that?
Thanks for this wonderful tutorial! I made a set of placemats with great success, and it was my first attempt at paper piecing. More on my blog: http://stylememary.blogspot.com/2015/02/hopelessly-devoted-to-blue-quilting.html
This is super cute! — Love that it’s suited to swatches!
^_^ – PinkSodaPop