Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hexagons: An Epic Quilting Project

Hexagon (n): a polygon having six angles and six sides.

Oh, dictionary.  If only it were that simple.

I was introduced to hexagons in fabric form in the spring of last year by a co-worker. She was making piles and piles of tiny little hexagons for a project that even she wasn't sure about yet, and I got a little obsessed--first with her project, then with starting my own.

Actually, I got a lot obsessed.  I made a few of my own hexagon templates and started down the rabbit hole.  With fabric scraps from my stash, I made a tiny little cluster of hexagons.  Then another.  Then another.  Then I made a larger cluster. And it was love.

A few months into this obsession, my sister-in-law announced that she was pregnant with her fourth child.  It seemed like fate that she should be pregnant at the same time I was obsessed with hexagons, and I figured that the universe was telling me it was time to take this experiment full-scale.  I decided to make a hexagon quilt.There are a lot of things that I wish I could go back and tell naive, beginner Beth, like: "that's going to be a lot more work than you realize," and "your fingers will bleed," and "maybe you should do bigger hexagons so you won't be spending hours and hours on end doing nothing but sewing hexagons."  Yeah...let's just say that I'm a lot wiser now. 

It started with choosing the fabric.  Since my sister-in-law made the decision to be surprised by the baby's gender, the color palette had to be neutral.  I went digging around in my fabric stash and found two fat quarters from the Tula Pink Hushabye collection that I had picked up in 2009 (top two on the left of the photo below) .  Yes, I know I have a problem; we try not to talk about it.

I had an idea in my head of a very classy, sophisticated quilt that didn't scream baby, but still had an element of whimsy to it.  I spent hours looking at fabric, swapping out fabrics, agonizing over patterns.  When all the decisions were made, I had ten different fat quarter fabrics from three places: my stash, Ben Franklin Crafts in Redmond, and my local fabric shop, West Seattle Fabric Company (I love it there.  I'm going to see if they will just let me move into the back room and live happily amongst the lovely bolts of fabric.)

Here's what I ended up with: very neutral tans, browns, creams, and whites, with a dash of green and Tiffany blue thrown in for color.

The first step was to cut up I cut all of the fat quarters into squares to prepare them for the paper piecing process. So. Much. Cutting.

Then came the hexagons ( I used 1").  I was smart enough to order paper pieces from Etsy instead of trying to cut out over 500 of them myself. That was absolutely one of the smartest things I could have done, as all the paper pieces were exact and perfect.

For the next few months, I did nothing but baste hexagons.  Piles and piles and piles of hexagons.  I felt like it would never end. 

I finished my hexagons and began to sew them into strips.  23 strips of 21 hexagons each...

I didn't have a pattern, as I wanted it to look random and organic, so I would just lay out two to three strips at a time and make sure that I didn't have any hexagons of the same fabric right next to each other.  Then I sewed the strips together, and once the strips were assembled, I joined them together to start creating the quilt top. 

Did I mention this was all done by hand?

Finally, about 11 or so rows in, I decided to lay out the rest of the quilt so I could just keep up with the business of sewing rows without constantly having to stop and do more layout. 

I took this picture after having laid out the entire quilt top. A few seconds later I popped into the other room get Mr. Goodlaff to come take a look, and when I came back, my dear, sweet Pennycat had gotten curious and was padding around on top of my quilt layout.  Upon seeing me come back into the room (and knowing that she was not allowed up on the table), she sprung off the table, flinging hexagons everywhere and almost completely destroying an hour's worth of work.  I almost cried.  Then I remembered that I had captured my layout on film and spent the next half hour looking from my phone to the table every thirty seconds, trying to once again bring order to the hexagon chaos.

I spent months sewing the rows and attaching them to the top. I spent car rides and plane trips and lots of nights on the couch sewing and sewing.

My goal was to have the quilt done by Christmas, when my sister-in-law and her family would be staying with us.

I didn't make it.  

But when they were here, I boxed up the part of the quilt that I had finished and had them open it at Christmas, which was really more a gift for me than for them.  I don't know about the rest of you, but when I put so much time and effort into a project, I want to see the look on your face when you see the final product--that makes all the times I stabbed myself in the finger with a needle and swore very loudly totally worth it.  It was nice to have that chance, since I wouldn't have been able to see that any other way. 

My niece was born at the end of January, and I finished the quilt top in April.  Once the hexagons were done, the quilting only took me a few days, and that was mostly because quilting on a small sewing machine takes time and patience (it's amazing that I had any at the end of this project).

Here's the end result: 

The quilt's not totally square and the binding's a little funky in one spot, but overall, I'm so incredibly pleased and proud of how it turned out.  

Here's a close-up daylight view of the fabrics I used: 

And a few more glamour shots of the whole thing:

For the quilt backing I chose So Hexy by V and Co.  The colors matched perfectly with the blue and green of the Hushabye fabrics I used on the front and the Tiffany blue binding. Plus, I loved that there would be hexagons on the front, and back. (Big shout-out to the lady at West Seattle Fabric Company who helped me make this decision.  I waffled over it for probably about 45 minutes before she stepped in.)

 For the quilt tag I used a fabric that hadn't been used on the front (but was once in contention), did a bit of embroidery, and made sure to tack it down to the quilt for durability.

I mailed the quilt at the beginning of May and it's now safely in the hands of those who love it!
Oh, and I sent a little something extra along to keep my beautiful new niece company...
I found this adorable doxie pattern from Retromama on Etsy, and sent him along too.
All in all, I love how everything came out, though next time (if there is a next time), I will use larger hexagons.  And more patience.
But one thing's for sure: there's a lotta love in that quilt!

Would you ever attempt a hexagon quilt?

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