Introduction: Hexagon English Paper Hand Piecing

Picture of Hexagon English Paper Hand Piecing

English or foundation paper piecing is an early form of hand quilting which started in the 1800s and 1900s in England. Traditionally scrap or muslin fabric was used as a backing for the quilt fabric to wrap around. As time has progressed the use of paper has been adopted for paper piecing. Hundreds of patterns have been made and it has become a great way to make beautiful quilts.

Read more about foundation piecing here:

I picked up paper piecing because I always wanted a granny's flower garden quilt. Paper piecing for me is a great way to keep my hands busy. For some reason I can never just sit still and watch tv or a movie, I need to do something with my hands. I usually crochet or do hand embroidery, but I found paper piecing to be relaxing.

In this tutorial I will teach you how to do basic hexagon paper piecing and share with you some of the projects you can make with these fun little pieces!

Let's get sewing!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials


- Hand sewing needle
- Fabric scissors
- Fabric pins
- Paper


- High quality quilting fabric
- White sewing thread

Step 2: Make Paper Hexagons

Picture of Make Paper Hexagons

Some people pay big money to buy paper piecing patterns, however I am not made of money and choose to create my patterns on my computer. It's so easy anyone can do it! I will either google the desired shape I want or create it through using the old school program Paint. I will then create a file where I have the desired hexagon size and duplicate the shape in paint so I can print a whole sheet of paper with hexagons on it. I then print as many pages as I need and cut them out.

Step 3: Attaching Your Hexagons to the Fabric

Picture of Attaching Your Hexagons to the Fabric

1. First cut your fabric into 2 1/2" strips.

2. Position your paper hexagons on the back of the fabric strips with at least a 1/4" margin around the paper and pin it to the fabric. Place each hexagon about 1" apart.

3. Cut the fabric between each hexagon separating them.

4. Snip the fabric around the hexagon with a 1/4" margin.

Step 4: Wrap Fabric Around Hexagon

Picture of Wrap Fabric Around Hexagon

1. First thread your needle one thread thick and knot it at the end. I knot my thread by taking the end and aligning it in the opposite direction parallel to the needle. You then wrap the thread around the needle 3-4 times and pull the twisted thread down off the needle and around the thread until you get to the end and make a knot. If you have never tried this technique, give it a whirl! It is easy and fast!

2. Take one of your hexagons wrong side facing you, and fold one side of the fabric over the paper.

3. Poke the needle and thread through the right folded corner and pull to the knotted end.

4. Using a basting stitch go to the middle of the folded side and poke the thread through.

5. Before creating the next stitch fold the adjacent side of the fabric over the paper and then make another basting stitch.

6. Continue folding each subsequent adjacent side over and basting stitch until you have made it around the whole hexagon.

7. Once you reach the first folded side slip the needle through the two sides without sticking it through the paper and make a stitch. Then go back through and make a second stitch in the same spot. By doing this you are kind of creating a superficial knot. You don't want to make a tight knot because you will later go back and snip your basting stiches, pull the thread out, and remove the paper hexagon.

8. Snip your thread, create a new knot with your needle, and move to the next hexagon. Repeat these steps until you have finished all of your hexagons.

Step 5: Sew First Hexagon Row Together

Picture of Sew First Hexagon Row Together

1. Remove all sewing pins from your hexagons. You no longer need them because you have basting stiched around the whole hexagon. Plus if you leave them in while sewing your hexagons together, it gets pokey and the last thing you want is you to bleed all over your pretty fabric and hard work!

2. Take your hexagons and lay them out in the pattern you want. I also take a picture so I can remember what I decided. This helps you keep track of which hexagons to sew together and which sides to sew together. There is nothing worse than taking the time to hand sew something and then realizing you did it wrong and then having to take it apart and do it again!

3. When I sew my hexagons together I always sew the first circular row together and then sew it to the middle hexagon. You can sew them all individually to the middle if you desire, however I like to sew them together in a circle because it seems to be faster and I don't have to make as many knots as a go. I can just use one long thread and knot the end when I'm done.

4. Take two hexagons and hold them right sides together. With the edges that you want sewn together, stick your needle and thread through the right corner of the fabric trying not to perferate the paper.

5. Then using a whip stitch, stitch the edge of the two hexagons together trying to only stitch the fabric and not the paper.

6. Continue whip stitching until the end of that side and fasten off by doing 3 locking whip stitches.

7. Trim your thread and open your hexagons to see that they are joined together.

8. Grab the next hexagon in your pattern you have created and using the same technique sew that one to your previous hexagons.

9. Continue doing this until you have created a circular chain of hexagons with one side open.

Step 6: Sew First Row of Hexagons to the Center Hexagon

Picture of Sew First Row of Hexagons to the Center Hexagon

1. Grab your center hexagon and your first circular row of hexagons and position one of the open faced hexagons in the row right sides together with the center hexagon.

2. Sew these edges together with the same whip stitch, but don't knot it when you get to the end of the edge.

3. Instead fold the first hexagon over so you can align the next hexagons edge to the center hexagon. You will continue this process untill you get to the last sewn edge of the center hexagon.

4. Then fold the center hexagon in half to join the last two edges of the circular row and sew together with a whip stitch, fastening with 3 locking whip stiches at the end. Snip the thread and open up.

Step 7: Continue to Add Additional Hexagon Rows

Picture of Continue to Add Additional Hexagon Rows

You can continue to add additional rows of hexagons to your original piece. Because of the geometry of the hexagon you could add as many rows as you like. You will just need to lay out your pieces and sew the pieces together like a puzzle.

In this tutorial I did a quilt piece for my granny's flower garden quilt which has two circular rows of hexagons around the center hexagon.

I sewed the second row of hexagons together like the first row and then attached the row to the hexagon flower I made in the previous step.

Step 8: What You Could Make With Hexagon Paper Piecing

Picture of What You Could Make With Hexagon Paper Piecing

Hexagon english paper piecing is a fun project and you can make several things with it. A few of the things I have made are:

1. A table runner (all hand sewn)
2. Placemats (I sewed small hexagon flowers and then used a fusible iron on webbing to attatch the hexagon to a large piece of fabric.
3. A granny's flower garden quilt ( I've been working on this one for 2 years. Hand sewing is definitely a slow process!)

Once your project is ready for finishing, just cut all the basting stiches, pull your thread out, and remove the paper. The fabric will stay in the same shape because you have sewn it together.

Hexagon paper piecing is just one of the many ways to foundation piece. There are several other patterns and shapes to sew, however the basic principle is still the same. Using the paper as a guide to sew the fabric together with a whip stitch. Go check out all the other awesome patterns out there and give hand stitching a whirl!


mrsmerwin (author)2017-01-26

I tried to do foundation piecing once. I kept catching the paper when I stitched, When I tried to pull the paper out afterwards, it kept distorting my work. Any advice?

khoiland (author)mrsmerwin2017-01-27

Yeah, it can be tricky. I use a very small hand quilting needle and only one thread. I don't double it. I also use just regular computer paper. I started out using card stock, but found that it was too heavy and if my thread got in the paper then it wouldn't pull out easily. I have found that the computer paper is light enough that if I get my thread in it I can give it a gentle tug and it will break free. You also need to make sure you have snipped and pulled out all of your basting stitch thread or it can cause problems. As for keeping your work in tact, try ironing the seams beforehand on a low non-steam heat. This can help keep your shapes together when you pull the paper out. I also wait until I have sewn every piece together before I remove all the paper. It helps keep the fabrics rigidity. I would go ahead and give it another try and see what works for you! There really are tons of options and designs for hand paper piecing. One of my other favorites is dresden flower piecing. Good luck!

mrsmerwin made it! (author)khoiland2017-01-27

You inspired me to try again even before I read your advice above. I grabbed some scraps on my way out of the house this morning. It was too tiny to piece in my usual way so I used your paper method. I used the tiniest stitches I could cause that is what it looked like you did. I had to improvise on the batting but with a few tiny bells (at home somewhere) and a hanging loop I think it looks pretty good. Thanks for your encouragement and the inspiration to try.

khoiland (author)mrsmerwin2017-01-27

It looks great! Well done! Glad I could be of help.

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2016-12-24

These look great. You could even do something like make fabric Settlers of Catan pieces.

Funny you should say that! I've been doing EPP for a while, and 2 years ago I made a Settlers of Cataan table topper for my son, who works in the gaming industry. He always gets lots of comments on it when people drop by to play board games. I'll have to find the picture and post it! It was one of the first things I thought of when starting hand piecing.

Thank you! You can make lots of things with this general idea. I made my nephew a quilt with sea creatures that I paper pieced together.

About This Instructable



Bio: My name is Kellie and I'm a physicist with a passion for crafting! I love learning new skills and making things. Some of my ... More »
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