Last January I completed my first ever quilt. It was made with all my college t-shirts, and I love wrapping myself in these happy memories. As the goal digger that I am (see what I did there?) I decided to begin working on my second quilt for my January 2022 project. When I began quilting, I was lucky enough to get the help of a professional quilter. Hi, Michelle! I knew little to nothing about quilting, but she guided me every step of the way, offering the most precious advice and even inviting me into her home to finish my project. As I gained more confidence in my quilting abilities, I decided it was my turn to help baby quilters wanting to start a project.
For this project, I chose a hexagon quilt pattern using half hexie templates. It is modern and original, yet simple enough for beginners with a basic knowledge of sewing and perfect to use scrap fabric you have laying around the house. In this article, you will find a complete step-by-step guide on how to create your first quilt. But first, let’s make sure you have everything you need! I have included links to each item to help guide your purchase of affordable, quality material.
What you need
- Jelly roll (or scraps of fabric)
- Half hexagon template
- Rotary Cutter
- Cutting mat
- Colored thread
- Sewing machine
- Pool noodle
- Spray glue
- Bed sheet
- Glue stick
- Clear thread
- Seam ripper
1. Know your Dimensions
How big do you want your quilt to be? A throw, twin, full, queen, or king size? Click here for a quilt sizing chart. I recommend starting small if this is your first project. I opted for a large throw, and it turned out to be the perfect size! There is quite a bit of math involved in this first step, but it is crucial you determine all the proper dimensions before you begin your project.
Once you know what size you want your quilt to be, you’ll need to calculate how many half hexies to cut. This will depend on what size template you will be using and whether or not you will be adding a border. I used a 6″ half hexagon template and added a 4.5″ border. However, I actually recommend using a 5″ template as the one linked above if this is your first project. It is 2.5″ tall, which will make calculations and cutting much easier, especially if you use jelly rolls. To calculate the size of your internal hexie block, subtract twice the width of your border from your final dimensions. For example, if you want your quilt to be 55″ X 65″ with a 5″ border, you’ll need to subtract 10″ from your width and length, giving you an internal hexie block of 45″ X 55″. If you prefer to work on a borderless quilt, simply skip this step and calculate your hexie block dimensions for the entirety of your quilt. To calculate the amount of half hexies you will need in each strip, divide your internal hexie block width by 3.75. To know how many rows of hexie strips you will need, divide your internal hexie block length by 2.5. For example, using our 45″ X 55″ hexie block, we would need 22 rows (55″/2.5) of 12 half hexies each (45″/3.75).
I always use diagrams and scratch paper when making my calculations. This helps me envision what my project will look like. Always keep in mind that these are your final dimensions. When you cut your fabric, you will need to add a 1/4″ seam allowance. This extra space will be accounted for if you use the hexagon template linked above, but you will need to remember it when cutting your border strips.
WHY HALF HEXIES RATHER THAN FULL HEXAGONS?you may wonder why you must spend all that extra time sewing half hexagons together when you could use full hexagons. here’s why: Sewing full hexagons together requires y seams. Though not impossible to do, they are more challenging for beginners. if this is your first quilt, i highly recommend going with the half hexies.
2. Choose your fabric
This is the time to put your creative mind to work. Scrap fabric is perfect for this project, so dig into that craft room and find that beautiful fabric that has been sitting in storage waiting for its time to shine. Choose matching colors like I did or go wild with a multi-colored theme, but make sure you have enough! You can use as few or as many different fabrics as you want, plain or patterned; it is up to you!
If you don’t have any scrap fabric laying around, consider using jelly rolls. They are perfect for this project as they are already pre cut in 2.5″ wide strips, just like your 5″ template. If you like my Valentine’s Day themed quilt, click here for a similar patterned jelly roll.
3. Start cutting
Now that you have all your dimensions calculated and your fabric handy, you are ready to cut! Lay your fabric flat. If your fabric is wrinkled, quickly iron it out to ensure straight cuts. Start cutting your half hexagon blocks and place them in stacks, one for each different fabric. This will make it easier once you start laying them out in a pattern. If any of your scrap pieces are too small for a full half hexie, use them to cut half half hexies or quarter hexies. You will use these pieces later to fill the edges of your quilt. If you are using jelly rolls, simply cut whole half hexies. You can always cut them in half later to fill your edges.
Once your half hexies are all cut, start laying them out in strips in the desired pattern. Use a quarter hexie to fill the edges on both sides of each strip. Consider cutting as you lay, so you don’t cut too many hexies out of one fabric and not enough of another. This won’t be necessary if you use a regular pattern or jelly rolls, but I just laid my hexies out randomly until I liked the way they looked, so it made it easier for me to do it this way. Continue until you have all your strips and rows laid out. Having a table or a large, clean area on the floor to lay your project makes this step a whole lot easier!
You can cut the strips for your border now or wait until you are done sewing your blocks together. It’s up to you! Don’t forget to cut an extra 1/4″ for your seam allowance. If your fabric isn’t long enough, don’t worry, you can always sew several strips together to reach the desired length. The border strips do not have to match in length, but they do have to be the same width.
PRO TIPIf most of your hexies are patterned, I recommend going with a plain border and finishing with a two-toned binding fabric.
4. Sew your hexies together
Now that you know where you want your half hexies, begin sewing them together in strips by lining the cut corner of one of your hexie with the top edge of another as pictured above. Sew all your strips and then iron the seams, so they lay flat. Once all your strips are cut and ironed, begin sewing them together in rows. As you sew, make sure your corners match. If you made precise cuts and sewed 1/4″ seam on each, it should line up perfectly. Lay your whole block flat and iron the seams down again. Though this step is technically optional, it does make sewing easier.
It is now time to trim the edges of your block! Using your rotary cutter, cut a straight edge, making sure to leave 1/4″ seam allowance.
5. Attach your border
You are now ready to attach your border! If you haven’t cut your border strips yet, do so at this time. Make sure each of your four border strips is long enough. If it isn’t, sew another strip onto it. Each of your border strip should be the length of your hexie block + your border width. For example, with our 45″ x 55″ hexie block, we need two border strips that are 50″ X 5″ and two that are 60″ X 5″. Sew your border strip to your hexie block by beginning in a corner. Leave your border strip hanging 1/4″ from the top, so you can attach it onto the next one. Sew all the way to the next corner, and make sure to leave your strip hanging as long as you want your border width to be. For example, if you want a 5″ border, leave your border strip hanging 1/4″ at the top and at least 5″ at the bottom. Begin sewing your next strip in the next corner, leaving 1/4″ at the top and enough for your border width at the bottom. Repeat this step twice until all four strips have been sewn onto your hexie block.
You will now sew your borders together in each corner. Overlap the unsewn 1/4″ you left at the top of your border strip to the 5″ border strip hanging across from it. Repeat this step in each corner and iron your seams.
6. Attach your batting and backing
You are getting so close! By now you should have a pretty good idea of what your quilt will look like, and I hope you are loving it! With the top of your quilt all sewn up, it is time to move on to the next step and attach it to the batting and backing. This step is known as basting. Bed sheets make perfect backing, and you may already have one on hand. Cut your batting and backing to the desired size by leaving an extra 5″ on all sides. For example, our 55″ X 65″ throw would require 65″ X 75″ batting and backing. Layer your backing, batting and top flat on a large surface or clean floor. Using some pins, secure the top to your pool noodle and roll it up. Lightly spray glue on the batting and unroll your top onto it. Flatten your top with your hands as you unfold, making sure to avoid folds. Press down then repeat this step, now rolling up your top and batting layer onto your pool noodle. Spray glue on your backing and unroll your top/ batting layer onto it. Press down and let dry for a few minutes.
ATTENTION!though basting with spray glue is much more time efficient and helps prevent wrinkles, it is more flammable and toxic. make sure to apply the spray baste in a well-ventilated space.
7. Begin quilting
If you do not have a quilting machine or do not want to attempt quilting on a regular sewing machine, hire a professional and skip to step #7. Most professional quilters will charge about $0.01/ square inch. Some do custom quilting, but it does cost 3-4 times more.
To quilt on a sewing machine, you must use a free-motion quilting foot and adjust it to the proper height until it is barely hovering above your quilt but still able to move. Click here to shop free-motion quilting feet. Next, you must set your stitch line to 0. Before you begin quilting for real, practice on a quilt sandwich. Use a piece of leftover batting sandwiched in between cotton fabric. I suggest at least a 10″ X 10″ quilt sandwich to give you plenty of room to practice different motions and adjust your hand movement and foot lever speed until you reach the desired stitch length. Using free-motion quilting gloves makes this process easier as it helps you get a good grip of the fabric and avoids sliding. Once you feel confident in your quilting motion and stitch length, prepare your space. Clean your table and leave yourself enough room to work. Start folding the edge of your quilt and begin your free-motion quilting in rows parallel to your half hexies. Unfold as you go and keep going until you are done.
Here is a great tutorial video on free-motion quilting by Sugaridoo.
8. Prepare your binding
Though professional quilters may offer to do this for you, it is fairly simple and will save you money if you do it yourself.
Once your quilt is fully quilted, you will need to bind it. Calculate the length of binding strips you will need by calculating the perimeter (2 X width X length). For example, our 55″ X 65″ quilt requires 240″ of binding strips. Cut about 15″ extra just to be sure. Cut strips of fabric 2 1/4″ wide and follow steps #1-10 as pictured above:
- Place two of your strips perpendicular to each other, making sure that your top sides (or good sides) face each other and sew diagonally. Repeat this process until you have sewn all your strips together and reached the desired length.
- Iron the strips flat and cut off the excess fabric.
- Fold in half along the length and iron flat.
- Leave about 4″ of your strip unsewn before you begin sewing it onto the edge of your quilt. Make sure not to start in a corner. Once you near your first corner, stop 1/4″ from the edge and sew out perpendicularly.
- Fold the strip so the unsewn edge aligns with the next edge of your quilt and continue. Repeat step #4 when you reach each new corner.
- When you reach your starting point after sewing all around your quilt, stop sewing and make sure to leave 4″ unsewn. Slide one folded strip into the other and only leave 2 1/4″ overlap. You may use a scrap piece of binding to measure and mark 2 1/4″.
- Cut the excess fabric, so only 2 1/4″ overlap.
- Place both strips perpendicular to each other and sew them diagonally as you did in step #1. Once again, make sure that the “good” sides face each other. Cut off the excess fabric and pull on your strip. It should lay perfectly flat on the edge of your quilt. Continue sewing to secure the entirety of the binding to the edge.
- Apply glue on the binding strip using a purple glue stick and fold it over the edge. Then iron it flat to keep it from moving as you get ready to sew. This step will keep you from having to use pins and save you time.
- Sew the folded binding strip all the way around the edges of your quilt. You can start anywhere and use any color thread you want, but make sure to use clear nylon thread in your bobbin, so it won’t show on the other side.
8. Wash your quilt and enjoy!
Voila! You are now ready to enjoy your handmade quilt! It is important to wash your quilt in order to rid it of any glue residue. Time in the dryer will also help fluff up your quilt, but make sure not to overdy as it could cause shrinkage. You may also consider using color catcher sheets if your quilt contains bright colors like mine. You wouldn’t want the dye to bleed onto your lighter fabric after all the hard work you put in.
That’s it! You are all set. Wrap yourself up, get some hot tea, a good book, and enjoy your newest creation!
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