Updated: Aug 29
Here's my take on the classic hexagon quilt that is entirely machine-sewn with the QAYG method.
The hexagon quilt, or hexi quilt, is easy to love. It has an orderly and regular pattern that still looks fluid and intriguing at the same time. It's true what they say, that any pattern that occurs naturally (in this case, the honeycomb) is always beautiful.
Typically, hexagon quilts are made using the English paper piecing method, which involves lots of hand-sewing, on which I am not particularly keen given my very limited time to indulge in the hobby. Furthermore, I do QAYG (quilt-as-you-go) most of the time due to my small-throat space sewing machine, and the only QAYG version of the hexagon quilt I found online also involved excessive hand basting and stitching.
So while I liked the look of a hexagon quilt, it remained at the back of my mind - until I came across some irrefusable bargains from my local Spotlight for these dainty bee-themed fabrics, which mixed well with my existing stash of pin-dot fabrics in shades of beige and brown.
With the pretty fabrics in hand, I pondered and researched until I finally found a way to make my hexagon quilt the way I want to make it i.e. fully machine-sewn and with the QAYG method. Read on to find out how I did it.
For the quilt top, I used a combination of quilting cotton (those bee-themed fabrics) and some pin-dot Japanese cotton fabrics that are slightly lighter weight than quilting cotton.
For the batting, I used my thin bamboo batting scraps that were leftovers from all my previous quilts - can I just take this moment to express how satisfying it was to be able to use them all up with almost none going to waste? I was on the verge of binning them before this project!
Choose thin batting for this QAYG method because the batting will be sewn into the seams, so thin battings will prevent bulky seams.
For the backing, I used this honey-gold coloured satin fabric that compensated for the lack of honey colour on the quilt top. This was my experiment with satin backing and boy am I pleased with the result. The subtle glow and spot-on colour of the fabric really made it look like liquid honey!
Honey Gold Satin for the Quilt Backing, Fresh Out of Its Mail Packaging
For easy cutting, I decided to base the size of my fabric pieces exactly on my hexagon acrylic ruler. Then, I made a cardstock template that is about 0.5cm shorter on all sides to be used as template to cut my battings pieces. More details in the step-by-step below.
With 1 cm seam allowance all around, my finished hexagons have the following dimensions (some dimension is lost in the fold of fabric).
You can make hexagon quilts with any size hexagons, but if you want to machine-piece them like I did, I don't recommend going much smaller than the above-shown measurements, or you will end up with more Y-Seams than you can sanely handle. You can also use any seam allowance you like, as long as you stay consistent throughout.
The finished hexagon quilt featured in this post measured 130 cm x 137 cm. But you can make it as big or as small as you like by simply adding or reducing the number of hexagons in the quilt.
I used the free Quilt Assistant software to design my hexagon quilt, so I knew exactly how many hexagons I needed to cut from each fabric, and in what order I should sew them together.
You can also cut your fabrics first then use a design wall to arrange them to your liking.
HOW TO FULLY MACHINE-SEW A HEXAGON QUILT - Q.A.Y.G. STYLE
STEP 1: CUT HEXAGON FABRICS
Using my acrylic hexagon ruler as the exact measurement, I cut out 147 pieces of hexagons from my fabric pulls. Since I had my design done beforehand, I knew exactly how many hexagons to cut out of each fabric.
STEP 2: CUT HEXAGON BATTINGS
Using the cardstock hexagon template (which is 0.5 cm shorter on all sides), I cut 147 pieces of hexagons from my batting (this is the perfect opportunity to use up all your little pieces of scrap battings!).
STEP 3: QUILT WITH HEXAGON FABRICS AND BATTINGS ONLY
I placed one hexagon batting on the wrong side of one hexagon fabric, centering them as best as I could. I skipped basting. The layers did shift a little but it made no difference as explained in the subsequent piecing step below. Then, I quilted it as desired. I took this chance to practice several different types of quilting patterns.
STEP 4: PIECE HEXAGONS TOGETHER
With my seam allowance of 1 cm, I machine-pieced the quilted hexagons together following the point-to-point piecing method shown in this video by American Patchwork & Quilting. The video also shows how the seam allowance should be pressed.
Since my batting was only 0.5 cm smaller than my fabric on all sides, and I was piecing with 1 cm seam allowance, I was bound to slightly catch my batting in all the seams (which is what I wanted), even though they shifted during quilting. You can see in the photo below how there's hardly any bulk on the seams.
Quilted Hexagons Pieced Together
Seam Allowances Pressed Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise Alternately to Form Little Hexagons
Close Up of Little Hexagon Formed when Seam Allowances are Pressed Correctly
STITCH-BY-THE-DITCH AS YOU GO!
(I didn't do this "on the go", but I definitely should have, on hindsight. I ended up having to wrestle the bulk of my fully-pieced quilt under the small-throat space of my sewing machine to stitch-by-the-ditch. Read on to find out how you can avoid this completely.)
Stitching-by-the-ditch keeps the seam allowance folded as pressed. Without it, the seam allowances will unfold during use or wash, since there is no other quilting to hold them in place. Also, it substantially flattens the bulk around the seams.
Here's how you stitch-by-the-ditch as you go. After sewing the first two rows of hexagons together and pressing the seam allowance, and before sewing on the next row, stitch-by-the-ditch (about half your seam allowance distance away from the "ditch") along every completed seam i.e. seams that will not be touched when sewing the next row of hexagons (see illustrations below).
Repeat for every subsequent row.
Stitch-by-the-Ditch for First Two Rows
Stitch-by-the-Ditch after Joining Every Subsequent Row
I stitched-by-the-ditch using ruler work free-motion-quilting ("FMQ") to eliminate the need to rotate the project around every time I changed quilting direction (which happens A LOT in this quilt). You could technically use a regular presser foot with the feed dogs up, since these are all straight-line quilting, but I imagine it would be difficult to maneuver around the bends and turns of the quilting path, especially as your project gets bulkier.
Stitch-by-the-Ditch Complete, Ready for Trimming, Backing and Binding
STEP 5: TRIM, ADD BACKING & BIND
I trimmed the sides to square them off to my desired dimensions, and basted on my backing with hand-stiches (Gasp! This project is not exactly free of hand-sewing, after all!). You can use any preferred basting method, of course.
To keep the backing fabric secured to the quilt, I used one of the fancy stitches on my sewing machine to embroider these adorable little bees all over the quilt.
Then, I sewed on the binding strips, which I made out of the left over fabrics from the quilt-top. After removing all basting stitches, and quilt was complete!
While either machine-pieced or QAYG hexagon quilts are certainly nothing new, I had a hard time looking for examples of hexagon quilts that are both machine-pieced and QAYG. I hope this post sheds some light to others who, like me before, would love to make a hexagon quilt but dread the excessive hand-sewing that are commonly associated with hexagon quilts, and at the same time be able to quilt it without wrestling your project under your sewing machine!