Hexagon Christmas stocking SAL, week 2. Sewing front panel
Last week we prepared everything for stitching and basted the hexagons either with glue or thread. I have seen many beautiful color combos both traditional and unusual, adorable fussy cuts for the stockings popping up in my IG feed last week.
This week´s goal is to decide on layout and sew the front hexagon panel. In this blog post I will talk about thread and needle, basic epp stitch and share my method of hexagon sewing.
Deciding on layout
Once you have all your hexagons ready it is time to think of layout. Color play is one of my favorite steps but it takes time as "random scrappy" approach doesn´t work for me.
I traced the stocking template onto a piece of cardboard and laid the hexagons on top of it, making sure I covered the template with at least 1/4 seam allowance around.
This way you can see how your finished front panel will look like as well as if you have enough of basted shapes. Since I sew in my kitchen and don´t have a dedicated space, It is also easier to take the cardboard from one place to another if needed.
Try to distribute colors evenly throughout the panel. You can take a black and white photo of the layout so can easily see if some fabrics are too dark or too light.
If you are including an embroidery, first, look at the embroidery design and try to repeat at least a part of it in the shape of hexagon frame. My design is round, so the round frame would be good. Unfortunately, because of the size of that piece I didn´t have too many options.
In the stocking from the last year I used an asymmetric frame because of the embroidery design. I think asymmetry has it own beauty in nonuniform shape and adds a lot of interest.
Don´t be afraid to experiment and make several layouts, take photos and then choose what you like the most. In this blog post you can find helpful info on combining embroidery and epp.
Even if I am happy with the layout, I usually leave it till next morning, so I can check one last time if any re-arrangements are needed. Take a photo of the final layout so you have a reference.
Here is the result of my color play.
I usually arrange my hexagons by rows (placing one on top of another from right to left, then you will have a stack with the first hexagon on the left on top, and last on the right at the bottom), pin them together with a clip at the top (so I don´t need to think about the orientation of pieces) and a note. This way you ensure that you sew them in the correct order.
Needle and thread for epp
The general rule is the finer your needle and thread is the less visible your stitches are.
The choice of needle and thread is a matter of personal preferences.
I use Tulip Milliners Straw needles #10 Big eye and Gutermann Tera 180 thread.
These needles are super fine. When I just started epp I used to grip on them so hard that they broke. Now I have been using the needle I am sewing with for almost a year. It is slightly bent but still works fine.
In the future I would like to try Wonderfil Specialty threads Decobob and Invisal or Bottom line by Superior threads as many people recommend them on IG.
Lay first row of hexagons on your work surface and make sure the shapes are positioned correctly.
We shall sew hexagons in pairs first and then join the pairs into a row.
I can´t do hand sewing without my Clover thimble (I wear it on middle finger on my right hand). I highly recommend you getting a thimble if you do hand sewing.
The most common stitch is the whipstitch, which is very easy.
Thread your needle with a single strand of thread. Don´t use long threads as they tend to tangle. I remember my mom saying that the most comfortable length for hand sewing is the one from the tip of your middle finger to your elbow (that is approx. 16 inch in my case).
I am using red Aurifil 50 thread in the photos below so you can see my stitching.
Make a knot. Align 2 hexagons right sides together making sure that you keep the corners of hexagons in alignment.
Begin by hiding the knot in the seam allowance - pass your needle through the fabric on the seam allowance from the wrong side so your needle comes out right at the corner and pull the thread.
Then secure your stitch by making a knot. Pass your needle through the corner of two edges, catching only few threads from the fold of each seam allowance. You can feel where the right spot for stitching is - where the needle passes easily right at the edge of fabric and you don´t feel the edges of paper templates. Pull the thread through until you have a small loop, then pass your needle through the loop before pulling the rest of your thread tight.
I do those securing stitches in the beginning, at the end (at the end I pass the needle through the loop twice) and sometimes every 1 inch or so on the long seams .
Then pass the needle through the fabric pieces in the same direction, catching on few threads and very close to your first stitch.
Pull the thread through again and keep stitching till you reach the other corner. Secure your stitch and cut the thread leaving a short tail.
Whipstitch should be almost invisible on the right side of the fabric if you use fine needle and thread in a matching color.
Even though I stitched with the red thread you can hardly see my stitching from the front. I mainly use white and occasionally gray thread for the fabrics I work with.
If your stitches are showing, what can you do?
- try to keep your stitches very close to each other,
- make sure that you are catching only a tiny bit (just few threads) of fabric when you are stitching,
- pull your stitches tighter while sewing,
- keep practicing😊
Once you have 1st row sewn, lay out the second one and stitch pairs and then the row.
Then join the first and second rows together.
You will need to fold your work to join the rows so you can match all the different edges as you sew. Please, fold gently without finger pressing creases into your work.
Then lay out third row, sew it together and add it to the first two rows.
I usually divide stocking in a half, then sew the upper and bottom parts, applique the hexagon frame onto embroidery and join the parts at the end.
Once you finish stitching the front panel, give it a good press with hot iron from both sides.
Here is my finished front panel!
If you glue basted your shapes, the easiest way to remove the papers is to gently lift the seam allowances at one corner, wiggle paper a bit and then pull the paper out. If you applied the right amount of glue the papers will come out easily. If you applied too much glue and have problems with paper removing, then spray a bit of water at the back, wait a minute, then remove papers.
If you thread basted through the paper, cut the basting stitches and remove the thread.
Carefully iron the panel and trace the stocking template to the right side of the fabric with a water soluble marker. Baste the panel by your preferred method to a piece of batting. Don´t cut the excess of fabric yet! Now you are ready for quilting!
I hope to see your finished front panels this week!
Next Monday, November 9th I will announce our first prize winner for the first 2 weeks. My lovely friend Jitka from Jitkadesign Inc, who creates fantastic foundation paper piecing patterns, kindly offers her beautiful Christmas Tree Paper Pieced Pattern in pdf format to one lucky winner!