Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Hexagons, Happiness, and Expanding my Project Organization


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I’ve lately received not just a few little emails asking about the progress on my hexagon quilt that I first showed you here, which is my “grab and go” stitching project at the moment.

I don’t have as much time to work on it now, and I’m not really making time to work on it now – not like I did when I first got the project going. Now, it truly is a grab-and-go project, something I grab and take with me when I know I’ll be waiting around, biding time, and needing something to do with my hands.

Surprisingly, though, there is progress on the thing, and a lot more than I actually realized!

So, for the curious, here’s my progress, some insights to my current thoughts on it, and a couple notes on how and why I had to expand the organizational aspect of my grab-and-go, hand-pieced hexie quilt project.

Hexagon quilt project on Needle 'n Thread

I still enjoy the heck out of working on this quilt! It makes me happy. I love the colors. I love the small pieces. And, when I’m in a situation where I want to have some handwork but it can’t be an embroidery project that requires more attention, I love the “mindless” nature of basting and piecing. It’s very relaxing.

It’s a good project to have on hand, and no, to answer a few of you who asked, I don’t see myself shelving it and leaving it undone! I really enjoy it!

Hexagon quilt project on Needle 'n Thread

Very shortly after getting the hexie project underway, I learned many things.

One of the first things I learned is that, when working with a specific selection of fabric and sewing something that is random, it’s important to make sure that you have the whole range of fabric worked into your randomness.

As I explained in the first article about this project, I’m using Moda layer cakes for my fabric, so that I was sure I had the whole range of the fabric line I selected.

When I first started cutting the layer cakes into 2″ squares, I didn’t keep the order of the layer cakes, and I ended up working with an unbalanced selection of colors. When I tried to be “random” in my construction of the quilt, I ended up amassing too many hexagons of one color together. To break them up, I’d search for basted hexies in other colors and shades, but I didn’t have any basted and ready.

To eliminate this problem, I started cutting the fabric and keeping the stacks in the order that they come in the original layer cakes. This is more likely to guarantee that I have the right proportion of colors to work with within any area of piecing. And I won’t end up with big globs of all the same colors anywhere on the quilt.

Hexagon quilt project on Needle 'n Thread

Now, when I baste my hexies, I keep them in order by color, just as the fabric originally was arranged in the layer cakes.

I baste all the hexies from each stack and put them in lines, separating each whole collection that covers the complete fabric range with paper hexies, so that, when I’m piecing, I know when I’ve used all the hexies from the whole fabric range.

And to keep the hexies in order and ready to piece into the larger quilt, I line them up in a little clamshell box with a magnetic lid that I used for storing stationery. I took some book board that I had on hand, cut strips of it, and glued them into the box as dividers, so that I can keep the rows of prepared hexies neat and ready to piece when I’m in the mood for piecing.

Hexagon quilt project on Needle 'n Thread

Speaking of piecing, I have two large-ish pieces of the quilt pieced. They’re each about 22″ x 28″. In the photo above, they’re overlapping.

Depending on my mood (and on the lighting), sometimes I just baste, and sometimes I just piece. And sometimes, I go back and forth between basting and piecing in the same session.

If the lighting is relatively low where I happen to be, I just baste. I can baste the squares onto their paper foundations in practical-darkness at this point. It doesn’t take precision and you can pretty much feel the little folds where the basting stitches go.

Hexagon quilt project on Needle 'n Thread

The clamshell box with its lines of basted hexies and the larger, assembled chunks of the quilt needed their own storage, as they don’t fit inside the sewing box I’m using to tote this project around.

(I talked about the sewing box here in the original quilt article – and below, I’ll add a little more to my original insights.)

Remember my tote bag with the embroidered pocket? Well, it works just great as additional, totable storage. And using it this way makes me cheery all around!

Hexagon quilt project on Needle 'n Thread

The little sewing box has held up pretty well. It looks much more worn than it did when I originally bought it, but it’s still serving its purpose. I admit, it gets battered about quite a bit, tossed into the car, dropped into chairs, and whatnot. I don’t treat it with kid gloves.

At one point, I had it stuffed far too full with all kinds of paraphernalia for this project – and way too many little stacks of fabric! The weight caused the top of the box to pull away a bit, but a little glue and some well-placed staples but the whole thing back in order, and in fact, made it even stronger.

When I want to take the whole project with me, the tote bag makes an easy addition for carrying the extra parts of the project around, too.

So that’s my hexie project, and even though it’s not embroidery, I enjoy working on it immensely when I have the chance!

While it’s not a project I intend to write often about, I’ll keep you updated whenever there’s anything “big” to say about the project. It really isn’t worth writing about too often, as the whole process is very repetitive. But now and then, I’ll let you know how it’s coming along – especially for those who think it’s a lost cause and will end up on a shelf!

(I’m not saying that would never happen, but at this point, I don’t think it will!)

Have a jolly week! More coming up later in the week on other projects and other news! I’m getting closer and closer to releasing the Leafy Tree, so for those eager to stitch it, keep an eye out!


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(19) Comments

  1. Just lovely, Mary. Giving me good ideas, and so nice to see such well organized and thought-through practice! Thank you for revisiting the project!

  2. Your hexies are looking fabulous! It’s a beautiful collection. Any idea how big your quilt will be?

  3. Dear Mary, Thank you for the update on your hexie project. Isn’t it nice to have something that is so easy to work on at the drop of a hat. My focus at present is a paper pieced tumbling blocks charm quilt. It’s priority has fluctuated through the years but I’ve decided that this year ‘I need to get this puppy done’. Some of the papers are grocery store shopping bags from 30 years ago and need to come out before they seriously damage the fabric, so the next major step is to clear off the design wall and put all those diamonds up there to at least get them into sets of three, ready for the next big push if it comes to that.
    Meantime, happy stitching and have fun with your students this summer.
    Best regards ~ Brenda

  4. Hi, Mary! So fun to see an update on your hexie quilt. I love your organizational skills on this project. I’m still in the cutting-out stage with my hexie quilt. As I mentioned earlier, I’m using all French General fabric (Moda), but I ran into the color challenge as well. I had hoped to use this as a “slow stitching” project, just meander as I go, but it occurred to me that of course there will be new French General releases of fabric, so I may have to just keep cutting for a while and at some point stop and do a layout before I actually begin the sewing (saying, “thus far and no farther” in terms of adding more fabric choices). You have a great layout for your hexies–good color values throughout. I did segue into a different project as I was cutting the small hexies–I designed hexagon coasters with the French General fabric. There is one FG fabric in a cut-out circle inside a hexagon (on the front of a different FG fabric, like a reverse applique) and a larger hexagon piece on the back that folds over the front edges and makes a nice binding around the finished coaster. I have a double fusible fabric in the middle. It’s a super simple process to do and somewhat addictive. They’ve been great for the summer as cold drinks can be set on them to absorb condensation (and they’re machine washable and can be dried in the dryer with a load of wash). So I guess the little hexies inspired me, even though I have yet to do any sewing with them. P.S. I’ll be sure to send a picture someday if I ever get beyond the cutting stage…ha (I keep my project in a three-tiered Chinese wedding basket; I was delighted to see your sewing box and how it all looks so tidy)!

  5. Are you a natural (from childhood) organizer or a student of that skill? And, hmmm, can one purchase fabric matching the florals on the clamshell box? Seriously, thank you for the look at your hexie kits. Much more attractive than my plastic sandwich bags.

    1. I love that clamshell box!! I wish I had posted a picture with the full image – it has birds on it (hummingbirds). It was just a happy coincidental sort of find, at Tuesday Morning, which is a discount store out here that sells overstock of certain things, including Punch Studio boxes. I bought it for stationery, but after adding the channels, it works great for this! No, I’m not a natural organizer of most things, I suppose, but I love to organize projects, and my favorite part of teaching was always planning and organizing the year, the classroom, etc. LOL!

  6. Your totebag looks like it was made specifically to carry this project around, Mary! Another datapoint for liking the colors we like and consistently choosing them I guess! I’m slowly falling under the hexie spell, they are irresistible!

  7. Love your set up for your hexies! I never thought to actually start sewing them all together while still making the hexies. I will have to go see if the ones I have made are behaving and if I can start putting them together in a coherent way! Have you seen some of the embroidery that people do with their hexies? Amazing!

    1. Hi, Gailete – I have seen the embroidery people are doing on their hexie quilts…but I’m still not quite sure if I’ll add any stitching to mine. There are a few lighter and “blanker” prints that I could perhaps deck out in embroidery, but I’m not sold on the idea yet! We shall see what the future brings!

  8. Dear Mary

    The material you have chosen for your hexagon quilt is lovely and I like the way you have organised the different hexagons into colours so you can easily chose the appropriate colour range. It’s nice to have a grab and go project which doesn’t take a lot of concentration. Your tote bag has come in useful and looks really pretty and the sewing box is a handy little transferable storage box. Thank you for showing us your progress on the quilt and for the photos it’s coming along nicely. Happy week.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  9. Hi, Mary!

    Your original article inspired me to try this project and I am so happy I did. I raided my stash for fabric and came up with a plan to make table runners for Christmas gifts. You are so right about the satisfaction this technique gives. It’s simple, creative, and such a fun project!

    Thanks for the inspiration!!

  10. I love your organization for your hexie quilt! I’ve got a few different EPP quilts going (I really should finish some things LOL), and I think I’ll use some of your suggestions! I am one of those (im)patiently waiting on the Leafy Tree kits (in fact I went looking through some of your back posts to make sure I didn’t miss the announcement – ha ha)

  11. Hi Mary! Another push seeing your blog post to start a Hexie project! So you do not trim your 2” square to the hexie with seam allowance? I am wondering about the bulk…I would love to skip the trimming step!

    Funny, I came here to find out your fav hoop, ended up buying an ebook and starting a hexie project! You might enjoy the clover automatic needle threader as it saves tons with threading needles!

    1. No, I don’t trim the 2″ squares. It’s not that much bulk, when working with this size hexie. I’ll look up that needle threader, thanks!

  12. Interesting that you should mention hexies now. Just this past weekend, I pulled out a couple partially constructed hexagons that I had started back in 2006 or so. I abandoned that project shortly after I started it, but I got a wild hare this weekend and got back to work on it! They are quite fun, aren’t they? Looking forward to seeing more of this. πŸ™‚

  13. I have a similar travel project that I have been doing for two years and I love it. I was wondering if you have given any thought to how you might quilt this when you are finished?

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