Make your own Applique Hexagon Table Runner!
Hello crafty divas!
I’m guessing many of you have heard of the rising popularity of English paper piecing. English paper piecing is a hand-piecing pathwork method where you wrap small pieces of fabric around pieces of paper and handstitch together. The fruit of this effort is an endless array of beautiful designs and precise corners.
Today I am sharing a tutorial with you to make your own paper-pieced table runner or mug rug. This project will require both some handstitching (or gluing) and machine sewing. We are going to make hexagons (also known as hexies), and then applique them onto a background fabric. The result will be a beautiful project that can be completed over a weekend in many different sizes.
Let’s gather our supplies:
- Hexagons. You can use whatever size hexagon you like. Hexagons are measured by the length of their sides in English Paper Piecing. My hexies have 2.5″ sides (they measure approx 4″ from top to bottom. I do not recommend going any larger than 2.5″ for this particular project. Similarly, unless you really want to get into detail work, I wouldn’t go any smaller than 1.5″ hexagons either. For the mug rug, I used 1.5″ hexagons.
- Aurifil 80 weight thread. This Essential set from Fat Quarter Shop is a total steal and a must have for your EPP kit! I used the 80 weight for basting and then 50 weight for the machine sewing on this project.
- Hand-sewing needles. I like these “betweens” for basting my hexies. The shorter needle length allows me to pull my thread through quickly. Some EPPers prefer using applique needles at the basting stage. You can also glue baste.
- Mary’s Best Press Starch Alternative. I use this to keep my hexagon corners nice and pointy after I remove the papers.
- A quilting ruler. Choose one that has a variety of markings (1/8″, 1/4″, etc.) for ease of marking your lines. You will also want an erasable pen. I use Frixion pens since the ink irons off easily and doesn’t smear.
- Batting and quilt backing. You do not need a large amount for this project. You will want your backing/batting to be a few inches wider and longer than your top to accommodate shifting when quilting and squaring up.
- Bias tape. While you can use prepackaged bias tape, I prefer to make my own. Check out Becca’s post here on making your own continuous bias binding!
- Bonus supply: Omnigrid Portable Cutting and Pressing Station. This has been a lovely tool for working on a bit of cutting and pressing while I travel, or on days where I want to work outside of my sewing room. All of my step pictures were taken going between the pressing side and the cutting mat of this portable folder.
Before you begin, if you are new to quilting or EPP, I recommend reading through the tutorial and seeing if you have any questions. Because there are several common steps involved in making a quilt, I linked to other tutorials for steps such as applying binding that are universal in most quilting projects.
Let’s get started!
First, you will want to make your hexagons. For this projects, I used the corner-tack method featured in this blog post from MessyJesse. Once you get the hang of making hexagons, you will have a small pile in no time. I usually make a few more than I need for my project so I can try a variety of lay outs. I save any leftovers for future projects.
When you have tacked all the corners of your hexagon it will look like this. Since I used fine Aurifil 80 weight thread, there will be no need to remove these basting stitches.
Next, squirt one of your hexagons with a bit of Mary’s Best Press. Gently press with your iron.
Carefully, pull one edge back and remove the paper.
Then press, your hexagon again (without paper inside) to make sure the corners have stayed nice and sharp.
Repeat for the number of hexagons you plan to use.
Because I could not find a standard “mug rug” measurement, I decided that I wanted to feature 9 hexagons for my mug rug, and cut my mug rug top out of Art Gallery Linen roughly 12″ x 12″.
If you are new to quilting, you always want your batting and backing to extend a few inches beyond all of the edges of your quilt top. Your quilt top will shift a bit during quilting, and then when we are done, we will “square up” our quilt. This means, we will make sure all the edges are even and square, so you want some extra edging to give you more wiggle room for squaring up. I just happened to have a small piece of batting and backing leftover from my Indie Boheme table runner from the Indie Boheme Lookbook (p. 75), so I used that!
Next, I played around with sample layouts for my mug rug. When you find one you like, it is helpful to take a picture. I always manage to lose track of my original layout while I am sewing You will now have a “quilt sandwich” in progress. This is your backing (right side down), batting, and then your top (right side up).
Now, here is a tricky part. We are going to make sure we get nice straight lines all throughout our applique quilt. But don’t worry – you can do it. Take one of your hexagons that is in the center row (or very middle of your quilt if it is larger) and use a curved safety pin to baste it down. Make sure the pin is piercing the hexagon, the quilt top, the batting, and the quilt backing. Once you have one hexagon pinned down you will use this as your reference point for making sure all your other hexagons are evenly spaced.
You will now decide how close together you want your hexagons. You can see that I have the straight edge of my clear ruler passing through the points on two hexagons. I am going to mark that line through those points. Note: my line is NOT going across the hexagon I first pinned down, but on the linen right in between. I will use my Frixion pen to draw carefully along that line.
Now, I have this line to use as a guide and as I use my safety pins to baste, I will make sure that my corners are part of that line. I am going to repeat this process several times to make sure that I have a quilting line going through all six corners of every single hexagon. After you pin a few hexagons, this process goes much more quickly. Make sure you extend your lines all the way through to the edges of your top fabric since you will quilt the whole top, not just the hexagons.
Sometimes as you pin baste, or even during sewing, you might catch a hexagon shifting. Since we have done a careful job marking our lines, it is very easy to shift it back and repin!
When you have all or most of your lines drawn, it will look roughly like this. I keep my ruler and pen handy because I find I always miss marking a spot until I catch it during quilting.
Now we are ready to sew. Attach your machine’s walking foot and set your stitch length. I set my stitch length to 3.0 instead of my usual 2.5 so I can have a nicer topstitch, and extra length for sewing through all the layers.
I picked a hexagon in the very middle of my project to begin stitching. If you are new to quilting, you want to start in the middle of your project so fabric doesn’t start bunching toward the center. If you work your way outward from the middle, the fabric will also smooth outward.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of room to remove your basting safety pins. When it is time to remove, I stop with my needle down and remove the pin.
Since we have drawn our lines and extended them to cover the whole quilt top, it is easy to make sure everything is still lined up properly as we approach the edges. After you have done the middle section of hexies, continue to work in one direction until you have completed all the diagonal rows. Then work the other direction from our original row. Continue this process, rotating your work, until you have appliqued/quilted down all of your hexagons.
Now I am ironing off some of my Frixion markings. This will allow me to see if I missed any spots.
I also check the backside of my quilt to see if I missed intersecting any areas and for puckers. (Note: I like to check my quilting after every row to make sure I don’t have any large puckers anywhere).
Now, I use my ruler to very carefully square up my mug rug. It is very important you pay attention to squaring up in regard to your hexie layout. You don’t want your hexagons to look crooked on your top. If this is your first quilting project ever, I recommend using a pen to mark where you will cut first.
I really wanted to have some trim peeking out from under my binding to break up my bold Indie Boheme Fabrics backing. After squaring up my mug rug, I basted this crochet trim down along all the edges.
I then machine-sewed my binding to the front side of my quilt, and finished by handstitching it toward the back. This is my preferred method for binding quilts.
Step back and admire your work!
The opportunities are endless with this tutorial! Experiment with different sizes and shapes and show me what you come up with! Tag me (@elerihandmade) on IG so I can see what you make!