Sunday, November 5, 2017

Two Words: Free Scraps

November is the busiest month of the year for me. It always includes a visit from my family over Thanksgiving, a visit from my husband’s parents before they head south for the winter, and my older son’s birthday. Then there’s the submission deadline for QuiltCon on November 30. I want to submit at least one quilt this year—right now I have zero finished!

All of this has me maxed out, but that hasn’t stopped me from taking on a big reorganization project here at From Bolt to Beauty world headquarters. I’ve overhauled my sewing storage and decided that I need a clean slate on the scrap front. Would you like to help me with that endeavor? I’ve collected several lots of scraps. Ninety-nine percent of them are at least 2.5-inch squares or bigger. Most are prints. Some are solids. If you live in the United States, you’re welcome to claim whichever lot(s) you’d like. I just ask that you pay for shipping. (I’ll be sending by USPS, probably by flat rate envelope or box because it will make things easier for me. I’d expect to pay $7 for a flat-rate package filled to the brim with scraps.)

To claim your lot(s), add a comment below. Important: If you’re a no-response blogger, you’ll need to provide an email address in that comment. I’ll follow up via email to figure out PayPal payment and your shipping address.

: )

** Right now, everything is spoken for except lot 12. Thanks! **

Lot 1: PinksClaimed by Cortney

Lot 2: RedsClaimed by Kathy E.

Lot 3: YellowsClaimed by Cortney

Lot 4: GreensClaimed by Elaine W. on Bloglovin'

Lot 5: Blues, part 1Claimed by Allyson

Lot 6: Blues, part 2A claim on this lot is pending

Lot 7: PurplesClaimed by Elaine W. on Bloglovin'

Lot 8: BrownsClaimed by Julia J. on Bloglovin'

Lot 9: Neutrals/low volumesClaimed by Ann O.

Lot 10: ChristmasClaimed by Kathy E.

Lot 11: Denyse Schmidt (both big-box lines and quilt-shop collections)Claimed by Beth P.

Lot 12: Downton Abbey (this includes five finished blocks and scraps from this quilt) Claimed by Melody A.

Lot 13: Denims/home dec/other substrates (I’m happy to split up this lot because some of the pieces are substantial; list what you want in your comment)

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Long Time, No Blog Post

Quilty friends, hello! I haven’t popped in, in a month and wanted to give you all proof that I’m still here and sewing. Blogging is a blessing and a curse. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve met and the skills I’ve learned through it, but it is a time suck. And what does my blogging time cut into? My sewing time, of course.

So since I last blogged I’ve been doing a lot of sewing and quilting. I’d love to share the highlights—and corresponding pretty pictures—with you.

First off, I helped my guild, the New Hampshire MQG, wrap up a charity project we were working on. This post, over at the guild’s site, will fill you in on all the details. What I’ll tell you here is that the design is by Krista Hennebury, a Canadian quilter and designer, and it is a great scrap buster.

It can be hard to find a good group quilt project. If you choose one with a lot of special cutting or matching seams, you could be in for a big headache. This one worked out well. A guild mate and I handed out scraps from the guild’s stash, asking sewers to supplement with their own scraps, so there was zero precision cutting up front. Then, when piecing the leaves into rows, we strove to get the green stems to match up between the blocks. Inconsistencies that existed elsewhere in the leaves—which is what happens when you have a bunch of people working on the same project, right?—were rendered undetectable.Yahoo!

Also, I had the pleasure of venturing to Cape Cod with my guild for our annual fall retreat (we also retreat in Maine in the spring). I hadn’t been on a guild retreat in a while, and a weekend with my friends was just what I needed.

I spent a good chunk of that weekend working on a second Christmas tree quilt. (Check out my first one here.) I also pieced two baby quilts, which are in the process of being quilted and bound, and scored some awesome swag: two of Latifah Saafir’s Clammy templates.

Surely that was enough to make for a fabulous weekend and worthwhile retreat. However, my guild mates and I also enjoyed a trunk show with Melissa Averinos. I know Melissa’s work well, but seeing it in person is a different experience. Pictures don’t capture the texture of layer upon layer of fabric or the subtle low volumes she uses or the intricate detail of her piecing and applique.

The retreat was just a few weeks ago, and I am already raring to go again!

Are you active in a local guild? I am thankful for the NHMQG! If you haven’t hooked up with an organization near you, I recommend checking it out and considering getting involved with the planning, programming, and meeting execution. You’ll get so much more out of the experience! After two years of serving on the board, I am stepping down, mainly because my whackadoodle family life makes attending nighttime meetings difficult. I am still plotting ways to contribute, though. Right now, I’m thinking of reviving some past programs, like organizing a monthly fabric swap or a designing a guild T-shirt. : )

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ode to Art Gallery: A Finished Quilt

My marathon of summertime piecing has given way to a marathon of fall quilting, and it feels good to wrap up another project!

My Ode to Art Gallery quilt, first written about here, is done. In typical Michelle fashion, I pieced a mostly monochromatic backing, in shades of teal. (I also did that here and here.) And then, predictable again, I followed certain seam lines to create a simple allover quilting pattern. Finally, I bound the project in the same Kona Nautical used for the pluses, and—ta da!—I have another finished quilt!

OK, now for some pictures. First, the front (if you’re wondering how I developed this palette, check out my previous post about the subject) ...

And the back, in all of its teal-hued glory ...

You can’t tell from the above picture, but the deeper teal fabric is from Anna Marie Horner’s Loominous line. I got it in a scrap bag (there were many one-yard-plus cuts in that “scrap” bag!), and it’s really not my thing, at least not for a quilt front. But it works well here, as the star of the back.

Are you an Art Gallery fan, too? Who’s your favorite AG designer, or what is your favorite AG collection? Let’s gush about the fabric manufacturer that invites us to “Feel the Difference” in the comments!

(BTW: I think my favorite line is Bonnie Christine’s Sweet as Honey. Both palettes are sooo pretty, and I have eyes for the deer and bird and bee fabrics! The ridiculous thing is, although I have plenty of Bonnie’s fabric, I don’t have any from Sweet as Honey. True story!)

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Anticipating National Sew a Jelly Roll Day

Have you heard? Moda has dubbed tomorrow National Sew a Jelly Roll Day. This is right up my alley. I have a history of stashing those beautiful precuts:

Despite those finishes, all from the past two years, I still have jelly rolls in my stash! National Sew a Jelly Roll Day is motivating me to change that. In fact, I have a jelly roll tutorial that will debut later this month. It’s a follow-up to my Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt, and I’m calling it my Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt.

Today, though, I have a jelly roll finish to share with you, my Warm and Cool Coin Quilt ...

This is my own design. If I had to do it again, I would make the
diagonal line thicker. Right now, that line mocks me every time
I look at the quilt!

I cut the strips from a jelly roll of Denyse Schmidt’s Franklin fabrics into shorter 5½-inch lengths. Some of them I used as is, without cutting them down further. I trimmed others width-wise until I had a good variety of shapes. This was all done improvisationally, without measuring or worrying whether I was cutting the fabric at right angles, which created a pleasant wonkiness.

I separated these bits of fabric into warm and cool colors and started sewing them together. After that I paper-pieced the blocks divided by the white diagonal line and assembled the top. Then this project sat for almost a year, without even being basted.

The back features more Denyse Schmidt fabrics. Typical Michelle move!

Usually I procrastinate quilting a project because I love it as a quilt top and I don’t want the quilting to mess things up. In this case, I was feeling pretty blah-de-blah about the project until I started the quilting. I took a cue from Jacquie Gering’s new book—Walk, which I highly recommend—and started with an all-over grid. Then I went back and quilted diamonds inside that grid.

This project, with its vast negative space needed something more than my usual straight-line quilting. The texture that Jacquie’s approach creates is what transforms this quilt into something special.

Well, hello fancy-for-me quilting!

This quilt is going to a good friend. I hope that she doesn’t read my blog and this quilt will be a surprise!

The subtle stripe, also from the Franklin collection, frames this project nicely.

Do you have a relationship with jelly rolls? Fess up: How many are in your stash?!

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Déjà vu Baby Quilt

Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of glorious, merciful silence. It’s the sound that children are in school and not, say, demanding to be played with or asking to be fed. This beautiful silence ensures that I will go six or seven hours Monday through Friday without hearing “Can I have iPad?” or “Rose ate a shoe!” or “Mom, he’s naked!”

I have waited ten weeks for the silence to return, and I deserve some quality time in my sewing space now that it has.

In fact, my first full day of quiet resulted in a finished baby quilt ...

The salmon, yellow, and gray in these fabrics are so pretty.

I’ve sewn this pattern, Cheryl Brickey’s Candy Circle Quilt, before, back in 2014. (See the tutorial on the Moda Bake Shop here.) I don’t usually tackle a quilt pattern more than once, but I had a single charm pack of Corey Yoder’s Sundrops, and it was all that I needed to create the lovely variety in this ring of squares.

The back was a great place to use up some stashed half-yards.

I quilted this project the same way I did my original Candy Circle quilt. I quilted along each side of the center seams and then quilted diagonally along the 2-inch squares. This approach required very little marking, and I love how the diagonals cross at the center of each edge.

The quilting is simple, just the way I like it!

This is the first of five quilt tops of mine that need to be quilted. I want to wrap up another quilt or two before I embark on something new. Time will tell if I am disciplined enough to stick to that plan!

What are your sewing goals for the fall? Did you have a productive summer, or were you, like me, squeezing in sewing time while chasing after kiddos?

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Four Months Until Christmas, People!

When it comes to Christmas decorating, I’m all about the tree. It’s the tree that sets the tone in our house, and I try to keep it lit as much as I can when I’m at home.

I thought that tree satisfied all my holiday-decorating needs, and then I saw Amy Smart’s (Diary of a Quilter) modern Christmas tree quilt block tutorial. It’s quick, easy, and super cute. Soon after its debut, in December 2015, I started setting aside red and green fabrics for my own rendition of Amy’s block, but it took an Instagram quilt-along in the past few months to get me cutting and sewing.

This block is all sorts of fabulous. It produces little waste and is a good way to work through red and green stash. You can get three 8½” squares and the background fabric for the trunk from one quarter yard of fabric (fat or skinny); you can get four 8½” squares and the background fabric for the trunk from a third of a yard. (Those figures presume your width-of-fabric measurement is 40” to 42”. If your fabric is even a little bit wider, you can likely squeeze out another 8½” square.)

Amy’s post offers some good insight on picking fabrics. I took her advice and used some smaller-scale prints as well as some larger-scale ones. I also strove for variety in volume. (I’ll post more detailed pics once I finish the quilt!) The only fabric-related mishap I experienced was forgetting that any color is relative—it can change based on the colors that surround it! I originally slated a more orangey red for this quilt, which looked just fine against the cherry reds I was using. Once that orangey red was sewn up with the greens, though, it looked 100% orange and 100% ick. Those blocks won’t even make it to the back of the quilt. : ( 

I’m so pleased with this quilt, which will be staying here at From Bolt to Beauty world headquarters, that I’ve started a fabric pull for a second Christmas tree quilt to gift to a friend. Instead of the cherry reds and grassy greens from my first quilt, I’m using pinky reds and yellow greens in my second. I can’t wait to see how the quilt turns out!

Are you into holiday quilts? I have Amy Friend’s (During Quiet Time) Baker’s Dozen quilt at the ready, and I own Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays. And I have written a few holiday tutorials, like my Tree Is Trimmed mini quilt and my Gift Bag for Beer Lovers. If there is a holiday quilting project on your to-do list, I would love to hear about it!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hooray, I Made a Runner!

Have you encountered one of those quilt patterns that you can’t shake? It could be a matter of days or, in my case, years, but it’s something you have to make? That was my experience with this table runner, discovered on Flickr years ago. It’s fairly simple, not bucket-list-worthy, yet I knew I needed one of my own.

Well, I made it—hooray! And not a moment too soon. The sideboard in my dining room has been sporting a Christmas runner my mom made. (I’d like to say that I put it out early, for Christmas 2017, but we both know that’s not true.)

I am pleased to present the non-Christmas runner
I made for my dining room.

I had a layer cake of French General’s Petite Prints Deux on hand and toned down the fabric’s bright salmon and berry with some Essex Linen in flax and some burgundies from my scrap bin.

Everything was looking rather traditional for my taste, so I bound the project with Kona Pewter, to give it a little something. My internal monologue throughout the binding process told me to stop. I would hate the gray binding and have a lot of “unsewing” to do! Once I saw the runner on the sideboard, though, with a silver-framed mirror above it and silver knobs below it, I knew I made the right decision.

Kona Pewter did not disappoint!

Technically, this runner is finished. However, when I set it out on my sideboard, I was faced with some unsightly waviness. It won’t lie flat. I’m currently debating what to do to remedy the situation. I’ve blocked projects in the past, but I’ve always done so before they were bound. And since this runner is decorative—I had no intention of putting food on it or washing it—I let it slip that some of the fabrics were prewashed and others weren’t. Actually, one of the fabrics I prewashed for this quilt project and it bled so badly that I omitted it from that quilt but included it here.

Ack! I’ll let you know what I decide to do.

The waviness that plagues my otherwise lovely runner.

To make your own lovely table runner, see this block tutorial from Don’t Call Me Betsy. To share your words of wisdom regarding the waviness, comment below. : )

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why This Quilt Works

I’m a big fan of Art Gallery Fabrics. The company taps into some great fabric designers—Maureen Cracknell, Bonnie Christine, and Amy Sinibaldi are a few of my favorites—who create beautiful, modern collections. Plus, the quality of the product can’t be beat. Between the high thread count and super-soft hand, Art Gallery’s fabrics carry a sense of elegance that others don’t.

I’ve been meaning to make an AG-only quilt for a while, something that would be a sort of cross-section of the company’s fabric lines. My friend Kim made a plus quilt back in 2015, using some AG charms from a swap I helped organize, and I loved it. Using her project as inspiration Swiping pretty much every aspect of her project, I started with a fabric pull.

I had charms from the same swap, some scrappy bits from projects past (like this one and this one), and some yardage that I could play with. Almost all of it went into my quilt top.

Here is the finished flimsy, my first of summer 2017 ...

I’m pretty excited about the results. The quilt includes a lot of disparate fabric lines and colors, but I think it works. What follows is how I approached thinking about the fabric pull and the design.

Developing a Cohesive Palette

As I culled through the AG fabrics I had on hand—from tiny trimmings in my scrap bin to the large cuts in my stash—I noted the recurring colors. In particular, there were off-greens like teal and mint, mustard, grey, all shades of pink, and blues that bordered on periwinkle. Those colors were my lowest-common denominators, and I used them to judge whether fabrics made it into the quilt. That’s not to say that other colors were avoided; a particular fabric needed to contain some aspect of that palette.

This palette got me thinking. AG fabrics play so nicely together. They don’t coordinate color-wise like Cotton and Steel fabrics do, across designers and collections, but there is a modernness to AG’s color selections that is evident in its many fabric lines. This is a contrast to other manufacturers whose fabrics I buy. Take Moda, for example. There’s no common palette in its fabric collections, even those I consider to be more modern. Sure, it’s easy to spot a Bonnie and Camille palette or French General palette, but Bonnie and Camille fabrics do not play well with French General fabrics. This is not an earth-shattering revelation, just an observation of how different fabric manufacturers use color. : )

Establishing an Overarching Design

In my mind, this project is not a scrappy quilt—a fraction of the fabrics came from my scrap bin—but I found myself implementing the same strategy I would to make a scrappy quilt. I like to use a strong, predictable design when I’m sewing something scrappy, and the plus blocks here do the job well. (For the plus block pattern, see the image at the bottom of this page. Other scrappy quilts of my include Obsession and Good Day Sunshine.)

And I like to repeat certain fabrics—I’m convinced that simply using some fabrics again and again creates cohesion. That’s where my yardage came into play. Some fabrics are used for a just a block or two because that’s all I had in my scrap bin. When I had yardage that played into the palette I developed, I used those prints throughout the quilt top.

Using the Power of a “Bridge Color”

At QuiltCon 2017, in Savannah, I attended Tara Faughnan’s Playing with Solids workshop. This class promised to push us participants out of our color comfort zones. During our three hours together, Tara encouraged us to minimize unnecessary chatter and rely on our own instincts to develop two-color combinations quickly, without overthinking.

During this class, she mentioned what she called “bridge colors.” These colors—including hues like mustard, navy, and olive green—are super versatile. Using them can bring harmony to what may otherwise seem like a visual cacophony. (That’s my definition of the concept. I didn’t think to jot down many notes during the class!) Bridge colors are apparent in Tara’s recent finishes (see here), and I’d argue that my use of navy in the AG quilt works as a bridge color, creating cohesion between the main color palette and all the other colors that make an appearance.

The concept of bridge colors reminds me of articles I’ve read about—would you believe it?—bridesmaid dresses. I have worn my share of unflattering bridesmaid dresses, but some wedding-planning authorities encourage brides to dress their entourage in a color like navy, plum, or wine. Could those options be considered bridge colors because they work with most hair and skin colors?

Why do these bridge colors work in such different contexts? Could it be that they’re not straight-on blue, purple, and red but colors that have a depth and complexity? I’m not sure. It’s interesting, though, and I’ll be more mindful of my use of these colors in future quilts, for sure.

So do you think this quilt top works? Does any of my rationale ring true with you? Do you find yourself approaching projects of your own in a comparable way?

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Proliferation of Pixies

Earlier this year, I was on the lookout for a project for a swap. The guild I belong to—the NHMQG—had never done a swap before, and I wanted something interesting enough for quilters of different skill levels to sew. I had my eye on Fabric Mutt’s Pixie Basket tutorial since its debut, and those sweet mini fabric baskets seemed like a good contender.

I was smitten! My first basket came together in less than an hour, and I had all of the necessary supplies on hand. (A layer of batting and muslin gives it some substance—no special interfacing required.) I showed my creation to the guild’s board and set the swap wheels in motion.

The basket for my swap partner sewed up just as quickly as my trial run. That second basket led to two more (for quilty friends who needed a little pick-me-up), and baskets #3 and #4 led to even more (for teachers at the end of the school year). In fact, my year-to-date total is 15 Pixie Baskets! I’ve given away all but the first one I made, filling them up with gift cards or chocolates or fat quarters.

The pattern proved to be a decent way to use up scraps, and I put some cherished bits into these wee receptacles ...

These three baskets feature fabric from Rae Hoekstra, Heather Bailey,
and Lizzy House.

Fifteen Pixies are too many to fit in one picture!

Even the insides are pretty. : )

There are a few other patterns I’ve made en masse—that is, three or more at a time—including drawstring bags, totes, other totes, pouches, and tissue cozies.

How about you? Do you have any go-to patterns when you need a quick gift (or 15!)?

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

How I Machine-Piece Hexagons

To read more about the finished hexagon quilt, click here.

Earlier this year, I dispelled the myth that partial seams are something to avoid. As it turns out, they’re downright easy. So I was thinking, could the same be said of the dreaded Y-seam?

To see whether I could conquer this technique, I decided to make a baby quilt out of hexagons. I consulted a few tutorials, cut my hexagons, and went for it. After machine-piecing a dozen hexagons or so, I ripped out each seam and started all over again. : (

I decided that if I had more information upfront, with more pictures, I could have saved myself the hassle. Perhaps you learn that way, too? If so, here’s how I pieced my first-ever hexagon quilt, with Y-seams that I’m proud of!

Cut the Hexagons Accurately

I have an AccuQuilt Go! If you’re sewing with hexagons, you do not need a fabric-cutting machine, but since I already owned one, I decided to invest in a hexagon die for this project. This die cuts hexagons in three sizes, and I cut my fabric with the largest of those, the 5-inch hexagon. (I think the smaller sizes would have been too fiddly to work with.)

Alternatively, I could have cut the hexagons with a specialized ruler (like the Hex N More) or have bought precut hexagons.

Make a Template and Mark the Hexagons

I made a template for marking my hexagons by running a piece of cardstock through my AccuQuilt GO! (I wouldn’t make a habit of cutting paper with my machine, but I figured doing it once in a while wouldn’t dull the die.) It is the same size as the fabric hexagons I cut. If you hand-cut your hexagons or bought precuts, you could do the same by tracing one of your hexagons onto cardstock and cutting it out.

After you have your cardstock template, draw lines a quarter of an inch from each side and punch a hole at the intersections of those lines. (I used a 1/16-inch hole punch to do that.)

Then, using this template and a pencil, mark the six intersections on the wrong side of each hexagon.

Sew the Hexagons in Group of Threes

The instructions I consulted recommended laying out the hexagons, sewing the hexagons into columns, and then sewing the columns together. I had better luck, however, sewing my hexagons into groups of threes and then sewing those trios to others.

When I’m working with groups of threes, I can consistently sew a nice Y-seam. When I add a group of three to another group of three, I still have good control and produce a beautiful Y-seam. On the other hand, when I’m working with columns, I’m always working with big, awkward chunks of fabric, and it’s harder to get my seams as precise as I would like.

Here’s how to sew these trios together, one seam at a time ...

1. After deciding on the layout for your hexagons, sew two adjacent ones together. This entails matching the corners of the hexagons, right sides together, and sewing from one mark to the other on the edges you want to join. Note: If you sew beyond one of your marks, you’ll be sewing into the seam allowance, which can cause unpleasant puckers on your quilt top. Also: Sewing hexagons requires sewing on the bias a lot—be careful not to pull or distort those bias edges as you sew them.

Check out this example that uses dark red thread to show where the seam starts and stops. I used my hand wheel to start precisely on the pencil mark, and I pinned the two hexagons together before sewing. I also backstitched at the beginning and ending of the row of stitches.

When you’re done with your seam, don’t press it. Your two hexagons (now shown in my fabric of choice for this project) will look like this …

2. Match the corners of the third hexagon with one of the first two hexagons, right sides together.

3. Finger-press the first seam out of your way, so you don’t catch it in the seam you’re about to sew.

4. Use two pins, one along the seam you will be sewing and one along the seam allowance you want to avoid sewing into.

5. Sew the second seam—again, sewing from one mark to the other and not pressing the seam when you’re done. Now your trio will look like this ...

6. The final seam is sewn exactly like the second one. Pin as needed to avoid sewing through a seam allowance. You can see how I fold my fabric, finger-pressing my seams as I go, to get those seams out of the way ...

7. Your finished trio of hexagons will look like this. Please note: I pressed my seams for the sake of the picture, but it’s best to wait until later to press.

Sew Your Groups of Three Together

You’ll follow the same principles to sew two trios together ...

Sew one seam at a time, without pressing the seams, and pin as necessary to avoid those seam allowances.

Piece the Top in Chunks

Even though you’re sewing manageable trios instead of columns, at some point you will need to deal with large swaths of hexagons.

My hexagon project was a small baby quilt, about 31 inches square, and I opted to sew the quilt in quadrants and then sew those quadrants together. There was nothing precise about how I divided up the blocks, though. I just kept sewing until all my groups of three (or random singles, because there were a few of those by the end) were used up. My sections ended up looking pretty random, more like blobs than quadrants ...

Divide up your quilt top in whatever way works for you. It may help to take a few pictures of your layout with your phone. That reference will ensure you don’t sew anything incorrectly!

Press Your Seams

At this stage, you can press your seams. Start with the intersection of any trio of hexagons, and press the seams to one side. In the picture below, I pressed the seams counterclockwise around the intersection, but I could have just as easily pressed them clockwise.

The way that first intersection is pressed affects the intersections adjacent to it, as you can see in the next picture. The two top intersections are pressed clockwise, and the bottom two are pressed counterclockwise.

Remember that you are working with many bias edges. Try not to distort the fabric as you press.

Continue until you have pressed the entire quilt top. 

Finish Your Quilt

With all the seams press, you can trim your quilt top and complete your project.

I think the key to a positive hexagon-piecing experience is patience and precision. Start small, with a baby quilt like I made, to see whether machine-piecing hexagons is for you. If you give the technique a shot and have any thoughts on fine-tuning the process, please share in the comments. Thanks!

To read more about the finished hexagon quilt, click here.

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