Pink Castle Blog

English Paper Piecing Tutorial: Fussy Cut Hexagons

Posted by Katie Remski on Jun 22, 2017 9:51:16 AM


One of the most fun things about working with small pieces like 1" hexagons is they are perfect for featuring just one motif from your favorite fabrics. Where large cuts allows you to see "the whole picture," a little fussy cut allows one element to shine and really lets you appreciate the artistry of the fabric. Who knew one little bunny could have so much detail? Doesn't the ship look ready to sail right out of the quilt? The best part is, fussy cutting only takes a little extra time and care, and the payoff is so worth it. This English paper piecing tutorial will walk you through the steps so you can start #workingyourstashoff and savor each print! 

English Paper Piecing Tutorial: Fussy Cut Hexagons

First things first: what is fussy cutting? Fussy cutting is the selection of a single motif (a flower, a bird, evenly centered plaid, a single polka dot) and arranging/cutting it to be centered in a particular way on the quilt block or other desired piece. 

Which fabrics work best for fussy cutting? Quilting cottons work best because they won't stretch or shift. Stretching can  cause motifs to become un-centered while working. 


supplies for fussy cutting hexagons

English paper piecing does not require a lot of supplies, but there are things that make it much easier. Pre-cut 1" hexagon paper pieces are absolutely essential for a consistent shape that will sew together just right. The 1" hexagon fussy cut finder allows you to perfectly find and center the exact motif you want on the fabric in the same size as the hexagon, and the template ensures a generous 3/8" seam allowance for easy basting. You'll also need a marking tool for tracing the templates onto the fabric, and our favorite is the Sewline Styla.  It's a water-soluble fabric pen with a roller tip and light blue ink that glides over fabric easily and washes out with just a little water. It's not in the picture, but a fabric pencil would be a great option too. 

As always, you'll also need fabric scissors, and depending on your preferred basting method, needle and thread or a fabric glue pen.  

Step 1 

Iron your fabric so it's nice and flat (if it's really wrinkly, try a little Flatter or Best Press.) After pressing, lay your fabric flat and right side up on a work surface. Now for the fun part-- use the fussy cut finder to find your favorite design! Center it as best you can-- the goal is to create a focal point. 

fussy cut finder


Step 2

Use your preferred marking tool to trace all around the inside perimeter of the fussy cut finder. Don't worry about the line being visible-- if you're using a fabric pen or pencil (test it on your fabric first!) the line should disappear when you wash the project. 

tracing with the fussy cut finder

All traced!

Step 3

Place the 1" hexagon template so the inner line of the template is directly over the traced lines on the fabric. Using the same marking tool, trace around the outside of the template. 

1" hexagon template

1" hexagon template tracing

Step 4

Cut around the hexagon on the outermost traced line. 

cutting out the hexagon

Step 5

Flip cut hexagon over the right side is face down on the work surface. Carefully center hexagon paper piece on the back of fabric. Using either basting stitches or glue pen, baste hexagon around paper piece, shifting fabric as needed to re-center the design. 

Placing the paper pieceFinished fussy cut hexagon

Now you're done! In our experience here at Pink Castle, English paper piecing is addictive, especially when you get to showcase a pretty print with fussy cutting! 

If you find yourself taking photos of your hexies, make sure to tag us on Instagram @pinkcastlefabrics and make sure to hashtag #englishpaperpiecing so everyone can see your makes! 

Previously from EPP Week:

Day 1: Supplies

Day 2: Hexagon Tutorial

Get English Paper Piecing Supplies!


Topics: English Paper Piecing, Paper Piecing, hexagons, hand sewing, sewline, fussy cutting

Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along - Week 2: Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial

Posted by Brenda Ratliff on Aug 5, 2015 10:49:00 PM

Hello! Welcome to the second week of our Ventana Quilt Along!

This week, as promised, I will take you through all the steps of paper piecing the blocks for the Ventana quilt! I've broken down this process and will take you through it little by little with TONS of photos along the way. Let's get started!

After last week's post, I hope you've chosen your fabric. I showed you my stack last week and I finally selected my background-- this Alison Glass text print. I wanted something that would read light and neutral and this does just that. Plus, I opted for the indigo on white as opposed to black so it wouldn't be too harsh and the indigo plays really well on the navy tones throughout many of my prints. Onward!

Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.

Let's start the paper piecing. First off, it's always important to start with well pressed fabric. When I press mine, I use Flatter as a starch alternative to keep my fabrics pressed really well. Using a starch alternative to press your fabric also makes it a little easier to handle when you're piecing and it keeps things clean and precise. Plus, it smells so good. Yuzu is my favorite! Side note: the fabric I'm starting with as my main print is this one from Kim Kight's Cookie Book.

Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.

After you've either copied your printed version of the pattern or printed out templates from the PDF, trim down the paper to just template. Make sure you use paper scissors to this so you don't dull your fabric shears. Or, save your old, dull rotary blades and use them in a specially marked rotary cutter for paper! That's what I do-- much faster than cutting things out by hand!

Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.

Next, cut out your fabric. The Ventana pattern suggests cutting your main print into a 5" x 11" piece and two 4" x 5" pieces and the background cut into 4" squares and 3" squares. Then, cut the 3" squares into half square triangles which will reduce waste!

Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.

Now, take your 9" x 11" piece and place it wrong side against the back of the center pattern template.

To keep such a large piece from shifting while you sew the coming seams, glue or pin the fabric to the paper. I like to use one of these fabric glue pens. These are formulated specifically for acting as a temporary adhesive to fabric-- the glue is totally water soluble and is super low tack so it's strong enough just to hold things in place but is easily readjustable. (These are great if you do English paper piecing too!)

Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.

Next, we'll start sewing! Beginning at the section marked 2, take one of your half square triangles of background fabric and place it right sides together with the main print fabric, lining up the raw edge with the sewing line and accommodating for a 1/4" seam allowance. This is most easily done by holding fabric up to the light and making sure your seam allowance reaches over the sewing line. This is kind of tricky to explain so photos best depict what you're looking for.

Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along
Now stitch! Sew your seams with paper piecing at a super short stitch length (1.5 to 2, maximum) and preferably a slightly larger needle than you would normally use (Alison suggests 90/14). These larger holes placed closer together will perforate the paper more and make tearing paper out MUCH easier later down the line! Plus, a short stitch length keeps your seams strong when you're pulling against them to tear out papers.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Next, you'll need to trim away the excess fabric from the seam allowance. This is pretty simple but be careful here! It's easy to make a mistake. To do this, place your piece fabric side down and fold back the paper along your stitch line. Line up the 1/4" mark on your ruler and cut away the excess. Be careful to make sure that none of the necessary fabric is on the wrong side of your rotary blade. Tearing out seams and restitching on paper only holds up for one or two tries.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Now, fold the paper back into place and press your seam toward the raw edge! 
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Repeat for sections 3, 4, 5. You'll cover all four corners like this. It's okay if it's a bit wonky! It will trim down just fine. Note: it is important for the fabric to overhang the paper a little bit. You want to make sure all the paper is 100% covered otherwise, those short spots will eat into your seam allowance, if not the actual design. If it doesn't cover the design, you'll have a hole in your block!
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Flip your whole piece to have the fabric side down and trim away all the excess fabric right up to the paper, being careful not to further trim the paper.
Ta-da! The center section is done! Let's move on to the top section. Take one of the 4" x 5" pieces you cut and center it in the paper template like you did for the center piece. Pin or glue into place.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Take one of your half square triangles and line it up to the 2 stitching line, just like you did with the corners of the center piece. Stitch in place.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Fold back the paper, as before, and trim excess down to 1/4".
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Press the triangle toward the raw edge. 
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Repeat for section 3: align, stitch, trim, press. Again, note that it looks wonky. And it's fine. Don't stress about it being totally perfect.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Next, take one of the 4" squares, place it right sides together with your main print fabric, and align with the vertical line on either side of the triangles, still accommodating for a 1/4" seam allowance by overhanging that stitching line. Stitch in place.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
As always, fold back the paper and trim excess down to 1/4", being careful not to cut pertinent fabric.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Fold paper back into place and press your new seam toward the raw edge and outer sides.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Repeat on the other side. 
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Just like with the center piece, place the top section fabric side down and trim excess fabric all the way to the paper, without trimming the paper template. 
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Repeat for the bottom section. If you're using a print with directionality, keep things consistent. 
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Now, layout all three pieces! You're going to attach all these together next.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Take the bottom section and place it right sides together with the center piece, being careful to line up your paper templates, thus ensuring an even 1/4" allowance being taken from either piece. Stitch together.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Open up your sewn pieces. Wiggle your seam allowance back and forth a few times to loosen it up-- it'll make the paper easier to tear out later and in the mean time, it helps your seam allowance lay flatter.
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Press your seam open!
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Repeat for the top section, give the block a good press and voil√°! You have your very first foundation paper pieced block!
Alison Glass Ventana Quilt Along.
Now only 29 more blocks to go! Piecing all the center sections, top sections, or bottom sections in a row (like you do with chain piecing) can help speed the process along. These blocks come together pretty quickly when you're not stopping every minute or two to take photos :)
Let me know how it goes!! I welcome comments and questions below! And again, be sure to share your progress on Instagram and Facebook! Tag @pinkcastlefabrics or #ventanaQAL so we can see your progress!


Once all of our blocks are successfully foundation pieced, we'll talk about laying them out-- color arrangements, sewing them together, and tearing those pesky papers out!
July 30 - Week 1: Fabric Selection 
August 6 - Week 2: Foundation Paper Piecing (we just did that!!)
August 13 - Week 3: Color Mapping & Block Assembly
August 20 - Week 4: Wrap Up

Topics: Tutorial, Paper Piecing, Alison Glass

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