HEXALONG -- No-baste EPP

Hi! I'm Jennifer from The Enchanted Bobbin. I am having a great time with Lynne and Gayle's summer "Hexalong," and am delighted to share the tutorial I posted last Friday for no-baste piecing. I am also very excited to announce a Quilt Patis giveaway (!) and a great Hexalong discount code for pre-cut Paper Pieces. Yay! All the details are on my blog today.

Although I spend most of my time in the worlds of writing and ideas, I'm also a recovering knitaphile and a happy (if sometimes closeted) sewist.  My blog is just a few months old, but I have been following the online quilting and sewing communities for the past couple of years.  It has been so much fun to start to share some of my quilting and other sewing, and to receive feedback...so I hope you'll swing by and say hello!

No-baste hexagons
For anyone who has been around the English Paper Piecing block a time or two, what I am about to explain will be No Big News.  But I know that I have learned a ton about sewing and quilting from bloggers' posts on basic techniques, so I thought I would do a little tutorial -- with the hope that it might prove helpful to someone out there!  Please do let me know if this is useful or if there's anything I could clarify.  This is my first attempt at a stitchy tutorial of any kind, so I would love to hear from you.

The past couple of weeks I have been having fun churning out some large hexagons for the Hexalong (hexagon quilt-along) being hosted by Lynne of Lily's Quilts and Gayle Brindley.  As I described in an earlier post, I decided to make my hexagons quite large -- 4" along each side.  I ordered some supplies at the beginning of the week, including a variety of precut hexies and 4" 60 degree diamonds from Paper Pieces and also some plastic "Quilt Patis" from Sew Sisters -- which is a great little quilt shop in North Toronto.

Quilt Patis are plastic templates used for EPP (English Paper Piecing).  In the past two days I have come to love them because they allow for very crisp shapes and points and they're endlessly reusable.

They also allow for piecing without sewing any basting stitches.

If you're completely new to paper piecing it might be worth clarifying: when you work with large shapes cut from paper, you generally wrap your seam allowances around the paper shape, and baste (temporarily stitch) your fabric right through the paper.

ETA:  Precut shapes like those from Paper Pieces are reusable, even after you remove your basting stitches!  Homemade paper shapes seem to show their wear much more...or at least mine do :(

Here's an example: my first of the large hexies, stitched to a homemade printer-paper template.

As you can see, the basting stitches are large and need to be highly visible (they're taupe; squint and you'll see them!) -- because they will need to be removed later,  when the quilt top is assembled and they're no longer needed.

Lynne posted an excellent tutorial on EPP here, and I know there must be many more available.

While this traditional method works well, I have to say that all that cutting of paper pieces and stitching things that later need to be removed can test my patience.  So for many of my hexies I am going to be doing what I did intuitively when I first played with EPP: sewing shapes without basting.

The no-basting approach won't be reliable for larger sizes of paper pieces, but it certainly worked very well for me when making smaller ones, like the 1" hexagons I was playing with last spring

                                                                   and it is the method you use with plastic Quilt Patis too.

DISCLAIMER: These steps are super-quick and easy, and when I first started making hexagons I had no idea that I was leaving out a step.  When I discovered that other people basted their hexagons, I worried that there might be some terrible unforeseen consequence to my improvised method.  But there isn't...and I recently discovered that I'm not the only one doing things this way.  Phew. 

Anyway, you might find that you like making no-baste hexagons so much that you'll need to buy yourself a jumbo bag of precut paper pieces, like I did!

Here's what I do: I either pin the hexie to my fabric, or just hold it firmly if no pin is at hand.

Then I cut around the paper piece, leaving at least 1/4" all around.  I don't generally work with white fabrics, so I don't have to stress about the neatness or precision of my cutting: it won't be seen.

Now you just fold and wrap...kind of like wrapping a present.

With needle and thread (of any colour -- it won't be seen), catch the fabric to the left and right of the fold, but don't penetrate the paper piece inside.

I don't bother to knot the thread -- it will never need to be removed, but it also isn't essential to the stability of a finished quilt top.  It's only purpose is to give the hexie shape during piecing.  I have found that three nice tight stitches hold firmly, without a knot.  I hope that works for you too!

Continue to fold and stitch about three times in every corner, just carrying the thread as you move around the perimeter of the shape.


Go on and make hundreds of these little cuties...you know you want to!

It was very easy for me to get started using Quilt Patis, because they are actually designed to be used the same way I was using my paper pieces: without basting stitches. 

Here's how I used 2" diamonds to make these 4" star hexies:

Once again, I cut around the shape, leaving a reasonable seam allowance but not worrying much about accuracy.

Fold and pinch firmly

and then fold a corner at one of the points of the diamond.  Here accuracy does matter, and these corners are much sharper than those of a hexagon: take care to fold a nice crisp point.  You will have a little flap of extra fabric folded over to one side. 

Insert the needle, catching the fabric on either side, a comfortable distance from the point. 

I make three nice, tight, secure stitches.

I move around the perimeter, aiming to make crisp corners as I go, taking a few firm stitches at each point.

When all four corners are done, I can stop and admire my work.  The points of the diamond look crisp, and the folded bits of corner fabric are visible, even from the front - but that's fine.

It takes six of these diamonds to make a star. The plastic Patis help to keep the shapes very well-defined, so you can match up sides perfectly and whipstitch them together.

Take a look at Lynne's excellent whipstitch video -- this stitch is easy and also essential to assembling your EPP shapes -- whether you're connecting little hexies or triangles-within-a-hexagon.  Here's some stitching where you do most definitely want to knot your thread!  This is sewing-for-construction: these are stitches that need to hold for a good long time, so make them as secure as possible -- without pulling too tightly.

 Matching the beginnings and endings of the diamonds' sides is key here.  I hold quite firmly as I whipstitch.  It's fun to see the star shape emerge as you add diamonds.

I haven't found any problem working around the little flappy bits that result from each folded corner.  I just nudge the flaps aside so I can keep working the whipstitch neatly through the inside edges of each diamond side. I try to pay special attention to lining up the inside corners, where all six diamond points are going to meet.

Patterned fabric really helps to hide any imperfections, but I think the centre points look pretty good, even in this solid.

And now it's time to work the second set of six diamonds in a contrasting fabric.  When whipstitching these to the star, you have to deal with some "Y" seams, and because the Patis are firm plastic, they can't be bent and manipulated like paper can.  But I am finding that if I just take a little care at the "V" the seams come out really well.

Penelope is a great help.


Keep making and then attaching those contrast diamonds...

and soon you have a finished hexie star!  And no basting stitches to remove...ever!

I make no claim at originality here, but I really hope that this little tutorial is helpful to you.  Sorry to ramble on...I'll leave you to your sewing!


  1. Great hexalong. I am so tempted despite just finishing off a hand quilted star and hexagon quilt that nearly got the best of me. I just wanted to give a quick tip. Rather than stitch around the paper I glued it with Sewline fabric glue sticks. I think it saved me quite a bit of time overall.

    Well, good luck with the hexalong. It looks great.

  2. that's how i do it. i never understood the motivation behind basting to the papers.

  3. lovely post! I'm definitely going to try those patis ... thank you :)

  4. What a great tutorial Jennifer although I was distracted at one point by your lovely bookshelves full of interesting books! The patis look great and I`m off to have a look! Thanks so much and I know and really admire your quilting and blog already!

  5. This is great- thanks so much!

    For the first time ever i've actually been tempted to give paper piecing a go- all the slow hand basting had totally put me off, but now...

    Not that I need any thing else to be getting on with! :)

  6. Ramble as much as you like - great way of working x

  7. that's how I've always made them as well. It just made more sense to me than sewing to paper and then removing stitches. But whatever works! lol

  8. Great post - thank you! I second the plug for sew-sisters, not just because one of the owners (Judy) is my high school BFF!

    (It's me, Felicity - I can't comment on embedded comments after Windows' most recent update).

  9. Pretty star hexies, but you ARE basting, just not doing it through the paper. The step that gets skipped is removing the basting stitches later. To call this a "no-baste" method is really inaccurate and misleading. Don't get me wrong: you've done a great job of explaining how to prep EPP without sewing through the paper. But it's not "no baste" in any way.

  10. I always wondered about that! Thanks for a great tutorial.

  11. i read with interest all the methods used and i have used them all in the past! however i now never use any paper pieces and didn't in either the 'camelot' quilt or 'candied hexagons', i draw the template onto the fabric, add my seam allowance, cut out with my scissors, pin the points and stitch with a fine running stitch. it is all very accurate and there is no basting or papers or anything to remove after. it is my preferred option, but i also think however you get the job done, it is the pleasure of the finished quilt that is important! my approach is not to 'over think' the process.

  12. I have never seen the quilt petis before. I am machine piecing my stars together.

  13. Thanks for all these comments -- it's so interesting to hear about the variety of ways that you all reach the same (or similar) ends.

    And "anon" is right: there is some "basting" going on here, if you think of basting as non-construction stitching. Maybe it's because I made garments before quilts that I think of this as a "no-baste" method: for me, basting is wide, loose and temporary stitching...and in this approach there are no stitches that need to be removed, just a first set of tight little stitches that help to give the shapes (hjexagons or diamonds) their form. It's a matter of semantics, but interesting, I think. (Of course, I certainly didn't mean to mislead anyone!)

  14. Traditionally, except in the world of couture (where, I believe, all stitching is called basting), basting is stitching used to hold things in place, before being removed later. It's the intent to remove, the temporary manner, that makes the stitch "basting" so, in this instance, the method shown is, very much, a "no baste" method- there is nothing to be removed.

    anon is wrong. And you didn't mislead anyone!

  15. Thank you for your tips. I love that you did things your own way and didn't let convention steer you away from your method. If it works, why fix it?

  16. That was a great tutorial - excellent photos to illustrate your instructions! You lot are this close to making me want to start EPPing!

  17. Hexies have been on my todo list for a while now. Thanks for this excellent tutorial. I'm even more eager to get started.

  18. I'm using the Quilt Patis diamonds, also. I appreciated this Youtube video that charmingly explains how to build put your diamonds together in stages so that you can always fold the pieces together to whipstitch them, and free up plastic templates to use for more diamonds.

  19. Thanks for the clear tutorial.
    I am wondering about those flaps when finished with the block? Are they just ignored or do they cause any lumps when putting several together making a quilt top?
    Thanks for your help


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