Hexagons for Quilters

September 20, 2008 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Patchwork, quilt | 3 Comments

Jon Ingram wrote an interesting post on his blog on using a simple hexagonal shape to study different tiling patterns. The results of his playful approach are really nice, and immediately led me to think about the possibilities this kind of patterned tile would present for quilters. So I requested a pattern file that wasn’t in the black and white Jon used for his printouts, but just the simple lines, printed and cut out 30 of them and started to play.

My first try was to create a big circle using a ring of 6 tiles. The result gives a nice motif of a circle with a meandering band weaving in and out of the circle. The difficult part was then to create a symmetric tiling pattern that can repeat indefinitely, but after a bit of fiddling I quite like the result.

I could easily imagine one of those big circle motifs as a quilting pattern for hand-quilting, so I drew one out to try the effect:

I’m not really convinced of this one, I think those tilings are stronger when used to fill a whole area, which leads to the next idea: When designing for machine-quilting, it’s nice to have continuous-line patterns so you don’t have to start and stop sewing all the time. So my next step was to try to create patterns that don’t have any closed loops. The first one has a strong horizontal design:

Next I was just randomly placing the tiles, the only rule being not to create a closed loop. This seems to be quite easy to achieve, so there’s definitely room to achieve a lot of different pattern ranging from very regular to almost chaotic. For this one I used a 3×3 pattern of tiles that repeat horizontally and vertically:

So there’s no shortage of possible designs, even while using just one tile and no colours. Any patterns created in this manner could be easily used as designs for either hand or machine quilting. Now, what about colours? The circle design reminds me a bit of celtic knotwork, which could be appliquéd using bias tape. This would be easy to achieve with this design.

How about creating a game out of those tiles? Using three colours on each tile, a different one for each line segment, there are six different ways to colour our tile. Making an equal number of tiles of each colour combination, those tiles could be used to create your own patterns. A game could for example consist of the task to only connect sides with the same colour, and whoever manages to create a closed loop wins. Something like this already exists as Tantrix.

Or we could make a variable wall-hanging: Make a plain quilt for the back divided into hexagons the size of the tiles by lines of quilting. Put the underside of a button or a piece of velcro in the middle of each hexagon. Make your tiles and put the other side of the button or velcro on the back. Now you can change the design of your wall-decoration as often as you want!

To try out the practicalities of sewing tiles like this, I decided to run a trial today. Here’s the result:

Each side of the tiles is about 4.5cm long. The long strips were appliquéd using 12mm bias tape. The strip for the small segment couldn’t be done that way because the curvature is just too strong. So I cut out the fabric in the correct form and appliquéd it down. The sides are closed with a simple zig-zag-stitch. Of course it would also be possible to sew the hexagons together from the left side and then turn them, but for today’s trial I decided that was too much hassle. All in all the result looks pretty nice, but I think I need to figure out a better way to sew the small circle segment.



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  1. This is so cool! Lots of potential in the textile world for this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Fascinating article with so many possibilities. The first image that came into my mind was using one of those double sewing machine needles to create the quilting design. How endless the possibilities with multicolored and specialty threads would be. Not to forget how much fun. Thanks for the such mental enjoyment. A quilter in Virginia…

  3. I was Googling “hexagon quilt pattern” images and came across this post.

    Thanks for the link to Jon Ingram’s site! It’s very interesting and I love what you and he did with these tiles. There’s a hexagon quilt in my future and You’ve given me more inspiration to do it!

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