Today we’ll begin stitching, so start threading those needles! (If you're joining us for the first time, you might want to review our earlier posts - this Blog Along started on April 3 and posts every Thursday). By now, you should have all twenty-four honeycomb shapes glue basted and ready to go.
Arrange your blocks as follows:
Start in the center with four floral honeycombs that will make the cross.
Add brown honeycombs for the four diagonals,
and finally, add the floral side and brown corner units.
Since this is basically a two-color block, it’s an easy block to lay out without having to audition for color placement.
For stitching, I use a milliner’s needle and Aurifil thread. Milliner’s needles (sometimes called straw needles) are long fine needles that make it easy to “feel” the edge of the papers in the basted shapes while you are stitching your units together. I like to use Aurifil thread because it is a strong thread, but fine enough to thread through the small eye of the milliner’s needles. You can use any neutral color thread as you won’t be able to see the stitches on the front. ( For photographing purposes only, I will be stitching with a lighter thread than is shown – I’m hoping you’ll be able to see the stitches better!)
If you have trouble threading the milliner’s needle, you may prefer switching to Sharps needles - they have a bigger eye to thread, but the bigger shaft makes it more difficult to avoid catching the edges of the papers when stitching. For a nice compromise, you might want to try the Black Gold needles we sell in the shop that are applique needles, but with a slightly larger eye – a nice cross between milliner’s and sharps. Call the shop to order.
You are now ready to start stitching. I start stitching from the center units and work out. Place two of the units right sides together and, with knotted thread, begin stitching right at the corner. If you don’t start and stop your stitching right at the corners, you will end up with small “holes” or gaps at the intersections of your blocks that are difficult to fix later.
If it’s awkward to hold everything together while you’re stitching and you feel like you need another pair of hands, try using a plastic-coated paper clip to hold the shapes together. The paper clip won’t get in the way and catch your thread and the plastic coating slides on and off the fabric easily without catching.
For stitching, I use a simple whip stitch. With your needle, you should be able to feel the papers inside the basted shapes. Do not stitch through the papers – simply grab a few threads on top of the folded edges. Taking too deep a stitch will result in threads showing on the right side of your work.
You will notice that my whip stitches are very close together. This makes a tight seam that will last forever! Caution: If you make an error, tight stitching is very difficult to remove without damaging the fabric. If you are worried about this, simply make bigger stitches.
The most common errors made during stitching are:
1) taking too deep a stitch in which case your stitches will show on the right side of the work. If this happens, you either need to remove the stitching and start over,
or leave the stitching and mark over it with a Micron pen that closely matches the fabric color. This actually works very well and masks the threads nicely. (I’m giving away all my secrets here!)
2) Make sure you stitch the shapes together properly. On the honeycomb shape, all the sides are 1”, but the angles are different. If you sew the wrong sides together, your shapes will end up at odd angles that won’t fit in the block. I have no secrets to share with you here – there’s nothing to do, in this case, but remove the stitching and start over.
Because it’s easy to make mistakes that may need to be undone, I knot my thread at the end of each edge I stitch. That way, if I need to “unstitch,” I can simply remove one edge of stitching without worrying about other edges I've stitched with that thread coming undone. To make an easy knot at the end of a row, pull up a loop, run the needle through the loop twice and pull tight. You don’t need to cut your thread after you knot – simply continue stitching along the next edge with the same thread.
As soon as you’ve stitched around all six edges of a shape, remove the paper. Removing the papers will make your work more “flexible” so you can stitch the next units on without bending the papers. If you punched holes in the center of your papers, simply insert tweezers in the holes and the papers should pop right out.
If you used too much glue, you may need to loosen the edges by running the toe of the tweezers under the edges of the fabric. For those of you who purchased the Lucy Boston Starter Pack from us, the Fashionista tweezers in your pack are perfect for this because they have long toes.
Once the papers are loosened, they should pop right out.
Papers that have been removed are reusable. In fact, if you haven’t bent the papers or stitched through them causing a frayed edge, you should get five or six uses out of each paper. The SewLine glue pen leaves no sticky residue on the papers, so they can be slipped right back into your bag of paper shapes with no gummy mess.
And that’s all there is to it! Stitch all twenty-four honeycombs together and you will have your first finished block! Look at the back of the block – if done correctly, all the papers should be removed from the center honeycombs, but papers will still remain on the outer row.
Now look at the front of the block – if done correctly, you should see no stitches and no gaps or holes at the intersection points.
If you’re hand piecing your blocks, check out Inklingo here to find out about printing precise sewing/cutting lines right onto your fabric with an inkjet printer. Or, review the hand piecing information in the “Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses” book for pertinent tips and techniques.
If you are on Pinterest, you may want to follow our “Patchwork of the Crosses” board where I’ll be posting all my blocks and also adding blocks our customers bring in to show us. Looking at blocks completed by others will give your own creativity a boost. If you create some of your own blocks from your fabric stash, send me pictures so I can add them to our board as well! Check out our Pinterest board here.