A Hexie Sampler Quilt – Friends at a Distance

This year has not been without its challenges. I feel very fortunate that I’ve found quilting, as I’ve filled many hours creating paper-pieced birds, quilts for babies, bags for back-to-school friends, and many more projects. I’m grateful that I can use these projects to connect with people in my circle. Staying in touch with friends has been a matter of creativity and making it work. My friend Rita and I have been making our friendship work during this pandemic through texts, phone calls, patio breakfasts and porch visits complete with blankets and coffee. Rita and I were teachers together. We took a trip to Mexico in our 20s, then married and had our children, lost touch for a bit and re-kindled our friendship as principals at neighboring schools. Have you ever had a friend who tells you when you have something stuck in your teeth or when you’re over-reacting – that’s my friend Rita. As principals, we challenged each other, shared stories, helped each other solve problems and learned so much from one another. We were an amazing team. Our teachers were lucky because they had the two of us looking out for them. So, this Christmas, I honor my dear friend and mentor with thoughts of a friendship that has sustained us through rough patches and many successes. I’m thankful for Rita every single day.

Completed Hexie Table Topper

For this gift, I played around with fabrics, talked to my quilting mentors and came up with a plan. As principals, Rita and I were constantly being challenged and had to re-think our plan A, for a plan B or C, or even Z! So, the fact that I changed my quilting plan several times before completing this project reminded me that change happens and is all part of the fun.

Fabrics for Hexies Table Topper

Before I can actually sew my hexies together, I need to do some preparation. I’m definitely known as a planner, which is what Rita and I have in common. We don’t fly by the seat of our pants, at least not by choice. In retirement, we’re more relaxed, but still like to be on top of things, such as getting ready for holidays and keeping our houses organized. I plan meals, make a to-do list every day and try to meet deadlines accordingly.

I’m a person who likes to be where I am, not where I’ve been. I want to be excited, inspired and satisfied. Being on top of things in my life helps me feel that way – so, working to get the cardboard and fabric hexies ready while talking to my mentors about the best way to arrange everything is part of the planning phase. When I spend the right amount of time in the planning phase, then I can relax and enjoy the making phase. I used a hexie ruler, using the 3rd hexie size for the fabric, with the cardboard hexies ¼” smaller (shown on the ruler as well). When you’re finished the project, you can store the hexies for next time (I still have the ones I used for my table runner in a baggie – they’re smaller). I ended up cutting the cardboard hexies and diamonds down a smidgin because you need the extra fabric around the outside to iron them without going crazy. A small amount of fabric (like ¼”) for the border isn’t enough to make it reasonable when pressing the fabric around the hexies.

Preparing the Cardboard Hexies

Cutting the Fabric Hexies

Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have such great mentors? During these challenging times it’s so important to stay connected through projects. So, when I showed my mentors my ideas, they helped narrow down my thinking and choose a unique style using hexies and diamonds.

I love being able to share my quilting journey with friends who don’t mind telling me exactly what they think and how I can improve. It’s good to have someone you can talk to about challenges in your life – empty nesting, living with your 20-something child, handling loss and, more importantly, someone to share good times and accomplishments with. Rita and I spend a lot of time being authentic about how we feel, how we would handle things, the importance of being grateful, and appreciating every moment. Rita is compassionate, encouraging and really gives light and love to those in her circle. I’m so proud to be her friend.

My New and Improved Design

As I work on my hexie project, I continue to put my sampler quilt together. These samplers have really stretched my quilting skills so I’ve relied on the advice from my mentors. They’ve provided me with tips on remembering how much time quilting takes, and since I’m retired I have time and so, taking the time to measure and sometimes rip (and redo) is just fine.

They’ve also helped with fabric choices for each block. It’s so much fun to lay out all the fabrics and create the blocks. I’ve now completed about one ¼ of my quilt. This will be a great project to continue to work on this winter. I’m really proud of what I’ve learned and how I’m growing in my journey as a quilter.

My Sampler Quilt Progress

The first step in getting ready to sew hexies together is to iron and baste the hexies and diamonds so that you can sew them together. I do a few at a time and then hand-stitch them together so that I feel like I’m making progress. I don’t like standing at the iron for too long – I use a really hot iron and lots of steam so, going back to stitching by the fire gives me a break from ironing. Seeing one’s progress is a really encouraging way to do any project.

Ironing the Diamonds

Making progress on the table topper.

My favorite part of hexies is that you can sit and sew them while visiting with friends or watching TV. This table topper started as one plan and morphed into something different. For me, I never fret because the beautiful fabrics always come together to make something that represents my own creative instinct. As a principal, I learned that nothing ever comes together as expected. We have great intentions and when Rita and I were working on a project, we always used our instincts and creativity to make sure that those in our care knew we had their best interests at heart.

Rita will love the twists and turns of this project because she knows all about the twists and turns of life and is an example of strength and courage, even when life tries to turn you upside down. She inspires me and makes me a better person.

Sewing the hexies together.

I’ve considered all the options, adding more diamonds, sewing on more hexies but, I like both the size and the shape of the table topper. I’ve decided to mount it on burgundy that matches the center diamonds. With quilt batting cut to match the table topper, I pinned it on the background and machine quilted around the star in the center and around the hexies. I’m looking forward to sharing this with Rita to brighten her Christmas and let her know how much her friendship means to me.    

The finished topper ready to be mounted.

Machine quilted backing side of the table topper.

The final step was hard. Rita and I never shied away from hard things when we worked together, nor do we in our lives now. One thing we always talked about was choosing your battles or a favorite saying, “is this the hill you want to die on?” Well, when it came to finishing this table topper, those words rang true.

I challenged myself and sewed the background to match the top hexies on the table topper. It took a lot of pinning, ironing, and careful stitching, especially in the corners, but I did it. I finished it with my sewing machine by stitching a quarter inch around the outside of the table topper to hold everything in place (burgundy thread in the bobbin and white thread in the spool). Handmade is from the heart and although it’s never perfect, it represents deep feelings for the person you gift it to.

Attaching the backing to the top of the table topper.

Again, I learned so much from completing this project. If I keep my wits about me, I’ll try a few more of these in different shapes for some other friends as Christmas gifts.

The best part about this project is its versatility. It’s suitable for any season and can brighten up any room. You could play around with fabric that has hearts for Valentine’s Day, Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter bunnies, etc. You can change the size of the hexies, use diamonds or not. There’s so many fun ways to use hexies! That’s why I’m so grateful that my mentor, Heather, encouraged me to dive in and try them. My first hexie table runner was one of my first blog posts and it is still a favorite of mine with its beautiful butterflies for spring.

With my table topper finished and Christmas around the corner, I’ll complete some reading pillows for my neighbor girls (ages 3 and 5) with owls and bunnies and a book tucked in the pocket. My quilting life is full and busy, which means there are times (like this past month) when life jumps in and gets in the way, but I always manage to carve out time. It’s worth it because it’s time in the day to be in the moment, while thinking of ways to spread some joy in my little world. Thank you, Rita for being my friend. Merry Christmas!

The finished table topper

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