Now that I'm into the paper piecing craze I've been researching all the ways to accomplish neat and tidy paper pieced shapes.
Up to this point I've been joining them with a whip stitch. Pretty simple stuff - just grab a few threads on each side and whip along to the end. I did notice though that it wasn't always neat and that I had gaps or my stitches showed a bit. That is not neat and tidy! I came across a tutorial for joining hexagons using the ladder stitch. The tutorial was not great, though I was able to follow along well enough to figure it out and even improve on the method a bit.
First step is to baste. I'm assuming you know how to do this so I'm only showing a photo or two.
Now, as you'll see in this next photo I am using a square shape piece of fabric, so where are those neat and tidy hexagonal edges?!
Back, basted entirely
You can trim before you baste or not. Or trim after you baste, or not. It's entirely up to you. I found that trimming before hand I was not always giving myself that 1/4" seam allowance. Remember I'm an "eyeball it" girl. This way I am assured of enough seam allowance.
Now let's attach two hexies!
First, put the right sides of your hexagons together and line up the edges and corners. I always start by putting my needle into the very tip of the corner on the hexagon closest to me,which I will refer to as the front hexagon.
Start with a corner
Here I am picking up the corner of the second hexagon, which I will refer to as the back hexagon:
Neat corners are key!
So even though I'm an "eyeball it" girl, I've realized that neat and tidy corners are a must in any kind of quilting. I always make sure my corners match up and they are where I begin and end.
Now that I've got the corner secure, it's time to begin ladder stitching.
As you can see here, I am inserting the needle slightly to the left of the corner on the back hexagon and making a tiny stitch along the spine. Keeping those papers in helps tremendously with this step.
Ladder stitches are nearly invisible
Once that stitch is drawn through it will disappear along the inside of the spine. It's time to insert your needle into the front hexagon. You will insert the needle directly across from where the first stitch exited - this will make the "rungs" of the ladder.
Making the rungs!
Here you can see them. Remember, the "edges" of your ladder are hidden inside the fabric along the spine.
You can see the rungs - but where is the ladder?
If you were able too see them it would look like this:
Oh, there's the ladder!
So, keep making your stitches until you are at the end and make sure your last stitch on the front hexagon goes through the corner and STOP!
Now, flip over the hexagon and you'll notice some space between the pieces.
We don't want spaces!
Spaces are not neat and tidy, so you'll want to get rid of those by gently pulling your thread until the gap closes. Don't pull too hard or you will create puckers. Puckers aren't neat and tidy either.
Remember, pull gently but firmly.
Now that you've pulled your stitches together and made sure the gap is closed you can finish the joining. Flip your work back over and exit through the corner on the back hexagon. I always go through the corners twice to make sure they're secure.
Two times for neat and tidy.
Now you should have your hexagons joined and they should look beautiful!
Closed up that gap
Neat and Tidy!
My hexagon paper in the photos is shiny because I made my own using printer paper and packing tape. I was being thrifty for my first project. Upon further thought I realized that it took a long time to make them and I could just as easily buy them pre-cut from card stock relatively inexpensively. So I popped over to Paper Pieces and got some.
The only thing I've done with the new pre-cuts is to punch a hole in the middle. This helps with extraction after all the sewing is done. I simply pop a crochet hook into the hole and gently pull out the paper. Works a treat!
I hope this has been helpful as a tutorial. Feel free to comment and let me know if I've missed anything!