Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hexagon Baby Quilt

This quilt was made for my friend Katie's baby girl to be.  Katie is the treasurer of the LA Modern Quilt Guild and her baby is due about 3 weeks before mine.  We're both planning to bring our new babies to the guild's weekend retreat in Lake Arrowhead this February.  I'll let you know how that goes!
Hexagon Baby Quilt

The pattern I started out with was the Sixth Times a Charm Crib Quilt from Anna Maria Horner's "Handmade Beginnings".  I initially planned to follow the pattern for a rectangular baby quilt but that didn't work out so well.  I'll get into that later.
Hexagon Baby Quilt Back

The back used pieces leftover from the top (there were a lot of these).
Hexagon Quilt Label

And the label was made using the window "lightbox" method I've used before with a Micron pen.
Hexagon Baby Quilt

Now, time for some real talk.  I dig this design.  It's a great all over pattern and comes together relatively fast and easily.  BUT, and this is a big but, I've got some major issues with the written pattern itself.

First, she doesn't tell you how much fabric you need for the quilt top.  I'd call that unacceptable.  I understand that the nature of this design makes it really hard to give an exact measurement (the number of fabrics, width of strips you're cutting etc. are all left up to you) but you really need a ballpark figure.  Not cool.

Second, by following these instructions you waste a TON of fabric.  This may be no big deal for Anna Maria but it's a huge deal for me.  I hate to waste anything and I love quilt patterns that use clever tricks to better use your yardage.  I used some of the scraps for the back of the quilt but there were still a ton left over.

The third and biggest problem I had with this pattern was some of the measurements were just wrong.  I got really mad at myself halfway through the process for not realizing the mistakes before I started.  I sort of skimmed the pattern but didn't really let the numbers sink in.  We're talking pretty basic geometry here people.  Did you know I have a degree in math?  It's true.  I should have known better.
So here's the main problem.  She asks you to sew together strips of fabric to make a rectangle that is 60" by 30".  From this you're supposed to cut triangles that are 30" tall.  As you can see in the diagram above, she asks you to fold the fabric over 15" then use a 60 degree triangle ruler (I just used my regular clear ruler, it has a 60 degree line on it) to cut a triangle that is 30" wide.  Now, before I really read through the instructions I thought "How clever!  You cut three triangles with a width of 30" each from a rectangle that's 60" wide."  Do you see the problem here?  An equilateral triangle (that's what we're going for here) that has a 30" side is not going to be 30" tall.
If you cut the way the instructions tell you to, by folding over 15", you'll end up with a triangle that's about 26" tall.  And the pattern makes it very clear that you want your triangle to be 30" tall.
This was the point when I started to get angry.  Above you can see my mid-sewing calculations.  To get a triangle that is 30" tall, you have to fold over about 18" of you're rectangle and that means it's not so clever and you're not going to get 3 triangles out of the 60" rectangle, you'll only get two.  And THAT means, BIG TIME WASTE OF FABRIC.
Now, to be fair the instructions only tell you to cut 2 triangles from each 60" x 30" rectangle.  But that leads me to think they knew they were off with they're calculations, they just didn't bother to figure out what that number should be instead of 15". 
You're asked to make two 60" x 30" rectangles to get four 30" tall triangles, then one 60" x 27" rectangle to get two 27" tall triangles.  You sew these together and do some trimming (a lot more wasted fabric) to get the rectangular crib sized quilt in the book.  Well, because of the miscalculations and confusion I would have had to cut more strips, sew another rectangle and waste more fabric to get the 6 triangles I needed.  Instead, I just cut six 27" tall triangles and left the thing a hexagon, more of a play mat than a crib quilt.

If I were to do this again, or if you were to attempt this quilt, this is the technique I would use.  Instead of sewing together 60" strips to make a rectangle, I would cut strips that were at least 36" long (a little longer would just give you a safety net), trim the end of each strip at a 60 degree angle and then sew them together into a 30" tall parallelogram like so.
You make three of these and cut into six 30" tall triangles to make a hexagon like mine, or make two 30" and one 27" to make the original rectangular crib quilt design.  And your heart will be glad that you didn't waste any fabric!


  1. Finally! Another math geek quilter out there! I completely followed along with that, knowing you'd have to whip out SohCahToa to figure it out.

    I'd be angry - but I probably would've stomped around, cried and threw it all away in a fit of rage. I compliment your patience!

  2. Lucky me, I just looked at the pattern & said, "too much trouble."

  3. The thing that bugs me the most about this story is that the pattern was clearly untested! Maybe it's just because I'm a software tester, but I can't imagine sharing something with the world like this that hasn't been well tested.

  4. Thank you for all the technical stuff! It makes PERFECT sense!

  5. Thanks for coming up with an alternative piecing solution! This is not the first time I've heard about oddities/issues with the patterns in this book.

  6. The only reason I bought this book was for this pattern! I have loved it so and it has been near the top of my list of quilts to make for some time. But....something always seemed funny about it. I am so happy you sorted it out. I shall try your method. You are brilliant as always!

  7. Three things.

    I love your quilt backing.

    Thank you for the review! I'm good at math, too- but I too often put all my trust into patterns. I just got this book a couple of weeks ago and have been eye-balling that hex quilt to be a Christmas gift. The LAST thing I want to deal with in the Christmas rush is a pattern with mistakes.

    And lastly, I'm relatively new to your blog and I'm so glad you linked back to your quilt label tut. I'm SO going to start doing that. My dad owns a small printing company and I used to have him make me labels. They were personalized, but less *personal*. Your labels are just what I would love to sew in to a project. (Any problem with fading with the Microns?)

  8. As a math teacher I appreciate this! I'm so glad that you figured this out. :)

  9. Oh my word... as a maths flunkie I am in awe of your abilities... I would have probably just thrown the book at the wall!!! Love the quilt! Are you going to make one for your bub?

  10. I am a big fan of AMH's fabric and designs - but boy, does this make me mad!! I truly hate it when a published pattern, that you have paid good money for, is wrong, wrong, wrong! And sometimes the ordinary person, such as you and me, can see the problems straight away!! What is the writer, designer, tester, editor and publisher doing with themselves? - hopefully not just riding off the back of a successful name only! Can I suggest you contact the publisher/designer with a link to your post, so that they can work out how it should have been.

    Phew - ranting stopped now. Sorry about that :)

  11. Thank you! I want to make this quilt, but this pattern, I can see, would have caused me pain! I will use your method instead.

    I have made several other patterns from her book - the Quick Change Pants and the dress, and I thought they were better written than some other pattern books I've seen. But ... my experience is that these books are often not the best.

  12. Another math geek here who appreciates what you've gone through! Thanks for the tips, I thought I might try this pattern sometime and I'll definitely reference your tips if I do!

  13. the quilt looks great, thanks for the inspiration! claudia

  14. I pieced the top of this quilt per your method, and that worked great. But sadly I didn't plan the fabrics well - it's a little too scrappy, and it turns that using too many colors in a small place can create a cluttered pea soup effect. Who knew?

    End result: I don't like it. I folded it up and put it away, for now. Doh! I still feel that the pattern has potential - I just need to get more skilled at mingling colors and patterns.

  15. Arghh, that's frustrating! I like your solution for a more economic use of fabric, but doesn't it orient the fabrics from outer edge to the center rather than in a concentric, spiderweb pattern (so the finished quilt would look more like a pinwheel)? I'd think that the thing to do, knowing now that the fabric would have to be folded over about 18" instead of 15," would be to make the original rectangle 30" by 72" or maybe 74" for good measure.

    I made AMH's tote bag and thought the pattern was rather clever. It's too bad her more recent patterns don't seem to have the same eye for detail.

  16. Hello there Liz, I am glad to see (but also of course very sorry) in the end, despite the 15" typo in the book, that you were able to figure out how to make the quilt in a way that worked for you. That fold-over measurement is indeed incorrect as the true fold-over amount is roughly but not exactly 18" or so. What is really the most clear way to explain it is that you are simply taking that bottom point of the triangle (left from the first triangle being cut) and folding it over until you've gotten the top center point of the triangle into a fold- thereby using one side angle of the triangle to help you mirror and cut the other. In other words, there is really no need to even offer how many inches you foldover, but to just keep going until its effectively folded in half...if that makes sense... or honeslty even using the first triangle as a template would work too. I had originally explained it this way in the book- however my editors were constantly looking for areas of instruction to condense to squeeze out more space, because I had already overwritten. Their condensing in the end however is what helped to cause this mistake, bc they tried to attach a foldover measurement, etc. And they ended up wrong. If I had a choice you would have had true size templates to cut the triangles!

    There is a ton of scrap in this quilt, which is why I designed a second project in the book to make a coordinating pillow or two from these very scraps. Now I know that everyone wouldn't want to make the pillow, so its always a great idea (and I always suggest it) to read all the way through a project to understand how it comes together but also see how you might like to do it differently depending on your personal preferences. There are so many ways to do any one thing, and all of us come to a project with different experiences. My main focus in how I taught this pattern is to get across the notion of creating your own "patched fabric" to cut your triangles from. And because color/design balance is so important to my process, I chose to suggest that the reader do as I did, and create 3 entirely separate sections of fabric to cut the triangles from. This way the variety of piecing/colors/fabrics and where the strip seams end up is more random and varied and all the triangles look unique. Thats not to say that there aren't still other ways to do the same thing. That is sort of the beauty of quilting.
    (to be cont'd in next comment)

  17. (anna's comment part 2 :))

    With regard to not offering final yardage, I went back and forth about this, because the quilt DOES give you so much scrap the way that its taught. I decided I would feel horrible if someone didn't realize how much scrap was going to be leftover and only looked at the list of yardage and then went out and purchased new, full-priced materials only to be left with unused materials, making the one small quilt project so expensive. So letting the reader delve into the instructions to work it out, encourages them to notice how much leftover there is etc. I hope this makes sense. And I wish I could just teach a class on this, and discuss the many ways to do the quilt, going over pros and cons of each method, etc. Cramming all this info into one small amount of book space is a challenge.

    I'm writing to you not to make excuses but to let you know that the circumstances in the way these books get edited (at least at this publisher) make it very, very hard for me to see the very last final version before it goes to print. Some things got changed without my consultation bc they thought they were right. After I began the book (contract signed) I was told that I could only have 6 pattern pages instead of 10 (which my first book had though they were a tad smaller- and some even gotten skewed at the printer somehow as well-errgghh). Then I begged an pleaded for more space only to end up with just one more page, so I still had to overlap pattern lines causing the reader to trace (not horrible, but I wish they didn't have to). Later I was told with the cost of paper, etc. they had no longer had a budget to test the patterns. HA! (So they told the postpartum lady writer to be really careful!!! hahha-) Then the page count went down, but they still wanted 24 full projects. Am I complaining? Maybe. They are nice, but I don't think the format of how these craft books are getting put together sometimes is ideal. All this to say, that when there is a mistake, I am right there with you on frustration, because I tried as hard as a could to eliminate that from happening, but sometimes it was beyond my control. That's not to say I am not capable of making them myself, I am!

    Then there are reviews that claim there is a mistake, but they have just failed to read on a little further to see that there really isn't, etc. I try to reach out as often as I can when I see a problem and do something about it bc it is absolutely no fun to waste time, fabric, etc. And I also want as much as possible for everyone to enjoy the process of sewing without hitches.

    (to be cont'd in part 3)

  18. (anna's comment part 3!)

    In so many ways I think that it is really hard to effectively write a very technical sewing book, at least in the space that the publishers allowed me. That being said, if you even find 2 patterns in a book that are worth your while, for the price you've gotten what you would get in purchasing two individual patterns. So overall I think that there is a lot of value in this and several books out there. That being said, I much prefer to write my own individual patterns bc I can make them exactly what they need to be, with the appropriate amount of instruction and illustration, and if there is a mistake, I can quickly correct on a reprint.

    That is not an excuse for mistakes in patterns. While its hard to avoid a little errata, it has taken my publishers a crazy long period of time to put errata together (which is their obligation), but I finally have beat it out of them, so that the next printing should reflect any appropriate changes and my website will soon have them posted as well. Mostly I have just been helping people who approach me, but if they don't- I can't help. I've also posted a flickr group since the book was published for folks to share, discuss, point out typos if need be etc., so that is a good resource in the interim:

    Anyway, all this to say that I am sorry that this misprint has caused frustration. And to let you know that I am always happy to personally respond to anyone who needs help with this typo sitch, or even if there isn't a mistake and you just need support.

    Thanks for your posting, and for your honesty- it is greatly appreciated and please know I am always willing to make it right!

    My very best, and lots of love, Anna Maria

  19. Jessica H11:21 AM

    Can I just tell you how comforting it is to read your frustrations with this pattern?!?!?! I made this as my very first quilt for my first baby - what a mistake!!! My physicist husband was there by my side as my hormonal, pregnant, self was losing my mind. Thankfully, the quilt turned out in the end and although my perfectionist self doesn't love all the imperfections, quilting has taught me that a part of the beauty of something handmade is the mistakes. Since it was my first, there were a lot of problems, but those problems represent that stage of my creativity and skill so it's special in that way. I think that the same may apply to my parenting skills with my firstborn ;)