A few weeks ago, SJ got really sick. She spent the best part of a week in hospital, had major abdominal surgery, and was generally feeling extremely miserable and forlorn.
It was a difficult time for our little family, with our normally stable routine thrown entirely out the window. I was spending as much time as possible at the hospital, and feeling impossibly torn between wanting to be there for SJ and be at home with our son.
Luckily for us, our village came to the rescue. Both of our mothers were very present (which in the case of SJ’s mum meant flying over from the other side of the country), kind friends brought food, helped with grocery runs, and lent that all-important moral support. Feeling so loved and buoyed by our loved ones was the silver lining.
As ever, Arty’s oddparents, and our dear friend and ‘wifey’ Katie, went above and beyond. They were on call at all hours, making meals, babysitting, and helping me hold things together in the moments when I couldn’t manage it on my own.
They’re more than just our friends. They’re our chosen family.
When everything settled down again, and SJ was on the mend, I sat down with my needle and thread to make them a token of our gratitude. Something simple, that would show them how much they mean to us. This is what I came up with:
What you’ll need:
- Cotton thread (I use Gutermann cotton thread)
- Sewing needles (I use a size 11 straw needle for hand piecing, and a size 10 embroidery needle for embroidery)
- 19 paper hexagons (I buy mine pre-cut in bulk from Etsy, but you can print and cut your own at home. There are heaps of free downloadable ones online, such as these ones from Texas Freckle)
- 18 scraps of coordinated quilting fabric, each measuring no less than 2.5 x 2.5 inches.
- 1 piece of coordinating, unpatterned quilting fabric measuring no less than 2.5 x 2.5 inches.
- Embroidery floss in a colour that complements your fabric choice.
- A 6 inch embroidery hoop.
- A piece of iron-on pellon, measuring no less than 10 x 10 inches.
- An iron & ironing board
- Sharp scissors
- A water-erasable fabric pen
- A fabric glue pen
What to do:
1. Trim each piece of fabric to a rough hexagon shape. Each side should be a generous 1/4 inch wider than your paper hexagon template. 2. Fold each edge of the fabric over the paper template, and secure them with your fabric glue pen as you go. Repeat until all 19 hexagons are neatly enclosed in fabric. [I find this process much faster than the traditional method of tacking the fabric onto the template, and then unpicking. I also find that it holds the paper in place more securely, which means that I don’t have to handle the pieces are carefully while I sew the seams.]
3. Choose an arrangement for your hexagons. As you do, bear the following in mind:
- The outer hexagons will be cut off by the hoop, so if you have particular favourites, don’t place them at the edge.
- As it’s the focus of the design, think about where you want your embroidered text to be placed, and consider how you’ll arrange the other fabrics around it.
4. Once you have an arrangement you’re satisfied with, you can start piecing. Using your straw needle, and a fine whip stitch, make five vertical strips of hexagons. These will be made, from left to right, from 3, 4, 5, 4, and 3 pieces each. Now sew these together to make your completed hexagonal shape. 5. Turn your pieced hexagon over, and remove all the paper pieces. 6. Being sure to lay the seams as flat as possible, place your pieced hexagon right side up on top of the rough (adhesive) side of your pellon. Iron so that the pellon adheres to the back of the fabric. 7. Place your pieced hexagon, with the pellon now attached, into your embroidery hoop, positioning it carefully. Secure it firmly. 8. Using your erasable fabric pen, write the words “chosen family” (or your preferred text) on the plain hexagon. 9. Take two strands of embroidery floss, and your size 10 needle, and backstitch over your writing. When you’ve done so, dab gently with a damp cloth to remove the guide lines. 10. Without removing from the hoop, gently peel the pellon away from the overhanging edges of fabric. Trim the pellon to the edge of the hoop, but do not trim the fabric. 11. Your piece is now ready to be finished for hanging. There are a variety of ways to do this. I glued the overhanging fabric to the inside of the internal hoop, then nested a fabric-covered circle of card into the back for neatness. Detailed tutorials for alternative finishing methods can be found all over the place, including Floss and Mischief, and Wild Olive. I always think a handmade gift is a particularly apt way to thank someone who has given of themselves. It’s a way of giving back in kind.