Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More Template Tips for Borders!

Last Tuesday, I shared how I used some Marti Michell templates to create a border of scrappy squares set on point.  Since the border went together so well, it got me thinking about all the size options available with Marti's other template sets.  This little charity quilt was laying on my cutting table waiting for the borders and was a perfect opportunity to experiment with that idea.
 
 
I pulled out all the basic sets -- A, B, Q, N, and T -- and between them, I discovered I can make ten different sizes of the same border design using squares from 1" up to 5".  If you'd like the chart I created for easy reference in the future, click HERE for a PDF to print out.  (If that link doesn't work, send me an e-mail, maryhueyquilts@hotmail.com, and I send it to you!)
 
I hesitate to share my math with you -- I can see your eyes glazing over already, but here goes.  I measured the length and the width of the top (several times to be certain) and then began the search for a "common denominator".  I don't know if that's what they still call it, but it's the number that would divide into the length and the width evenly.  That number is used to determine how many squares set on point I needed.  The first number was 7 -- too big.  So I took half of that and got 3 1/2 -- still a bit big.  One more time and 1 3/4 was my final choice. 
 
So what is 1 3/4?  It's the diagonal (corner to corner) measurement of the square that would fit around my piece evenly and turn the corners nicely.  The square template closest to that measurement was #5 in Set A and it has a half-square, #6, and a quarter-square, #7, to match it for cutting all the pieces needed for the border units. 
I reversed the grainline on #6 and #7 to cut the triangles.  To keep straight grain on the outside edge of the pieced border, I laid the long diagonal side of #6 on the edge of my strip and the short legs of #7 on the edge of the strip.  Once everything was cut, it was time to stitch. 
I lost my focus at one point and reversed several of the black triangles.  No matter which way I turned them, they would not work -- thank goodness, they were short seams. 
  No matter what size one is making, you will always need eight squares for the corner units, eight half-square triangles, and sixteen quarter square triangles, so I set all of those aside to prevent more "unsewing".
Since I was using only four fabrics for the squares, I decided to repeat them in the same order -- that slowed me down.  A scrappy approach would have eliminated that step.  Once the diagonal units were pieced, I assembled one border strip at a time making the corner units as I needed them so I could lay them out correctly.
Time to audition for a spacer border -- I liked the yellow best.  The two spacer borders enabled me to fit the pieced borders (almost) perfectly.  My draft plan required 1" finished for the yellow but I cut them 2" just in case -- very good idea, because the actual quilt needed 1 1/4" finished yellow strips.
I squared up the quilt top as I added the first yellow borders strips.  Then I left my studio for a bit and came back -- my head needed to be clear as I trimmed the quilt top so the borders would fit exactly. 
When I came back, I measured three times and cut once -- right on the money!!  Yea!!!  The short borders went on first and then the long borders.  Then more narrow yellow borders and the last 1/3 yard of the black dot print was divided equally into enough strips to make the outer borders.
TA-DA!!!  Here it is next to the piece I did last week to show you the difference in scale.
If you live in Northeast Ohio, this weekend, (Friday 2/28 through Sunday 3/2) during the Vendor Days at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show, I'll be presenting a FREE 30 minute talk about this and other ways to apply Marti Michell's templates Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 in the theatre. 
 
And I'll have both of these pieces with me for you to see in person.  My booth is down past the diary demonstration area and I'll have all Marti's templates plus my DVD workshop, Set-In Piecing Simplified, for your shopping pleasure!!
 
Linking up to Freshly Pieced again today -- love all the links there though it might give me too many ideas!?!
 
 
Mary Huey
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Look what they did!

I'm unpacking this morning from the NEORQC Getaway Weekend where I taught a tumbling blocks workshop using some of Marti Michell's 60 degree diamond tools and featuring the techniques from my workshop DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified.   The fifteen students cut up lots of diamonds and dove in with enthusiasm! 
 
 
By the end of Saturday morning, tumbling blocks were beginning to appear on the walls!

 
Some worked in a large scale (4") diamond and inserted large hexagons of beautiful prints!

 
These two friends arrived with the same color palette unbeknownst to one another until they pulled their fabric out to cut.

 
The piece on the left grew into a lap robe and was almost completely set together by Sunday noon.  The one on the right began as all purples but gradually expanded to include greens and then yellows.

 
I love this picture of the darks in different positions -- interesting how that little turn can change the look of this appealing design.

 
And that group of purple and green blocks on the right in the photo above morphed into this delightful mixture in the photo below.  Scrappy quilts have to start somewhere so I push my students to stitch up something and get it on the work wall so they have something visual to engage their brains!

 
Even a simple assortment of blocks will begin to set one's mind to work imagining the possibilities.

 
Is there a color that's missing from this assortment of fabric -- I don't think so and yet it looks very cohesive because the style of the prints holds it together.

 
And doesn't this color combination just make you smile?  Such a cheerful quilt based on the colors of a beautiful print that will shine through and lift the heart of the lucky person who gets this quilt.

 
I'll be teaching the techniques featured in Set-In Piecing Simplified during the annual NQA Quilt Show in Columbus, Ohio (May 23 - 25, 2014).  I'll be teaching a Scrappy Tumbling Blocks on Friday evening.  On Saturday, I'm offering an all day workshop focused on Six-Pointed Stars.   On Sunday morning, the workshop is Scrappy 8-Pointed Stars.  Use the links to read the class descriptions and register for one of the three so that you, too can learn to enjoy set-in piecing!!
 
Get your week off to a good start and do some stitching!!
 
Mary Huey
 
 
 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Diamond Star Playtime Sew-Along -- choosing templates -- Part II

This is a review of Marti Michell's multi-size tools that can be used for cutting and marking pieces during the Diamond Star Playtime Sew-Along. 

Marti introduced the 60 Degree Diamond multi-sized template as part of her One-derful One-Patch template line.  It includes sizes from 2" through 4 1/2" in 1/2" increments plus a bonus size of 2 1/4".  With the tool you can cut 60 degree diamonds and matching equilateral triangles.  It comes with a 24 page booklet of detailed cutting instructions and basic piecing guidelines.
The advantage of working with this tool over one of the template sets is that you can create very LARGE scale stars.  A six-pointed star made with 3 1/2" diamonds will measure 13" flat side to flat side and 14" point to point.  The 4" diamond will make a star that is 14 3/4" flat side to flat side and 16" point to point.  The largest size diamond is 4 1/2" and the stars made with it will be 15 1/2" flat side to flat side and 18" point to point.
The disadvantage of using this tool for a sampler of blocks such as we'll be doing during the Sew-Along is that you won't have the diversity of shapes in pre-made templates.  Being able to cut matching equilateral triangles (half a 60 degree diamond) will give you some flexibility but you won't have the built-in variations of the long skinny half diamonds or the cone-head.
Marti’s Favorite Hexagon Ruler is a useful companion tool that features six sizes of hexagons in ½” increments beginning with 2” up through 4½” -- the same size range as the 60 Degree Diamond template.  Those measurements represent the length of each side finished. 

Basic instructions are included with each tool that include a step by step illustrated explanation of how to cut with the tool and the finished measurements of each size hexagon (point to point and flat side to flat side).   The cute little pink gizmo that keeps it attached can be easily undone and redone to keep this card with the tool, so if you buy one, don’t cut the pink gizmo!!
It is also a useful companion tool with Sets G and H -- I used the hexagon tool with Set G because it enabled me to cut the large filler hexagons accurately that I used in several places in Pieceful Constellations.  Below are the six sizes (2" through 4 1/2" in 1/2" increments) of hexagons, 60 degree diamonds, and equilateral triangles that can be cut with these two tools.  The hexagons are laying on a 9 1/2" square ruler. 
This Sew-Along is based on my workshop to introduce quilters to these templates but I know some are reluctant to try templates.  I understand that position because I was hesitant in the beginning myself.  But I’m like a reformed smoker these days – I love the results that I get using them.  And I want everyone to try them, too.

If you just can’t make that step, there is one more tool – the Deluxe Corner Trimmer.  It’s a queer looking tool but you never cut all the way around it.  It is used to trim off corners of a variety of geometric shapes in addition to providing a series of holes for marking corners and stitching lines that are a perfect ¼”.  A 12 page booklet is included which reviews all the uses for the tool. 

Trimming corners before stitching eliminates bulk (which we often go back and trim out); saves you from the frustration of having fabric points sucked down into the zigzag needle hole of your machine’s throat plate; and simplifies the matching process.  For this Sew Along, trimming off the sharp points of the 60 degree diamonds means they will align accurately and quickly with the flatter (120 degree) corners of those same shapes. 
Transferring stop and start dots is the key to set-in piecing and this tool allows to you do that with any size diamond or hexagon.  So if you prefer to cut diamonds with a rotary ruler, you can still incorporate the advantages of the trimming and the ease of marking the necessary dots by using this tool.

In conclusion, I enjoy the flexibility and accuracy of working with Set G or Set H since there is a variety of related shapes with no calculations needed to cut the right sizes.   Eliminating those frustrations or challenges (depending on your viewpoint) gives you the energy to focus on playing with the fabric and the shapes.   Those are the aspects of this group of shapes that attracts me to them and helps me maintain momentum and interest in the project.  My cutting is more consistent with templates and that is the first step to accurate piecing. 

So what do you think?  Are you going to give this a try?   Leave me a comment below and let me know where you stand!
During the course of the Sew-Along, we make basic 6-pointed stars and then explore variations through fabric placement and breaking the basic diamond down into related shapes.  You'll be encouraged to make at least one of each design idea but I hope you'll want to make more of each one.  We'll explore setting options and filler blocks.  You decide how small or large your version will be and I'll share quilting ideas to help you finish this piece. 
The possibilities that will open up to you by joining in this Sew-Along will be exciting and you will no longer be intimidated by set-in piecing!  Think about that this week, decide which templates you'll use and search your stash for a starter fabric -- something exciting and wonderful.  Next week I'll share fabric guidelines so you'll have a week to organize a pile before the Sew-Along begins.

 
Mary Huey


All material Copyrighted by Mary Huey Quilts!
 
While I don't have an on-line shop that sells the templates, I do stock all of them for my workshops.  So if you are having trouble finding them, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at maryhueyquilts@hotmail.com and I'm happy to sell them to you directly.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Advice on turning distractions into progress!

Last week, while making these samples to illustrate template comparisons, I decided hiding some of these stars in amongst the pile of tumbling blocks units that I've accumulated while demonstrating Set-in Piecing Simplified would be a "clever" idea.
So I put some up on the work wall just to take a quick look?!?  And I rotated the tumbling blocks so that the dark diamond will be on the top for a different look than my original sample quilt.  I like it!!  And so I left it there for a few days to "just" enjoy?
Big mistake!!  Yesterday while I was suppose to be packing and organizing my teaching samples for this weekend's workshop during the annual NEORQC Getaway Weekend, look what happened!?!
Oops, it's almost a quilt top.  Wait, wait!  If I stop here, it will provide an excellent visual of how to add in the units along the edges to make them straight.  See I wasn't puttering, I was organizing a really terrific teaching sample!! 
 
Here's the original sample!  It is currently recruiting students at The Sew'n Place in Chambersburg, PA where I'll be teaching Set-in Piecing Simplified during a Scrappy Tumbling Blocks Workshop on March 28 and again on April 25, 2014.
 
Now I really need to go pack and organize!  But first I'm going to link up over at Freshly Pieced and then maybe just have a look around at some of the interesting (and diverting) links for today!
 
Have a good day!
 
Mary Huey
 
 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Template Tips for a Scrappy Border

I'm currently enjoying Faeries and Fibres Soupcon QAL.  Step 4 was published on 2/14 and Karen's explanation of how to piece the border is very thorough.  But I'm a template devotee these days so headed straight to my worktable to ferret out the right templates. 
Karen's instructions called for cutting 1 1/2" squares so I needed to find a 1" finished template.  It's part of Marti Michell's Set N and there are also has two triangles that work with it.  Just what I needed to cut my pieces. 
 
Now you are saying, why does she need a template to cut 1 1/2" squares?  I know that because that was what I would have said 10 years ago.  My cutting is more consistent with a template than a rotary ruler -- there is less variation in the pieces.  It might take a bit longer to cut my pieces but that is negligible given the excellent results of my finished work. 
By using the two triangles -- the half-square is the upper one and the quarter square is the lower one, I was also able to avoid having the bias on the outside edges of the pieced borders.  When using the half-square triangle, I set the "bias" edge of the template on the straight grain edge of my strip to cut triangles with straight grain on the diagonal edges.   I cut the number of background half-square triangles that Karen specified for the background squares -- had a few left over -- and sixteen quarter-square triangles for the ends of each border section.
The piecing went quickly and as I assembled the four border strips, I got to thinking about the other sizes of the same border layout I could make with Marti's Set A or Set B or Set Q or Set S or Set T.  And some of the sets have a couple square/triangles groups, so that's quite a few size options.  There will be some math to do, but it's definitely going to be added to my "idea arsenal"!  The measure to use will be the diagonal of the border squares since the squares are set "on-point" and using a plain border on each side will make it easier to manage the sizing.
Here they are, coming off the machine and I'm setting together some tumbling block units as an "ender" -- the beauty of Set-In Piecing Simplified is that it is based on chain piecing!!  Love having something else "growing" so effortlessly!
Since I used a dozen or so different prints for the border squares, I laid them out before stitching the units together so the prints would be spread around. 

When the stitching was done, I trimmed my center block to size and added the first narrow borders which I cut 1/4" wider (and on the vertical/lengthwise grain for stability) than Karen specified (just in case).  My pieced borders were about 1/8" short, so I trimmed the piece again before I added the pieced borders so they would be a perfect fit.  Since I cut the outer narrow border 1/4" wider, I'll still be able to trim what I've done so far to her specifications (17" square) when Step 5 is published (really looking forward to that)!!

Take another look at the first photo -- those corners are dead-on!!   I'm very pleased with how clean the piece looks so far.  And I'm using a "sacred stack" -- fabrics that I piled up because they look so good together.  I hope I'll be able to work in more of that big floral!!

I hope you can make time to stitch today!

Mary Huey
www.maryhueyquilts.com

 
 

 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sunday is for puttering!!

Since I taught all day Saturday at Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show, I decided to putter aimlessly on Sunday . . .  and I think I did a great job -- of puttering, that is!?!  After church, my daughter and I headed "in-town" to the Cleveland Botanical Garden to check out the annual Orchid Show.  It was lovely -- my eyes loved taking in all the color!
 
Once home, I headed for my studio and pieced the borders for my Soupcon QAL over at Faeries and Fibres.  Tomorrow, I'll share how I used some of my Marti Michell templates to cut these border pieces.  It went together perfectly and I was happily surprised to have it all done before Downton Abbey began.  The only disappointment is that now I have to wait two weeks for the next step of this delightful little piece.
 
 
Do you chain-piece?  Do you chain-piece all the time?  I do!  And I've converted to using bits from other projects as my sew-offs (leaders and enders).  When I teach "set-in piecing simplified", I demonstrate the technique by making tumbling block units.  They are piling up and while that is good, they are the same size as the ones in my original teaching sample (here).  Last week, while organizing my samples for my template tours in preparation for the Diamond Star Playtime Sew-along, I grabbed three of them to make a 6-pointed star (fast) using one of the templates and darn it, an idea popped into my head for a slightly different sample.  I did not allow myself to be diverted by it (at that moment), but since Sunday was for puttering, I started setting some of my units together as my "sew-offs" while I pieced the borders for the piece above. 
 
And this is how far I got.  See the star in the upper left corner?

 
There is a quilt layered, patiently waiting for me each evening to pick up for hand work in the living room, but all this work I've been doing with hexagons and such reminded me about a ring of scrappy hexies I set together to illustrate Brigitte Giblin's beautiful work during my Hexagon Seminars.  It's been basted to this large toile-style panel for over a year.  I stopped because I couldn't bring myself to cut away the fabric outside the ring.  Something I saw on Pinterest in the past month gave me an idea for a "hexie border" that would preserve more of the panel.  It's more interesting than hand quilting and so I've been puttering with it for the past few evenings -- I have a draft layout from EQ5, a pile of greens, and some paper hexies -- decisions are being made slowly and I'm completely distracted from the hand quilting project. 

 
I've worked this way for years, jumping around from one thing to another, inserting the deadlines as needed.  Once in a while, I power through an entire quilt, but I always return to the puttering work flow.  Apparently there is some innate piece of me that enjoys distractions?
 
Don't forget!  Tomorrow, I'll share some Template Tips for the border I made for the quilt in the photo at the top of this post!
 
Mary Huey
 
 
 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Diamond Star Playtime Sew-Along -- choosing templates -- Part I

I have worked as a certified educator for Marti Michell's rotary cutting product line since 2006 and my favorite templates require set-in (or y-seam) piecing.  Many quilters avoid those like the plague but after a clever student shared her technique of chain piecing through them I began to include it in my workshops.  Students everywhere have been so impressed with this idea that I produced a DVD workshop, Set-in Piecing Simplified, to make it available to more quilters.  
 
In this post and the following one, I will introduce you to Marti's templates so you can decide which ones to use for a Diamond Star Play Sampler of your own!

I'm going to show you three sets of templates today -- each covers two size ranges, so there are several choices for the sizes of the stars.  In the following post, I'll review several multi-sized tools that will also work.

One of the features I appreciate about these templates is the method Marti has chosen to size them.  She identifies them by the FINISHED measurement of an outside edge of the shape.  In most cases, that number is the measurement of all the outside edges of each shape.  This makes it easier to see how a set of shapes relate to one another. 

Set G was the first hexagon based set and it includes 9 templates.  (This is the set that Kerry Dear of Candied Hexagon fame used.)  Four of the templates work together to make hexagon based designs that are 2" finished on the outer edges of the shape.  The other five templates work together for 1" finished edges.  The shapes include a hexagon, a half hexagon, a 60 degree diamond and an equilateral triangle.  The 1" group also includes what I call the "cone-head". 
Here are the 3 basic motifs in each size range for Set G.  This is the set I used for Pieceful Constellations -- I worked with the 2" templates and the finished star blocks measure 6 3/4" from flat side to flat side and 7 3/4" from point to point.  (The hot pink star in the lower right corner is this size.)   Using the 1" template would give a star (the red one) about half of that size.  As we explore the design options, you'll be able to use the 1" templates to add detail to the 2" units.  For example, four 1" diamonds make a 2" diamond.
Set H is the second hexagon based set and at first glance it doesn't look like there are as many templates.  There aren't as many pieces, but there are the same number of shapes as several of the shapes share a template.  The size ranges for this set are 3" finished and 1 1/2" finished.  Template 52, the larger 60 degree diamond template has extra lines which allow you to cut 5 more shapes -- a hexagon and half hexagon, a conehead, an equilateral triangle, and a long skinny half-diamond.
 
Here are the same units stitched out using Set H.  The 3" templates were used for the lower three and the 1 1/2" ones for the upper row.  I used the 3" templates from this set for my Diamond Star Playtime Sampler.   Stars made with the 2" template measure 10" from flat side to flat side and 11 3/4" from point to point.   Using the 1 1/2" template would give a star about half of that size.  And again you can use templates from the smaller range in the set to create sub-units that will fit into the larger sub-units.  And we'll explore this as we move through the sew-along.
Both Sets G and H include clear instructions for cutting and piecing with the templates in addition to a starter set of design ideas.  In addition, Marti has written Six is For Hexagons, a book full of ideas and patterns to help us get the most out of our templates. 
 
There is one more set which can be used and many of my students already own this one.  It's the
 2 1/2" Stripper Set.  These templates were designed to fit onto pre-cut 2 1/2" strips (i.e. - jelly rolls).  Two of the three templates are 60 degree shapes and can be used to cut a diamond , a hexagon, two sizes of equilateral triangles, and a cone-head.
You can construct the same three basic units with this set and a finished side is a bit less than 2 1/4".  The six-pointed star will finish at 7 3/4" flat side to flat side and 9 1/4" point to point.
I've given you a lot to think about -- but just let it roll around in your head for now.  No need to make a decision today.  You might want to start looking through your stash for an interesting focus print that you would enjoy using as the starting point for the fabric pull.
 
  I suggest you revisit these two posts -- http://maryhueyquilts.blogspot.com/2014/02/lets-have-sew-along.html#.Uv5LoKYo4dU and http://maryhueyquilts.blogspot.com/2014/01/set-in-piecing-simplified.html#.Uv5MeqYo4dU  -- to look again at my finished quilts and read again about the DVD workshop.  The sew-along will be more enjoyable for you if you invest in it.  As always, if you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact me via the comments below or via e-mail to maryhueyquilts@hotmail.com
 
Now while pulling all my samples together for this post yesterday, I stumbled onto a great idea for an overwhelming stack of tumbling blocks that keeps growing as I demo the set-in piecing technique in workshops and at shows!  But I wouldn't allow myself to be distracted by it until I finished writing today's post! 
 
I'm done here and I'm off to my work wall!!
 
Mary Huey
 
All material Copyrighted by Mary Huey Quilts!
While I don't have an on-line shop that sells the templates, I do stock all of them for my workshops.  So if you are having trouble finding them, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at maryhueyquilts@hotmail.com and I'm happy to sell them to you directly.
 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Today's piecing!

It's Wednesday -- the day I get together with a group of quilting friends to piece charity quilts that we donate to a couple of causes annually.  My equipment is ready to load into the car.

 
A boxful of 2 1/2" strips is cut and pressed and ready to stitch!
And best of all, the sun is shining and since the squirrels are taking sunbaths on the top fence rail, I'm pretty sure the temperature is over 15 degrees!!

Usually we gather at the local Senior Center that kindly lets us use a room for our bi-weekly sew-in.  Today though we are headed for the skilled nursing unit of a local retirement community.  My mother lived in that community for 10 years, the last year of which was unfortunately in the nursing unit.  She taught me to sew and encouraged my career as a quilt maker.  The gals my group knew her well from working with her in my shop and she often joined us -- she was a tireless worked!  So we started to visit the skilled nursing unit with our sewing machines and a pile of fabric every other month to give the residents a chance to "sew" again.

After several attempts to find a quilt pattern that was easy to work on with their help, we finally settled on Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Bargello.  And what a roaring success it has been!  We arrive with sewing machines and a pile of 2 1/2" by 18" strips and set up a pressing station.  When the residents join us, they sit across the tables from us and choose pairs of strips for us to sew together.  The great thing about this pattern is that the results are always a cheerful surprise -- all this unwanted fabric we are given becomes part of wonderful quilts.

This is one of the tops that came out of a previous session.  It was a bit skinny with just 3 panels and we didn't have a 4th panel at the time, so we set it together with bands of a large scale multi-color print and I think it looks great!  (It's twin size, more or less).
Working with the women has added a new dimension to our "charity" project.  Not only are we creating quilts to warm someone physically and emotionally, but we are also providing a group of women at the end of their lives with an opportunity to connect with their memories.
 
Jean managed a sewing factory for many years and she loves the feel of fabric in her hands.  She coos over every strip she picks up and recalls the sewing she has done over the years. 
June was a well-known local artist and I babysat for her as a teenager and today she recognizes no one.  But as she selects strips from the piles, she talks with herself about "contrast" and color combinations just as any artist would. 
Ruth's focus was to get as much done as possible and the speed with which she picked out pairs of strips for us to stitch was so fast, it took two of us to keep up with her.
Sue usually sits close to me while I man the ironing station.  Once I've pressed the seams, she organizes them into groups that we'll sew into the finished strips sets. 
There is lots conversation back and forth about what we will do with the strips -- "make quilts" -- and where the quilts will go -- "we donate them". 
We all leave exhausted but feeling good about spending the afternoon sharing our enjoyment of piecing with these women who have had to give up so much. 
 
When we return in a couple months, we take the quilts back to show them what they helped us accomplish.  This ministry of ours has been blessed by this opportunity.  If you have interested in trying something like this in your community, I would be happy to share what we have found works best.  You can e-mail me at maryhueyquilts@hotmail.com
 
Time to pack the car!!  But when I get home, I'll be heading over the to the WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced -- it's so much fun to see what other quilters are doing especially when I'm feeling a bit snow/cold bound!!
 
Mary Huey
 

 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

No binding edge finish for "too many corners"!

Not a very catchy title for a quick tutorial, but it says what it's about.
 
During my annual January retreat with a loyal group of students, I finished this table topper which I use in my Hexagon Seminar.  Several of the gals asked me to post my method, so here it is.
 

The crazy string pieced hexagons are BIG -- I pieced them onto some "ugly" fabric and then used Marti Michell's Hexagon Ruler to trim them to size (the biggest -- 4 1/2" on each side). 
Once I set them into a "grandmother's flower garden" motif, it sat unfinished for a year while I contemplated how to back it and not have to bind it.  In the end, I opted for an adaptation of a pillow-back. 
 
To begin, I cut a piece of fabric larger than the topper.  I sliced it in half and then seamed it back together as you can see.  This technique is from back in the days of inserting zippers in garments.  I used a regular length stitch about 25% of the way down the seam, backstitched, and then lengthened the stitch out to my longest basting stitch for about 10", then back to a normal stitch starting with a backstitch and continuing to the end.  The seam is pressed open.
The topper was centered on the backing, right sides facing and I stitched around the entire piece.  I don't put batting into table toppers and placemats -- I prefer a flatter piece (so the wine glasses don't tip over so easily).  This piece was pretty thick already but when I feel I need an interlining to add body to a table piece, I use flannel which I've washed and dried a couple times.
It's easy to trim around the shape with scissors.  I clipped each inside corner and trimmed the outside corners to reduce the bulk.
The next step is to remove the basting stitches in the center part of the backing seam and turn it right side out.
 
 
Be sure to gently push all the corners out for a crisp finish but not with the ripper.  Yes, it's handy but the point will poke through the corner and you'll be cross. 
Because the seam of the backing was pressed open, there is no struggle to get the edges of the opening turned under smoothly.  It's a simple matter to hand stitch the opening closed.   I would rather do this than use an opening in the outer edge seam.
I secured the edges using the triple-straight stitch on my machine which gives a heavy line of stitching that is attractive.  (You can see it along the left side on the first photo.)  On this piece, I also stitched "in the ditch" around the center hexagon to make sure the layers don't shift if I need to launder it in the future.
All finished and once again I've proven that it usually takes longer to begin than it did to finish.  I should make another one?!?
 
I hope you can use this technique to finish one of your UFO's this week!
 
Mary Huey