Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Grandmother's Flower Garden Paper Piecing Tutorial

Hi everyone!! I had so many email requests for instructions on paper piecing a Grandmother's Flower Garden, I thought I would give a tutorial a try. I want to warn you though...I am not an expert on this. I have tried so many things along the way, these are the steps that work best for me. Please feel free to use all or as little as you'd like...I just hope this helps!! It may seem long, but it's hard not to list everything.

For me I like to read something fast, not big long instructions. So I think I might just bullet before each picture, so it's a quick read.

Paper Choices

Choose one paper type and stick with it through whole project. Different paper thickness will give different sized hexagons.

  • Freezer paper: found in grocery stores next to aluminum foil, $5-$6 for a huge roll. This is my paper choice and will be in the instructions. You can iron on fabric and use it over and over again. See warning below on the ironing part.
  • index cards

  • magazine pull out thingys that we all hate

  • old cards: Christmas/birthday/any holiday card

  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • stapler
  • staple remover: not necessary but easier if you use the staple method

Freezer Paper Method:

  • The picture below is a warning. Freezer paper has 2 sides: a dull side that will not hurt your iron and a shiny side that you will cry over if it hits your iron. SHINY SIDE DOWN on wrong side of fabric. I warned you. My job is done here.


  • choose your desired size and cut one out of a sturdy cardboard or plastic

Preparing Paper

  • cut a large piece of freezer paper about 18" long
  • fan fold it, making sure each fold is a little larger than your hexagon template
  • trace your hexagon template onto freezer paper, butt one straight edge next to the other...makes for easy cutting later.
  • once you have traced them all on the length of paper, staple down each side on the INSIDE of each hexagon. This is to ensure the papers do not move when it's time to cut them apart.

Hole punch
  • punch hole in the cut hexagons: this step is optional, but I do it for 2 reasons
  • 1: you can place a small pin inside the hole through the fabric to keep the paper from moving
  • 2: you can use a little wooden skewer in the hole at the end of the project to pop out the papers. see 2nd picture below this text.
  • you really don't need to pin if you are using the papers for the first few times, because they really stick well when you iron them on. The pin is good for older papers or if you are using other forms of paper.

Staple Removal
  • remove staples
  • separate papers

Ready for Fabric

  • place freezer paper hexagons SHINY SIDE DOWN on the wrong side of fabric, either on a strip of fabric or a square of fabric. Make sure the fabric is 1/4" larger on all sides
  • iron with a hot iron just for a couple seconds: it doesn't take long to adhere.
  • paper can be used (ironed) over and over again


  • at this point you can cut out each hexagon exactly or leave it as a square as seen below.
  • if you leave it as a square there is less cutting, you can use squares you already have and no one sees the wrong side anyway.
  • However, there may be some of that extra fabric in the way if you were to hand quilt it a 1/4" from the edge.

Hand Sewing

  • fold over first edge of fabric over paper (picture 1)
  • still holding onto to first edge, fold over second edge. (picture 2)
  • with needle and knotted thread take a small stitch just at the intersection of the overlapped corner. (picture 3)
  • proceed to next corner, fold over edge and take another stitch. Still again, do not go through to the other side. (picture 4)
  • when you have finished sewing all side it should look like picture 5 if you have trimmed the fabric and picture 6 if you left it as a square.
  • the last picture 7 shows the right side of the fabric hexagon. See, no stitches on the front and nothing to pull out when you are done. The stitches that you put in on the other side stay in. NO PULLING OUT THREADS... WOOHOO!!!!

picture 1

picture 2

picture 3

picture 4

picture 5

picture 6

picture 7
See no threads to remove on the right side of fabric!!!
one less step

Making the Flower
  • take 2 hexagons ( I start with the center and one flower petal) and with right sides together whip stitch across one side. I use tiny stitches, just taking a little of the fabric, being careful not to go through the paper.
  • once the side is stitched, do not cut the thread. Open the 2 hexagons place another piece and begin stitching another side.


Here are a few pictures of some small flowers that I've made which will be sewn into pincushions. You can make your flowers larger, with more rows and follow the traditional Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern or you can applique a flower onto a quilt or fabric to make a pillow or a framed picture.

These next 2 pictures are the front and back of a flower that has already been sewn together. Just needs to be stuffed and whipped stitched closed.

This last picture is of a tiny one. Can you see all the threads on the wrong side that are just left there and don't have to be removed!

Well, I hope that wasn't too confusing. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. This was my first tutorial so go easy on me!! lol

Have a great day!!


  1. What a wonderful tutorial! Thanks heaps.
    Would you mind if I link this to our Hex site?
    Robyn xx

  2. Thanks so much...I was wondering, though...are you stapling two layers of freezer paper together?

  3. I can't believe I've done over 2000hexagons THE HARD WAY! This tutorial was WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL! Did I mention WONDERFUL? I still more than half of my pathway hexagons to do and believe me, I'll be doing them your way. And to think, I have to remove the basting stitches after I'm done...sigh. Guess what I'm going to be dreaming about tonight? Thanks a million for all your WONDERFUL hints.

  4. thank you! this is a great tutorial!

  5. Hi Karen! Great tutorila! I never thought to use freezer paper?! Might have to try that one when I run out of my other templates!
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Your is a great tutorial! I hope many people will start working with hexagons, it might look like a lot of work, but once one gets started, it "flourishes"!!!

  7. Karen, thank you for putting this tutorial together! It's a good one and helps newbie quilters like me to do a better job!

  8. Wonderful tutorial -- very clear!
    Question -- when do you take out the paper? Since I use plastic, it is hard for me to envision how the freezer paper is going to work.
    Is it as stable as, say, card stock. An excellent use for old Christmas cards!! My plastic is very stable and I don't remove the plastic from a row until I get the next row attached.

  9. Great Tutorial,
    Thanks Karen, I shall try it this way next time..
    Julia ♥

  10. Ran across your blog today, I think Jane may have led me to you (janesquiltsandfabrics)

    LOVE this tute, I am going to attempt to make my first hexagons!


  11. I just hate throwing away things like old Christmas cards. Now I'm using them to make my Hexi's -- what a great idea!

  12. This tutorial looks really great! I've been putting off starting my gfg quilt, being a little overwhelmed at the thought of it. This makes it look easy. Thanks!

  13. Wonderful method I so enjoyed making my contribution.Well done you made them a pleasure to do ,I found it quite addictive.
    Juliet R

  14. You missed the easiest way of all. Take a look at Linda Franz website at her InkLingo invention. No affiliation :) You print your sewing lines on the fabric, cut them apart and sew. No fillers, no basting...easy to machine or hand piece!
    Great blog, thanks for all the sharing! Sharyn/KalamaQuilts

  15. I've just discovered your blog and I'm loving it! Wanted to share one piece of information with you - I recently purchased a paper punch (used for scrapbooking) that is a hexagon - they come in several sizes. It works PERFECTLY for cutting out the papers for a GFG quilt - no scissors involved! A great time saver! And perfectly accurate!

  16. Wonderful tutorial, many thanks, I can start & try the easy way. I just find your blog and already love it. Kiss from France

  17. Just a couple questions,
    1. Do you use only one piece of freezer paper or do you layer it to make it a bit thicker, my thinking, easier to fold the fabric over. I use 2 layers for applique and..
    2. Is that a tiny whip stitch you are sewing over each fold?

  18. i am currently working on my first gfg..
    i wish i had found this before!
    great tutorial really,And you have got a wonderful site here!i love it!
    and your motto of making do with what you have!:-)

  19. es el primer tutorial que leo que realmente entiendo. Ojala hubiera encontrado tu blog unos dias antes! Muy didactico! Saludos

  20. Thanks so much for sharing this! I am starting a Hexagon quilt using precut papers, this really helps!
    From Sarah in Australia.

  21. A great tutorial! You might want to tell the readers that you don't stitch between the corners, you just draw your thread to the next corner as you're tacking them down.
    I loved your method of cutting the hexes with stacked freezer paper.
    Hugz, Verona


  23. Thank you! Jodi from 'This and That' just gave me this link because I was basting through the paper... This is going to be a time and paper saver! ;)

  24. This was an exellent tutorial with new ideas to me! Thank you!

    Ann-Christin in Sweden

  25. I will be posting a link back to your site on Monday, as I used your tutorial to start me off on my hexagons.

    Gill in Canada

  26. Wow, what an eye opener that was. Great Tutorial and a wonderful idea doing them in strips. Thank You

  27. great tutorial. I want to duplicate a Grandmother's Garden quilt like the one my Great grandmother made and my sister has now. YOur concise instructions really helped me. I loved the tip on cutting out the hexs.

  28. Wonderful tutorial. It's great to have people around with such a good ideas (usind the f. paper and doind the holes) Thanks.

  29. I would have liked to have seen in what order you sew the different seams. Right now I am sewing the six petals onto the center hexagon all in one go. And then I sew the sides of the petals to each other one at a time. But I can't help wondering if there is another way where you don't have to keep stopping and knotting the thread when sewing the sides of the petals.


  30. I am amazed, that was fabulous. I am yet to start another and this is so easy looking now... might have to start one soon...
    Hugs Dawn x x x

  31. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I kept putting off making a GFG quilt because it looked like such a big effort but you made it so simple. Especially cutting out the freezer paper. I did 26 flowers in 1 week!! I never thought I could achieve that. I'm about to put a link back to this page.

  32. Wonderful tutorial - easy to follow and great photos!! I'd like to link it from my blog if you don't mind :o)

  33. We sometimes battle to get freezer paper around here. We use the wrapper that comes around normal printing paper. It is shiny on the one side and a bit thicker than freezer paper. Irons on beautifully. I prepare one sheet of printed hexagons and staple that onto the folded wrapper paper. It cuts a lot more accurate than drawn ones.
    Excellent tutorial - thanks!


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