Early on in the spring of 2016, I needed a little project to keep my fingers busy while sitting backstage during shows and while riding the bus. Four years and 9,411 one-inch hexagons later…. I had designed, organized and made an EPP video game quilt – king size!
The process started with a Tumbling Blocks quilt I made years ago and remembering how much I enjoyed the repetitive work of English Paper Piecing. So, I wanted to do something with diamonds and/or hexagons. Somehow 8-Bit gaming came into my brain. Once that took hold, I thought of my brother, a huge old-school video game fan, and his wife, an avid hunter. Hunting game theme it is! I kept this project a secret for the four years I worked on it – I wanted to surprise him.
I also admire Pointillism and Impressionist painters, so I used a mixture of similar colored fabrics to give the final product more depth and interest.
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Coming from a technical theatre background, I used AutoCad to draft out the plans. Converting an 8-Bit square pattern into a hexagon pattern had unique challenges. But after using AutoCad and Excel, I had a good pattern to work from.
To keep track of how many of each color I needed and had made up to that point, I used an Excel spreadsheet. I used the mobile app and kept adding up each batch of colors ready to go. This seems super boring, but honestly, I don’t think it would have worked any other way.
Because everything about this project was custom, I used AutoCad to create sheets of hexagons to cut out…manually. The first wave took 3 months to cut out, as my husband refers to it, “confetti.”
Then I began wrapping and glue-basting the fabric to the paper pieces.
To aid in the organization, I used an expanded folder to sort the colors from each other so it would easily fit in my bag and lap for riding the bus and stashing about backstage quickly. Some of the colors had to move into a bin because there were so many of them.
Once I had all the hexies I needed, it was time to start sewing. This was about late July/early August 2017. Again, I used Excel for organization. I marked out the colors in the order needed for each column on a separate sheet and printed each column out on a separate business-sized envelope. Then, after thoroughly mixing up each color, I sorted the needed colors per column into the printed envelopes. As I stitched, I would poke through the envelope as I added each hexie to keep track of my process. After numbering each column, I numbered the top hexie in each column in pencil on the paper piece.
As my strings of columns completed, I folded them up and safety pinned them together.
Then I grouped 5 columns together on another safety pin. Once 5 column strings were complete, I stitched those together. As I completed groups of 5 columns, I stitched the groups together.
Finally, the main character, the dog who does the hunting in the game, takes shape!
The first phase was complete February 2018. But when I laid it out on a queen bed, it did not cover as much as I wanted it to. My brother is over 6 feet tall, so making sure the quilt was long enough was super important.
I went back to AutoCad to plan out shapes for the score-keeping part of the game. By this point, I also needed more paper pieces and more fabric.
Once I completed the main section of the top, I started working on other quilting projects simultaneously. It was good to have some variety in my studio. I added the black and grey border in February, 2019, as I prepped for a massive snowstorm – I knew I needed a stranded-at-home project.
When I tried to lay out and sandwich the layers in my living room, it did not work very well. I did not have quite enough room to keep a quilt this large squared up. And I have two border collies who thought they were in charge.
Late April, 2019, I was able to take my layers to work and use the wider lobby space to stretch over low-pile carpet, which worked really well. I will note that the sandwich is backing fabric, batting, flannel, and then the top. I wanted the flannel as a barrier between the batting and the top because I worried the whole hand pieced thing might leave small gaps in the corner intersections.
In September, 2019, my husband and I went on a beach vacation and I brought 2 suitcases. One contained just this quilt, and I started hand quilting. I made the crazy decision to hand quilt each individual hexagon. I used variegated colored threads that mostly matched the colors of the fabric.
Border collies like to supervise, so I had occasional help with quilting.
To quilt the border, I just extended the lines of the hexagons in light-to-dark greys thread, but in the corners I mimicked the direction button from the video game controller.
Quilting finished in August, 2020. Which was earlier than expected, but a pandemic and unemployment (remember, I said I work in theatre and the live event industry was knee-capped by Covid-19) did give me more time at home.
Once everything was done and washed, I took advantage of an empty stage at work to photograph this beast. I built a temporary Broadway style flat, stretched the quilt over it using short pins, and hung it on stage.
My kind boss helped focus some lights on it to get some really great shots.
Now the EPP video game quilt is complete and gifted to my brother.
Browse through more English Paper Piecing projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.
Want to learn more about how to sew your own EPP video game quilt? Check out the basics of English Paper Piecing EPP.