Bright, Bold original quilt patterns and designs for English Paper Piecing (EPP) and appliqué

How to make a Festive Christmas Hexie Vortex EPP Placemat

For many of us, Christmas Day 2020 is going to be unlike any other we have experienced before. 

Usually, for our family, the day is shared with at least a dozen of our nearest and dearest and for the first time in 20 years, we are going to be spending it alone - just the 4 of us.

I want to try to make our "first" Christmas Dinner alone together special, so I have been thinking about making some nice big placemats for us to use this year, as we will have the whole dining table to ourselves instead of trying to squeeze 12 people around it!

I already had a MEDIUM sized Vortex block made up using green metallic fabrics as I have been thinking about Christmas projects and wanted to see if it could look like a wreath design.  But, instead of making it up into yet another pillow (as I usually do), I thought this block could be perfect on a placemat instead!

Here’s what I came up with:

Festive Hexie Vortex Christmas Placemat

I added a pocket on the side for cutlery and a napkin and I filled the empty space on the pocket side of the mat with a cute fussy cut hexie flower from left over pocket fabric to act as a coaster for a drink or wine glass.

close up of fussy cut hexie flower with red metallic fabric in the centre and fussy cut green tartan ribbons around the outside

I love starting (and finishing!) impromptu projects with no pattern and just seeing where things go. 

For once, I remembered to make some basic notes and take a few photos as I went along, merrily hacking into fabric and I thought I’d share them with you – in case you want to have a go at making your own Festive Placemats using the Hexie Vortex block too!

Here’s how I made it:


Appliqué Vortex Block to background

  1. I made up a MEDIUM Hexie vortex block using 2 green metallic prints following the basting instructions in the pattern. This made sure that all my “ears” from the acute angles on my templates were facing into the block.
  2. I sprayed the front of the completed block with spray starch and let it sink in for a few seconds. (I usually wait until the fizzing sound has stopped) and then pressed it from the back.
  3. I carefully removed ALL the papers and gently re-pressed the block. (Press from the back only to avoid getting shiny spots on the front of your block from the turned seam allowances)
  4. I appliquéd my MEDIUM Hexie vortex block onto a neutral background fabric measuring 14 1/2" wide x 13 1/2" high. I used Roxanne Glue Baste-It glue to hold the block in place and machine appliquéd the block to the background using a monofilament thread and a straight stitch approx. 1/8” from the edge. 

 When I get in the “zone” with a project idea, I don’t want to lose momentum, so I often turn to my machine to speed things up.  You could totally hand appliqué the block to the background piece too.

 Hexie Vortex block in green metallic fabrics appliqued to background fabric

Honestly, I could have stopped there and just quilted and bound my placemat – I though it looked pretty good as it was, but I wanted to make something a little bit special, a little bit extra … so I made an additional pocket panel to put on the side of the mat that could hold cutlery or a napkin.

Adding the Pocket Panel

  1. I cut another piece of neutral background (5 1/2"w x 13 1/2"h) to be my pocket back piece.
  2. I chose a feature piece of Christmas fabric to be my pocket and cut this to 5 1/2"w x 11” h
  3. I folded it in half WRONG sides together and pressed. The pocket now measured 5 1/2" square.  I chose to bind the folded edge but could have got away with just topstitching it.
  4. I basted the folded pocket piece to the pocket back piece using ~ 1/8” seam allowance and a long straight machine stitch.  Basting lines are shown in YELLOW.
image showing pocket piece basted to pocket piece.  basting lines are shown by thick yellow line and go around left, bottom and right sides of the pocket piece


Making up Placemat Front

To break up the placemat and to create the separate areas, I attached a flange to the pocket piece. 

I love adding flanges to my quilts; they act as a very thin border but take away the need to cut tiny strips and more importantly for me, I don’t have to try and sew with a super accurate 1/4” seam allowance! (I am an “ish” machine piecer).

  1. Cut a piece of fabric 1” wide by 13 1/2" long
  2. Fold and press in half wrong sides together along the length of the strip.
  3. Position the flange strip with the raw edges matching the raw edge of the pocket back piece.
Thin strip of red fabric with metallic holly leaves printed on it Thin strip of red fabric with metallic holly leaves printed on it folded in half along length and pressed
  1. Baste the folded flange piece to the pocket back piece using ~ 1/8” seam allowance and a long straight machine stitch.  Basting line is shown in YELLOW.

  1. Stitch the Pocket Back piece to the Main Background piece using a 1/4" seam allowance.
  2. Fold out and press the Main Background piece AWAY from the Pocket panel. (You could also topstitch the flange down at this point if you wish).
image showing pocket pieced sewn to background piece with hexie vortex block
  1. The only thing left to do was Layer, Quilt and Bind the finished placemat.


I decided that the pocket piece looked a little bare and realised that the empty space could be used for a coaster! I made a fussy cut hexie flower using 3/4" hexies and appliqued this to the mat in the same way as I had the Vortex block earlier.


    image of completed hexie vortex placemat


    All in all, this impromptu sewing hex-capade took me a couple of hours to put together. (Don’t forget, I’d already made the Vortex block) and I’m really thrilled with the finished mat. 

    Now I just need to make 3 more… maybe I'll add a different Christmas themed block design to each one???

    And...I’m still trying to decide whether or not to add a ribbon to the wreath. 

    Festive Christmas Hexie Vortex EPP Placemat with Red Wired Ribbon Bow added

    Festive Christmas Hexie Vortex EPP Placemat without Red Wired Ribbon Bow added

    What do you think?  Ribbon or no ribbon??

    I hope you were able to follow along with my making of this Festive placemat and that you might have a go at making a few for yourself and/ or family and friends this year.  You can get a copy of the Hexie Vortex EPP Block pattern here

    If there is anything that is unclear, please don't hesitate to contact me or leave a comment.  I'm here to encourage and inspire you to make your own amazing English Paper Pieced fabric creations!

    Until next time, 

    Happy Stitching!

    Alison xx

    p.s. If you've enjoyed reading this post, please consider taking a moment to share it in your favourite Facebook groups and leave me a comment (so I know I'm not just talking to myself).  I'd be very grateful if you did. xx



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