Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hexagon Dreams and Reality

Center of a medallion from the Missouri Historical Society

You may recall I recently began piecing hexagons over paper to see what I could make with a Charm pack of my Morris Workshop collection.

I began dreaming of medallions of fussy cut pattern.

Detail from about 1875 from the collection of Terry Thompson

About 1935 by Albert Small

But reality struck.

You can't get too far on a Charm pack if you are piecing concentric rings and worrying about shading. The numbers increase at a Malthusian rate as you go out from the center. (Don't ask me what a Malthusian rate is.)

So does the lumpiness, but that will quilt out (I always assure myself.)
I realized I would have to square up the edges and call it a mini quilt.

That wasn't as easy as I dreamed either. Resolving the edges on these things can be challenging. A lot of people advised me to just applique it down onto another piece of fabric.
(In the center of another piece of fabric!)

Hexagon from about 1840 from Copake Auctions
I could have just given up on the concentric rings and gone for random as I ran out of fabric.

The pattern used to be called Job's Troubles and now you know why.

There are a lot of unfinished hexagon projects out there.

And a lot with some interesting solutions to the problem of turning a hexagon into a rectangle.

From about 1960 from Donna Stickovich's collection

About 1910 from Keepsake Cottage

About 1940 from Larry Schwarm's collection.
Apparently she just couldn't stop adding pieces.

Marcena McNabb, Oklahoma, about 1940.
Collection of Mary Ann Anders.

Right now I will be happy with my mini.

And thanks for all the suggestions about printing my own hexagons on freezer paper, on fabric or on the cards that fall out of magazines. However, I feel that one should never advise an obsessive that he or she should be saving the cards that fall out of magazines.

Albert Small after being advised to save cards that fall out of magazines.
The quilt behind him is the one pictured above.

I still like paying somebody to measure and cut the templates for me but if I ever have another hexagon dream I'll consider the suggestions.

Here's a pattern of sorts. The numbers are the number of hexagons you need for each ring. I guess you add 6 as you go out. For the corners I did you need 24 full hexagons and for the edges ten each of hexagons cut across one way and the other. Mine measures 15-1/4 x 17-1/2" with a 2-1/2" border.


  1. Love the picture of Albert Small with his magazines! Too funny. Thanks for a good laugh.

  2. I've been tempted by the beautiful hexagons many quilters are working on. I've decided to enjoy them online only and not start my own.
    Cute mini!!

  3. Everyone called me crazy when I made this quilt! http://flic.kr/p/6fjn9U You can see the whole progression in my flickr stream. It took me 3 months to finish; I had a deadline since it was for my baby girl who was about to be born!
    I might actually do it again someday!

  4. My top hexagon paper cutting tip was passed on by a friend whose family have made hexagon patchworks for the last 4 generations (since the 1870s anyway) - get a metal template and just cut the papers by holding it tight on the back of the paper and sort of skimming the edge of the template with your (paper) scissors as you cut out. More accurate than cutting out along a drawn or printed line. We used this method to make papers for a community project with more than 100 people working on the rosettes (Grandmother's Flower Garden layout) and it went together just fine and very flat (once pressed). Hexagons are quicker to do than most people imagine, aren't they?

  5. I loved hand piecing my hexagon quilt. Couldn't have been easier with Linda Franz' Inklingo method. The collection included the shapes on the edges that squared up the quilt perfectly. One tip to follow if piecing hexagons is to press as your go. You can see the finished product at http://nonniescedarchest.wordpress.com/

  6. I love the William Morris designs and have many fabrics collected over the years (including your range). Just waiting for THAT project. The hexagons work well but do I want to commit? The results could be stunning.

  7. I started a hexi project that required cutting out the template. (not a standard size)That got really tired really fast and I moved over to 3/4" pieces and started from scratch. Life is too short to cut my own hexagon templates. I'm still working on my GFG, I'm on the home stretch. Thanks for sharing these photo's. Very inspiring!

  8. Your mini hexagon piece turned out lovely. I have been fussy cutting some hexies and they are time consuming. I'm working on refining my technique. Perhaps your reference to Malthusian in a numeric sense came from Noah's grandfather, Methuselah who lived to be 969 years old. The oldest man we are told of in scripture. Enjoyed your post!

  9. Well, it's always better to check definitions before you post. Checked Malthusian and found it is something quite different. We learn something new every day!

  10. It is amazing all the designs made with hexagons.
    Maybe I will try a mini one first.


  11. I like Methusalean as an adjective, however, Nyla, as in my high school friends are aging in Methusalean fashion.

  12. And don't you wish the comment box had spell check?

  13. Here is a link to pictures of my small collection of antique quilts with hexagons. I am not a fan of Grandmothers Flower Garden, which is what most people call the hexagon if it looks like a flower shape. Love the medallion look. Love to do hand work this might be a good traveling project.

  14. Hi Barbara,
    Perhaps you would like check outhttp://worldsbiggest hexagon quilt.blogspot.com

    Our quilt hexagon quilt is currently 45 metres and will be 120 metres once completed.
    gail chalker

  15. I love the William Morris designs and have many fabrics collected over the years (including your range). Just waiting for THAT project. The hexagons work well but do I want to commit? The results could be stunning.