Saturday, July 30, 2016

Morris Hexagon 13: Oxford Rose

Morris Hexagon #13 Oxford Rose.

The kite shape, a four-sided tessellation, works perfectly into a hexagon.
It's an easy block to celebrate our half-way point: 13 of 26.

Morris Hexagon #13 Oxford Rose by Becky Brown

Six identical shapes fussy cut from my Morris Modernized CFA Voysey.
The print is "Oswin."

I named this week's hexie Oxford Rose for the Old Library at the Oxford Union at the University, which is decorated with rose windows based on the same hexagonal geometry. 

Walls and ceiling around the rose windows were painted by 
William Morris and his friends soon after Morris graduated from Oxford.

The library building for the Oxford Union Debating Society was begun in 1856 by architect Benjamin Woodward. Morris and friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti volunteered to decorate the ceiling and the apse, the curved area around the windows, in a theme based on tales of King Arthur.

Max Beerbohm's cartoon of Rossetti painting the Search of the Holy Grail.
Their employer Benjamin Jowett asked only one question about
the whole dubious escapade:
"And what were they going to do with the Grail when they found it?"

These unknown artists in their twenties must have inspired some confidence, but they had no idea what they were undertaking. The major problem was their ignorance of fresco techniques and how to prepare plaster for paint. Their work has required a good deal of repair and restoration over the past century and a half. 

Morris's style was already developed by the
time he painted the ceilings in his early 20s.

John Ruskin, art critic and historian, had something to do with supervising the group of seven or eight artists, which included another Morris college friend Edward Burne-Jones. Ruskin complained they were "all the least bit crazy and it's very difficult to manage them."

Exterior view of the Oxford Union rose windows.

Pauline Trevelyan was a friend of Ruskin's who watched the painting. In November, 1857 she wrote in her diary:
"The Union is going on slowly,...they are seeing now themselves that the tremendously dark strong colours in the roof injure the pictures....I am sorry to say that they are also finding the work won't last, much of it even now gets scaling off....they will be very fine and striking. I hope they last..."
The decorations have lasted to some degree and can be viewed for a small fee at Oxford any time the Library is open .

Pattern for an 8" Hexagon
(4" sides)

To Print:
  • Create a word file or a new empty JPG file that is 8-1/2" x 11". 
  • Click on the image above. 
  • Right click on it and save it to your file. 
  • Print that file out 8-1/2" x 11". The hexagon should measure 4" on the sides.
  • Adjust the printed page size if necessary.
  • Add seams when you cut the fabric.

The hexagonal block, here set with a hexagon in the mid-20th-century,
is BlockBase #243

Published names:
  • Colonial Garden From Grandmother Clark
  • Rose Star One Patch from the Laura Wheeler/Alice Brooks column
  • Tumbling Hexagons in Quilters Newsletter in 1974
On the left a cardboard template for the Colonial Garden quilt from
Grandmother Clark

One way to set the blocks is to stack them with a 60 degree diamond

Each block is framed with a long hexagon strip,
in a quilt from about 1960.

Seven in a miniquilt by Lois Pio

Here's a ring of six blocks around an embroidered butterfly
from the Nebraska Project and the Quilt Index

Another ring of six by Lucy Jones, about
1900, from the West Virginia project,
photo from the Quilt Index.

 The kite shape
can be shaded in complex fashion,

 as today's quilters familiar with the Rose Star pattern can attest.

Rose Star quilt probably made from
an Alice Brooks/Laura Wheeler pattern.

1949 ad for a pattern  "Just one easy-to-handle patch ..."

The pattern was reprinted in Ladies Circle Patchwork Quilts
and most recently in the book Material Obsession Two

as Jazz Hands by Sarah Fielke

Barbara Chainey's design wall

Morris and Burne Jones Families in 1874,
about 15 years after they finished the Oxford Union walls and ceiling

Artists William Morris (standing at top) and Edward Burne-Jones (at left) remained friends for life. Perhaps the most important event associated with the Oxford Union windows is the employment of Oxford resident Jane Burden (in front of Morris) to model for the Arthurian scenes. Both Morris and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti fell in love with her. She married Morris.

Jane Burden Morris's Blue Plaque in Oxford

One More Inspiration

Meeting in the center: another odd shape that works with hexagons...
from an early-19th-century quilt.

See a little more about the Beerbohm cartoon and the murals at the Tate's site:


  1. What a great history this block has, and so many beautiful examples. Thank you!

  2. Amazing variations on a theme! thanks for sharing.