Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tessellations: Hexagons --- Elizabeth Clarkson's Quilt

Honeycomb Quilt by
Elizabeth Van Horne Clarkson (1771–1852)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William A. Moore, 1923


I've been indexing hexagon quilts for a while. This post is about one particular design, a quilt that's inspired many copies. The original by Elizabeth Clarkson is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Elizabeth Van Horne Clarkson (1771–1852) by
Thomas Sier Cummings about 1844.
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This miniature on ivory shows Eliza Clarkson in mourning for her husband who died in 1844.  In 1790 Eliza Van Horne married Thomas Streatfeild Clarkson. A family history describes his business in New York City:
"He was a partner of his two brothers, conducting a large foreign trade at the northwest corner of Stone and Mill Streets in New York, owning a number of vessels."

Many of the pieces are carefully cut from 
stripes to provide extra detail in the hexagons.

In her catalog of the quilts in the Museum American Quilts and Coverlets, Amelia Peck tells us much about the Clarkson and Van Horne families, who were wealthy and well-connected. Eliza and Thomas had eleven children. 

The quilt looks to be about 1830. Her great-granddaughter donated it to the museum. 

Ruth Finley pictured the Clarkson quilt in her 1929 book
Old Patchwork Quilts, probably inspiring Bertha Stenge in Chicago to make a copy of similar
striped fabrics. 

Mosaic by
Bertha Stenge about 1945, 
Collection of the Illinois State Museum.

Mosaic by Gloria Thilking Hood, 1970
My friend Chick taught herself to quilt with her
first quilt inspired by Finley's picture (she's always been ambitious.)

Marguerite Ickis published the original again in black and white in her 1949 Standard Book of Quiltmaking.

Karen H found a copy of the Ickis book and
copied the black and white picture for her Stars in the Loft.

Karen had noticed this one at the Quilt Index
from the West Virginia Project

And I found this on at the Quilt Index in the
collection of the Wenham (Massachusetts) Museum,
made by the Ladies of the Historical Society.

Nellie Snape from Cheshire, England,
must have had a picture. Here's
her version in the collection of the Quilters Guild U.K.

From the Arizona Project and the Quilt Index.

Got hexies?
And Xenia Cord sends one more from her inventory.
Maybe from Michigan? Maybe the 1970s.


  1. Eliza's quilt is a study in how to make paths and design using stripes down the middle of hexagon pieces. And in transitioning from a unique center pattern to a simpler grandmother's flower garden pattern in the field. What a wonderful piece that has deseved so much attention over the years.

  2. Got hexies? You bet! I live in NYC and have a favorite at the Brooklyn Museum (hexies), a favorite at the Museum of American Folk Art (not hexies), and the Honeycomb favorite at the Met. Hexies win! The giant postcard of wonderful Honeycomb greets me each morning on my bookshelf.
    I have a Grandmother's Flower Garden under construction and Honeycomb certainly influenced some of my blocks.
    Your postings always intrigue me. Today you warmed this piecer's heart through and through. Many thanks.

  3. I have hexie fever. Spent the afternoon thinking about my next project because I hate to be without them. So thrilled with that first quilt. I'm traveling to NY in December, and I might be able to see it in person! Thanks also anonymous for the other suggestions.

  4. Got hexis?..... indeed I do - two big pieces and 6-8 medium pieces and how to sew them together????? still much to add.... well I just might center one and put four in the corners and then "fill in" with "flowers" of which I have scores. I continue to make them as I wonder what to do about the whole thing.... not sure how you keep track of the quilts you "index" but I sure enjoyed todays show.

  5. Thanks for sharing my version of Elizabeth's quilt. I thoroughly enjoyed making this quilt and putting my own stamp on it. I made it more than 15 years ago and it remains one of my favourites. I was surprised to hear that the original quilt was mentioned in another book and will have to see if I can find a copy to add to my library. As I mentioned before I am really enjoying your series on tessellations.