Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Hexagon Quilt That Wasn't --- Quite!

One of the fun things for me in traveling around and visiting other quilters is the show and tell they bring to ME!

Last Saturday ((Yes, could it have been a week ago already?!)) Mary Jo brought a very special quilt top to class with her.

The story goes ((Correct me if I'm wrong or missing anything, Mary Jo!)) that Mary Jo spent days and hours pawing over this quilt top on Ebay. And who wouldn't!? You should see the fabrics in it. From what she told me, it dates from the 1800's, was made in England, and it IS in the English paper piecing method. Her hubby took pity on her and bought it for her as a gift. WHAT A GUY!! :cD I think he would be a keeper, don't you?

The funny thing about it is...it starts with "lozenge" shaped hexies in the center...and moves out to regular sized hexies somewhere towards the ends, but they are all different sizes than each other and believe me....this is one quilt that will NEVER QUILT OUT! :cD

Just for sheer perseverance, the maker of this quilt deserves a round of applause! The pieces are SO small, and you should see the prints in it. Just for that reason alone, it is a vintage fabric lover's dream. A catalogue of thousands of prints.

Can you see the center how baggy/saggy it is? LOVE IT! In fact, if you look closely, it bags in the shape of a heart. :cD ((Or is that my eyes doing tricks on me?!))

The papers used on the back were from old letters and such, you can read some of the hand written words. She said she found a date somewhere in there, but I can't remember what the date is.

Believe me...my 3/4" per side hexies looked ginormously gargantuan compared to the pieces in this quilt.

Until I uploaded these pics, I didn't even notice that it is set in what appear to be alternating rows of dark/light/dark/light! Do you think she had a plan for this pattern?

So this leaves us to ponder. Was there one maker who started it? And someone else who tried to finish it? The edges are not even, it was clearly still a "work in progress" How many pieces? I have no idea! How many YEARS did it take someone to do this? Where did her fabrics come from? Her own scrap bag? Family, friends...other quilters....trading perhaps? We'll never know!

What a wonderful piece of quilt history and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to handle it, to fondle it, to read the words on the backing papers, to question and ponder and smile and wonder about the maker and who she was, what she loved, who she loved, what her dreams were, her fears were. What other quilts did she have dancing in her head while she worked on this one long-term project?

It's not about how LONG it takes, really, is it? Again, it's about the wonder and the pleasure and the joy and the journey. Just piece it. Don't worry about the time frame, just do it. Even one hexagon a day...is progress!


  1. What a fascinating find! Thanks for sharing it!! :)

  2. that is a wonderful find! I really like the striped effect in the quilt top even though it was made with Hexies. And, some of the fabric looks unusual! Love it.

  3. Wow, now that husband deserves applause! Just look at that treasure! (She says as she sips the cappuccino her DH just made her.)
    Thanks for the pics, I'd love to really see this one!

  4. Anonymous8:25 AM EST

    What a catalogue of fabrics this quilt contains. Some of them look like they might the very beginning of the industrial revolution era. When I see a quilt like this I can't help but wonder about the maker(s)and what was going on in their lives at that time. I wish I could read the papers on the back. That is so neat.

    Gail :)

  5. Really makes you appreciate how easy we have it with our sewing machines and templates and patterns. This is a wonderful piece of history. Thanks for sharing.

  6. So very lovely!! It's absolutely gorgeous!!! You can't help wondering about the maker; like you said......
    And it has found a way to a quilters hart and house, thanks to a loving husband. I really quess that this is a much loved quilt in progress....!
    Thanks Bonny!! ;0)

  7. I have a quilting friend who purchases vintage tops...those that are a little wonky...and machine quilts them. She bought one that was so wavey she actually cut darts in it to make it lie flat. (Do not do this with this treasure of fabs.) Then she makes up a story about the quilter and quilty helpers (sad daughters, etc.) and names the quilts with humor. The one I remember is "Miss Lillie Dart". lol

  8. I would love to see the fabrics in this quilt top!

    What a wonderful gift.

    Pat L in NY

  9. where it bags in the middle in the shape of a heart was the FIRST thing I saw when I looked at that pic, so your eyes are not playing tricks on you! What a wonderful piece of history!

  10. Loved your last paragraph and especially "Even one hexagon a day...is progress!"

    And yes, dark and light stripes were the first thing I noticed.

  11. It is a treasure!! thanks you for sharing your story with us, and thanks to the owner and her husband.

  12. Anonymous10:52 AM EST

    When I volunteered to help with the York County (PA) annual quilt documentation this past spring, I got to see a similarly unquiltable hexagon quilt top. My best guess was that it had been started by one quilter and finished by another. The center hexagons were probably 1/8" bigger on a side than the outer hexagons, causing a big baggy balloon in the center. I referred to it as the Maternity Quilt, because the only way it would have laid flat was on the lap of a 9-mos. pregnant woman!

  13. You know, my mom used to sit and knit with no thought in mind what it was going to be. She just loved the process of moving the needles and the yarn through her hands. Whenever you'd ask her what she was making she'd say, oh whatever! When I packed up her boxes to move her from her home to a retirement center, I found all sorts of what appeared to be "not finished" lengths and squares of just straight knit/purl of different colors and stripes and patterns-and no they weren't dishcloths. But they were finished to her. It kept her busy, and she loved the yarn. Maybe that;s what this project was - something to keep her/them busy with no finish date in mind, using what they had on hand? Thanks for sharing.

  14. There's nothing to add, that I can say about this treasure find! Thanks so much for sharing it - I might be afraid to handle it too much. I did see the heart also <3!!

  15. As the lucky owner if this top I can provide the following information: The earliest date I've found on the paper pieces is 1833. The seller found it at an estate auction in London in 2002 and her ebay ad said that it contains over 3600 pieces and no fabric was repeated more than 5 times.
    I love looking at all the different prints but have not counted the pieces so can't say if the seller was correct.
    I had a great time in your classes Bonnie and am almost ready to assemble the 1/4 blocks for the Star Struck quilt. I need to hurry since your mystery quilt starts on Friday.

  16. All I can say is, "Ohhhhh,My!" The time involved with this...just think! I just finished a Crazy Quilt that took me 2 years to make, of course it stayed in the closet as an UFO for one of those years...and that was too long for me.

    Lovely story, and I love the idea that it could be a "maternity quilt" as one of the comments said.

  17. It reminds me of a story I loved when I was a child, the family in the story became impoverished but the children noticed that the quilt was crunchy. When they opened it up(!!) they discovered that the paper inside was from old envelopes including the stamps which were Penny Blacks. The stamps were sold for a nice profit. Since I enjoyed a bit of philately and was the keeper of the family stamp albums this story stuck in my mind. Later my sister taught me "patchwork", (here in the States everyone calls I know calls it English Paper Piecing)which seems quite fitting.
    That quilt is quite lovely.

  18. What a treasure! I see the heart too!
    How does one quilt one of these beauty's? I have seen all over designs and in my opinion it just seems a sad thing to do, any suggestions??

  19. Anonymous8:53 PM EST

    That is an amazing find. An absolute treasure. So is her hubby. I think it is a quilt she'd never get tired of looking at....front or back.

    Sue :)

  20. My friend Lynda was given an old hexi quilt and from the papers worked out the quilt maker and the date when it was most likely made. You can read more on these two posts:



    Just thought it might be nice for Mary Jo to read about her experience with a quilt made from around the same time.

  21. What a treasure! lovely story, thanks for sharing.Love your last paragraph - so true!

  22. I was very excited to see the "lozenge" shapes in this top because I have a quilt passed down from my late mother-in-law of that design. She said it was called an Oddfellow design and no two fabrics are the same. She didn't know the age of the quilt but it is quite old. I have intended to make my own quilt using my scraps and now have more than enough to do several tops! The problem will be choosing which ones to use. I don't have a book with the pattern in it but have made my own from the quilt. Maybe someday others will see it as a "living" catalog of fabric.

  23. My first thought when I saw the sag in the middle was it looked like a heart. This year at our county fair I assisted the judges in the knitting and crochet category (by bringing the items to them and tieing on ribbons not judging). There was a red afghan with black skull and crossbones on it. the alternate blocks were all red, but didn't lay flat. The judges noticed there was a crossbones design in double crochet. it didn't show up well. I noticed the dc stitches but didn't see the design. This quilt reminded me of that right away.

    I also love all of those different fabrics. Thanks for sharing, he's definately a keeper


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