Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hexagon Top - As Promised

Unfinished top
69" x 69"
Here is the hexagon top I talked about in my last post. I've included several views as well as close-ups of some terrific c. 1840 fabrics.

The fabrics are amazing in themselves but the 'piece de resistance' is the added care taken by the maker to selectively cut the fabrics in basically every rosette lending an exceptional artistry to the piece. 
The hexagons measure 1 1/4" on a side.

As always, click on any image to enlarge.

Here she placed a stripe 'just so' creating an interesting effect.

Here the 'sliver' of  moon print creates movement.

The rosebuds are centered  in the outer ring with a larger one at the center.

 A pear motif is featured
 among the roses. 

The same pear takes center stage here.

                Figural print 

Just plain yummy!!

More pears

Some of the small hexagons are pieced; this one twice! 
Even this looks as if the maker worked out the piecing with care to maintain the motif.

Hand-piecing shows frequent use of the back-stitch for a stronger seam.

The solid red 'path' creates a strong graphic and ties the various fabrics together.

Obvious challenge to be addressed - the edges

As an appraiser, I have probably seen more hexagon/grandmother's flower garden/mosaic/ honeycomb quilts than any other design with the exception of crazy quilts. Yet as I studied this top and pondered whether I would 'finish' it and if so, how I would deal with the edges, I realized something; though not a block set in the usual sense ....those rosettes CAN be set differently. With square blocks we say a setting is 'straight' or 'on point'. In a way, this can be applied to the rosettes, too.
Maybe I should be embarrassed to admit this but I can't say I noticed that before in the literally hundreds of such finished quilts I've seen.

Side by side examples show the difference

Collection of Charleston Museum
c. 1840
My collection
c. 1930

My top is set like the one on the right, the earlier one, and I estimate it was made around the same time. Was that setting more 'popular' at the time or just a coincidence? Studying many more examples may shed light on that question.
I think because I've never made a hexagon quilt, I didn't really comprehend the necessity of a solution to the edges. 

Truly studying any design or pattern seems to lead to more examples and variations than you could ever hope to see. Scrutinizing the details of a quilt through careful observation really enhances my enjoyment - and actually making a small example myself is the best teacher.
In the case of the hexagon quilts, variations such as the orientation or setting of the rosettes, the fabrics, colors, sizes of the hexagon and the many ways to handle that jagged edge resulting from working with a six sided shape - all lead to a great opportunity for creativity with countless possibilities in this 'one-patch' design.

More examples:

An unusual and effective edge treatment

I saw this quilt in person last January at Elegant Geometry, an exhibit at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, NE.
The exhibit booklet states the " design mistake began in the center of the quilt when she surrounded a double hexagon rosette with a single row of white hexagons and then six single hexagon rosettes. From there, the design went off-center when she was unable to place the hexagon rosettes symmetrically along the central vertical axis." Phew.

Did you follow that?

It goes on to show this close up of her solution to the "misaligned columns .....which "resulted in an irregular quilt edge."

Talk about close scrutiny! It shows that planning was essential - yet who can find fault with this masterpiece?

So, back to my top.

Look closely at the outermost edge.
Someone, long after the top was made, decided that they should 'border' the edges in a tiny red and white micro-dot. It is a strip of fabric, not hexagons. It is hand applied so it will be easy to take off  ( I have all I can do not to get out my ripper right now) but it will  keep the edges secure until I decide my next move so I will leave it  for now.

I've folded the edges back to see how it would look. I am thinking there may be enough red hexagons in what I take off to fill in the edge of the long straight sides. 

Final measurement would be
57" W x 69" L
Click here and here  to take a look at my two previous posts about hexagons and stay tuned - eventually I will make a decision and get back to you!

Two books specifically about hexagon mosaics you may enjoy:

Perhaps you will begin to pay closer attention to the many variations of hexagon quilts as you come across them - I know I will!

p.s. Just came across two wonderful blogs for more looks at hexagon projects
Hexagon Quilt-Along and Hexagon Quilt-Along too! They are described as 'sister' blogs. Take a look.


  1. Though I have a very long term hexagon project in the making, I've never given this much thought to the setting. I'll have to think on it more as I get to the "setting" stage. When my mother made hers she just turned the edge under and appliqued it to a straight border, maintaining the integrity of the edges of the rosettes. Basically she just needle-turn appliqued it to a solid 30's green border (she used actual 30's fabrics for her quilt--a box of them had been gifted to her by a friend).

  2. Great post! It's amazing what a closer look at the quilt top reveals with the pieced hexagons and the careful placement of motifs. I think that's what makes old quilts so absorbing to me. As a fan of lists, I'd enjoy seeing a post on your "Top Ten" of popular quilt patterns that you see/have seen in vintage examples. You noted Flower Garden would be in it. I would guess maybe Dresden Plates, too? Anyway, fun to think about.

  3. Fantastic quilt, Jean, thank you for sharing it with us. What a creative artist the quilter was using the fussy cutting of the fabric to further enhance the design!

  4. wow!! what a treasure.....great fabric and such attention to detail!


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