Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Surprising Quilts from Vintage Hexagons

When quilters think about antique hexagon quilts, here's the kind of thing that comes to mind:

I am guessing that this 1880 quiltmaker suffered a Victorian ailment which kept her bedridden, improved her vision and fine motor skills, and extended her lifespan.

When pieced accurately, hexagon quilts are a miracle; when pieced badly, which is easier, they're a ripply mess. Both are incredibly time-consuming. That's why unfinished hexagon tops and pieces - especially the wonky ones - are relatively cheap and abundant in flea markets and antique shops.

When I first became a quilter, and fell madly in love with vintage quilts, I went through an inevitable phase of collecting hexagonal tops and pieces, Here's one of my purchases:

The purchase is followed by inevitable wondering what to do with it, followed by inevitable realization of how enormous the task is, followed by inevitable stuffing them into a closet until I'm dead, which will inevitably be followed by my children giving them away so they end up in another flea market where another dewy-eyed young quiltmaker will fall in love with them and bring them home.

But wait! There is finally a book that can help interrupt the cycle of hexagonal heartbreak!

Mary Kerr, award-winning quilter and certified appraiser, had a similar appreciation of unfinished hexagon blocks and tops, but instead of merely hoarding them, she made unexpected quilts from them.

Her new book - I asked for a review copy - is "Recycled Hexie Quilts," from Schiffer Publishing, and it contains more than 100 photos of very wonderful quilts made from vintage hexagons, most of which break stereotypes and rules.
Kerr explains that hexagons have been in pieced quilts for at least 300 years. In the 20th century, hexagon piecing designs became known as Grandmother's Flower Garden.

The book shows some antique eyepoppers - like the first quilt at top of this post - but most of the photographs are of quilts Kerr made from old pieces and tops. She combines new fabrics with old,  cuts off hexagons at 90 degree angles (!), and places them  in unlikely locations, like borders, sashing, and setting squares. Most do not require the kind of time and skill needed to complete the top quilt on this page.

Here's "Mosaic Star," which has a Modern feeling, and requires only hundreds instead of tens of thousands of pieces:
And here's one with even fewer pieces, which means an even more Modern feeling - and guess what - it's FUSED to that black background! (Quilt police hair just caught fire!).
There's a whole chapter on fusing, and really, it's the perfect solution to damaged seams.

Here, almost randomly-cut hexagon quilt top segments become sashing and borders, and are combined with vintage ducks:
In the next quilt, "Roses for Opal," Kerr circled floral panels painted by her grandmother Opal, with  hexagons from the 1930s. The pink fabric is from the 1920s. "Mixing eras  just creates a more interesting piece and a much better story," Kerr says.  I think it also cuts the bubble gum sweetness to a degree that's just right.
Note that she refuses to fuss with the corners. We don't need no mitering! Symmetry is for sissies!

If you don't happen to have vintage duck or floral panels lying around, buy a brand spanking new  jelly roll instead and make one of these, combining log cabin with hexagons:
Kerr used a Moda Jelly Roll, but if you Google "pastel fabric jelly roll" you'll come up with lots of options.

The next quilt, "Lancaster," is brilliant - a Grandmother's Flower Garden top cut into diamonds, and joined with a sashing, for an effect that's remniscent of a traditional Japanese art motif.
And finally, to PROVE that hexagon quilts don't have to be a lifetime of work, and can be Modern/Gee's Bend, there's this:
It's a large 1940s hexagon fused asymmetrically onto a vintage tablecloth.

And there's a much, much more in the book. If you have your own stash of vintage hexagons, this is just what you need to inspire yourself to give them new life.  Thanks, Mary Kerr, for writing a great and useful book!

If you'd like to win a copy of the book straight from the Schiffer Publishing, please leave a comment, (maybe about your perspective on hexagons?) and I will use a random number generator to select and announce a winner on April 10, 2015. A random number generator chose our winner - congratulations Quiltshopgal!

PS One more idea: Here's a blog post from a couple of years ago about something I did with orphan blocks, combining them with Terrie Mangat fabric gew-gaws.



(UPDATE: Here's a link to an utterly astonishing hexagon quilt from 1940 with 58,640 pieces.)

28 comments:

  1. Such clever ideas! I think it's time to finish my one and only hexie quilt!

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  2. I need this book. I have a thrifted vintage GFG top somewhere in the house. I should either donate it back or do something with it.

    (Sorry if this appears twice. The Preview button seems to have eaten the first try.)

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  3. I hope I win this book! I love hexies but I have to admit that I am intimidated by them.

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  4. Oh I have plenty of old and new hexies that need to be used, the book would be great.
    Ann

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  5. Hexaholic here! Almost finished piecing a hexi-quilt top that I've been working on for five years, off and on.

    I'm ready to be inspired by this book, for my next hexie project.

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  6. Hexaholic here! Almost finished piecing a hexi-quilt top that I've been working on for five years, off and on.

    I'm ready to be inspired by this book, for my next hexie project.

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. I'm not a real hexie person, but I'd like to be. I like to reuse fabric or items. Usually old ties or shirts for memory items. Hexing them, I'd be able to use more or the fabric, I'm given for memory quilt items.

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  9. I need some inspiration to get into the hexie craze. Maybe this book would give me the push I need.

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  10. Who knew that hexagons could be so much relaxed fun!
    Barbara R.

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  11. Yes, relaxation and hexagons are not words that quilters usually put in the same sentence. Well, okay, some people find doing English paper piecing with hexagons is relaxing, but when you start joining large sections together....oy vey, every little error adds up!

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  12. Looking forward to seeing Mary's new book on hexie's. I love how she recycles vintage quilts and brings new life to an older piece. I am a retired math teacher and can appreciate the new ways to bring hexagons to the modern world!

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  13. A great idea for all of those old blocks. Mjhenrichs@aol.com

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  14. Barb in southeastern PAApril 1, 2015 at 12:38 PM

    Mary's work is so cool. Many of her ideas fall into the "why didn't I think of doing that" category, but I didn't, which is why I would so enjoy having her book for inspiration. I love her theory of "get it out of the drawer and use it." This book looks like it sparks ideas of how to do that.

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  15. I'm in love with hexies. LeeAnna at not afraid of color
    leeannaquilts at gmail dot com

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  16. This makes me want to go out an find an old hexagon quilt or two just to make these projects!

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  17. Thanks for sharing! I now know what I can do with my worn out old hexie! Would love to have Mary's new book, since I've known her from our days at Ft. Irwin, Ca.!

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  18. I love making hexies but always wonder his to use them, looking for inspiration

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  19. I also have such a collection and now can use them so that the work of these unknown women will not be wasted.

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  20. I like the idea of blending vintage and modern. Would love to have this book.

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  21. I was making birthday gifts in 2013 - potholders! - and a friend asked me use her grandmother's hexagon blocks. Wrote up a blog post about the process. And yes, I bought a new sewing machine after this one.
    https://yarngoddess.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/on-again-off-again/

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    1. Diane, your upcycled vintage hexagon gift is wonderful! Thanks for sharing that link! Glad you got a new machine, too!

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  22. Well, pooh, I think my comment disappeared. I was making birthday presents in 2013 - potholders! - and a friend asked me to use her grandmother's hexagon blocks. Here's a link to my blog post about how nice it turned out.
    Diane
    https://yarngoddess.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/on-again-off-again/

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  23. Started by a demonstration at a quilt guild meeting, I have at least five hexi projects in process. They are so addicting. You can work on them in very small bits of time and just about anywhere. I read a story once about someone who had her hexi kit set up so that she could work on them at stop lights!! I would love to have more hexi inspiration,

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  24. I always love to check out new books with #CreativeGoodness, but had not yet heard about this one. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

    I hope it is ok as I added your giveaway to a Linky Party I host for sharing such: http://quiltshopgal.com/giveaways-and-contests/

    QuiltShopGal
    www.quiltshopgal.com

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    1. QuiltshopGal, you are the randomly selected winner of the book! Please email me privately with your address and I will have the publisher send you a copy! I'm at cathy-dot-perlmutter-at-gmail-dot-com.

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  25. HELLO, I HAVEN'T DONE ANY HEXIES+WOULD LIKE TO TRY>BOOK LOOKS NEAT!
    msstitcher1214@gmail.com

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