What a versatile shape. So much can be done with the hexagon. They can be connected to one another to form other shapes. They can be combined with other shapes to create endless, complex arrangements. They look great when mixed and matched in a variety of colors and patterns. I like that bees use hexagons to build their nests.
Hexagons have been used in quilting for over two centuries however most of us are familiar with them since their popularity blossomed in the 1930’s. During that time, hexies were prolifically used to create many different quilt patterns, the most memorable being the grandmother’s flower garden. The attention to pieced quilting in the 1930’s is thought to have been due to the financial difficulties experienced during the depression. In that era, the creation of goods from scraps of material and use of low cost tools was a necessity.
I was fortunate to have found this grandmother’s flower garden quilt top at an antique market. I do not know how old it is however I suspect that it may be from the 1930’s or 40’s. Some day, I will research the prints that were used in it to assist in determining its age. I’ve probably had it for 10 years or so. If my memory serves me correctly, I paid about $40 for it. A true bargain considering the time and effort put into it and its pristine condition. I often wonder about the person who made it. Who was she? I assume that it was a “she” who made it. Is she still living? Why didn’t she finish it? Why don’t I finish it? I do plan to one of these days. I’ll probably take a modern approach to quilting it, by machine, with an overall meandering pattern as opposed to using the traditional outline quilting that is often seen on grandmother’s flower garden quilts.
The use of hexagons in quilts has experienced a recent revival. Typical modern twists on the traditional include the use of larger sized units, larger scaled prints and machine sewing. These new hexies range anywhere from 5” to 30” in width and are often made out of strips of fabric that are sewn together before being cut into triangles and assembled into the hexagon shape.
When using more traditionally sized units of 2” or so in width, trends seem to indicate that projects are becoming smaller than their earlier, full sized bedspread counterparts. Smaller scaled hexie assemblies are often seen incorporated via applique onto larger, more simply pieced works or even on whole cloth. This saves one from having to make hundreds units to still get a hexie effect. I suspect that this comes with the territory of today‘s limited amount of leisure time, coupled with our modern need for instant gratification. Our fore mothers were more patient and had far fewer options for pleasurable distraction than we enjoy today. There are still however those out there today who tackle large, multi-thousand piece hexie quilts. My hat is off to them!
I typically work with small to traditionally sized hexagons. I find that I have the best success by hand cutting, hand basting and hand sewing my hexies together. Earlier in my sewing days, I avoided hand sewing like the plague. I thought it to be tedious and imperfect work. When I became acquainted with the hexie, that all changed. The hexie has liberated me! Now I joyfully sit in peace and create my hexies, one by one until I join them together by hand with a good old fashioned needle and thread.
I use the English paper piecing method. This is a simple, traditional technique that results in accurate, uniform components that easily join together. Having accurate paper foundations is the key to hexie success. I buy foundations from a paper piece supplier however you can make your own if you prefer to. Just be sure that they are accurately cut and uniform in size.
I’ve had a blast creating with hexies. Being a modern quilter, I keep my projects small, simple and portable. I like to assemble little project kits so that I can grab and go with my busy work when I am on the run. My kit includes pre-cut squares, foundation papers, silk thread (it seems to work the best), straw needles, a tiny pin cushion and sharp scissors.
This doily of sorts graces my coffee table. Not only does it protect the table top, it also serves as a comfortable roost for our cat Dumpling. This project was bees nest inspired and has an organically shaped, unbound edge. I turned the raw edges under and blind stitched them closed. Whew! That took some time. The doily has an internal cotton batting and a whole cloth cotton backing. I machine quilted it with an overall meandering pattern.
These are side pocket sections for a tote bag that I am working on. I cut the fabric for these hexies from a jelly roll that I purchased. I joined them, added a cotton bat and backing then quilted the sandwich together. I added a thin binding to conceal the exposed edge at the top. The exposed sides and bottom will be concealed within my handbag once it is assembled. The balance of the bag will be made from un-pieced fabric. I like to show the fussy work on the outside and keep the inside clean and simple.
I thought I’d try my hand at some micro hexies. These were not made with the smallest size of prepared foundation papers that I have seen however I wanted to see how small I could comfortably go. Each hexie measures approximately 1/2" from side to side. Maybe I’ll make a couple of coasters out of them for our nightstands or possibly a change purse for me or a gift. We’ll see. I used nothing but scraps from my bin to make these. Not much fabric was required.
I’ve been working on an ongoing project with these beauties. I have no final plans in mind. I’ll continue to make these units until I tire of them, then I’ll sew them all together to form a single, larger piece. Maybe it will be a table runner, maybe a lap quilt, maybe a king sized bed quilt. Time will tell but knowing my modern attention span, I might end up with just a few potholders! These were made by creating a double walled ring out of the hexies. The inner ring requires 12, the outer unit, 18. The center medallions are whole cloth, blind stitched to the completed rings. I envision them being connected to one another by yet another row of hexies, maybe a black and white polka dot?
This is my latest hexie project and I just love how it turned out. Fairly labor intensive for a coin purse as surprisingly, it contains 49 hexies! I like the shock of the bright turquoise lining every time I open it.