Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Hexagon or Honey-Comb Patchwork

Here's one of my on-going projects: a hexagon patchwork quilt.  It's to use up all the little odd pieces left over from sewing garments.

The inspiration is a quilt in Eileen Trestain's collection, which I encountered while taking her class at Marge Harding's Century of Fashion Conference in 2015.  The original had 1.5" hexagons arranged into rosettes, which in turn were arranged in concentric circles with a dominant color in each ring. Two white hexagons separated each rosette.  While Ms. Trestain's quilt was dated c.1830s-1840s, an almost identical design--albeit with a striped background and only one intervening hex--shows up in this 1870s quilt at the Met.  The International Quilt Study Collection and Museum has another like it from the 1820s-30s, with what appears to be a chintz medallion at the center.

Hexagon patchwork is still used today, under the names "English Paper Piecing" or "Grandmother's Flower Garden". A description of the method appears on page 300 of Eliza Leslie's The American Girl's Book (1831, page 313 of the 1857 edition).  It even calls for arranging the hexagons into rounds of colored calico, with white hexagons at the center of and between each ring.

The method apparently remained a patchwork staple from (at least) the 1820s into the twentieth century, as attested by the many surviving quilts with hexagonal pieces in various arrangments: rosettes (and another), concentric "rings" of colorstars, and even random; these quilts could also get rather complex (even recursive) and may be organized in lines or around a central motif.

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