The first thing I ever made in patchwork was a hexagon pincushion, which I still have tucked away in a drawer. The first thing I teach to beginners is a hexagon pincushion and for years my classes have then forgotten about hexagons!!
When I started, hexagons were just one shape we used, I enjoyed making them and as everything was hand sewn – ‘slow’ work, they were just something I did. After I had completed my first sampler quilt, learning all the basic skills, I then went on to make a double size quilt made from 1” hexagons. This quilt was used every winter for years on our bed, it has been used, washed and loved!
After the first one, I then made another double bed hexagon quilt for my best friend and after that one I started on one for our daughter when she was a year old, which I have promised her it will be completed for her 18th birthday in 2017!!! I did say it was ‘slow’ patchwork!!!
I saw a photo of a quilt made from little squares of all different fabrics in the hues of a rainbow, this got me thinking and I decided to create a hexagon quilt in the colours of the rainbow, using one colour for each square and quilt-as-you-go method. I worked over a year to create this quilt and it was published in Popular Patchwork (July 2015).
This quilt started me on a road to discovery about the history of the hexagon quilt. Hexagons have been part of patchwork for centuries, many well to do ladies created quilts from the scraps of their silk dresses and then later in cottons, some of these quilts have survived but not the maker’s names, others we know who made them, like Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. They speak of skill and the years of changing tastes in fabrics. They can catalogue thirty or more years of fabrics, in that my Rainbow Quilt uses fabrics from my thirty years of patchwork.
The hexagon quilt has always been around, from the well to do middle class ladies creating beautiful coverlets during the Stuart and then Regency periods, through to the Victorians and their love of embroidery and embellishment, to tailors showing their technical skills and the wounded soldiers after the Crimean wars being taught it during their convalescence.
It has had periods of popularity with changing taste and times, as has all types of patchwork. From something that Victorians loved, it quietly carried on till it became hugely popular as a thrifty creation – part necessity, part art of the 1930 depression years and the War years. To rise again with the resurgence of patchwork and Laura Ashley, in the troubled times of the 1970’s, through to now when hexagons have suddenly become massively popular again. Nostalgia, has played a huge part, not just for patchwork but all forms of creativity.
The threads of the past, history, skills and tradition resound in the hexagon quilt.
For me, they are a great portable project, taken all over the place, when Laura was little, swimming, French and music lessons, lately to hospital appointments and visits for older members of the family and also on holiday and just when I want something simple to do and not have to think about. And this portability is one of the many reasons hexagons have become popular recently.
My love of hexagons has never changed but I didn’t sing their praises, I quietly created with them. But no more!!! I now create quilts (and other things) with them, some more traditional, others pictorial combining them with other types of patchwork, applique and quilting. I share my designs and spread the word about hexagons from my classes to demonstrations at Rainham Hall (NT).