Monday, August 1, 2011

I have a hexie project, too! I just don't often admit it.

Do these fabrics scream the 80s and 90s to you? The one that won't lay
flat from being rolled up in my hand, in the upper left corner,
is the one I just finished.
This project is a running joke with my friends. I will give you a little history (okay, a lot of history). I have mentioned several times that I used to volunteer at a local heritage center. They used to hold an annual festival every year at this very time that ran for 8 days. It featured artisans of heritage crafts, lots of entertainment, food and reenactors, with many different historic groups represented--pioneers, turn of the century farmers, civil war soldiers (including the buffalo soldiers), mountain men, gunfighters, and Native Americans. I participated as a reenactor on the pioneer site and with the gunfighters (very out of character for me).

All of my fabrics were cut
and bagged, ready for
I got to know a few of the artisan crafters, including the local woman they brought in to demonstrate quilting. One year, well over ten years ago, she had a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt on her frame. I had always loved the design and she encouraged me to learn how to English Paper Piece the flowers, pointing out that we spend so much time sitting and doing nothing and this gave our hands a way to be productive. A little bag tucked into your purse could carry all you needed to be working on a block or two wherever you happened to be. She referred to it as her "lady-in-waiting" project. She gave me templates and assigned me to cut papers and fabric that night at home. The following day she taught me the technique. I picked it up quickly and from then on I could rarely be found away from my home without the makings of a flower block in my hands (never worked on this project at home). I stitched while I waited for my kids at the dentist, orthodontist, piano lessons, or even waiting for my turn at parent/teacher conferences. I had cut enough fabrics for over 60 flowers and was cutting papers as I went along. The flowers were starting to pile up. In my enthusiasm for the quilt, I had taught my mother how to make the blocks. Her pile grew faster than mine (she did work on hers at home) and in less than a year she had her entire top hand-pieced, hand-quilted, and entered in the county fair.

My oldest kids were getting their drivers licenses about this time and I soon found I wasn't spending nearly as much time "waiting". It seemed I seldom had a need to pull this project out of my purse. Over time it got buried in the depths of my bag and I didn't worked on it for years. One evening, when DH and I arrived at a high school gym several miles away to watch our youngest son play basketball, we found that the schedule our team had been given had the incorrect time listed and we were very early. What to do? There were other parents there and we started visiting. Suddenly a light went on in my head as I remembered my LIW project. I dug deep and found it, but to my surprise I discovered I could no longer see clearly enough to make those tiny stitches.
Click to see the stitches.
 I was getting old!! One of the other parents loaned me some reading glasses (I didn't even own a pair) and I made a feeble attempt to work on it--still a little stunned that my eyes couldn't do this on their own anymore. Back at home I took it out of my bag and put it away. I wasn't ready to admit that I needed glasses to do handwork.

There are now two or three times a year that I need some handwork to fill long hours. I am an election judge in our area and there are usually some slow times in a day that you need a small project. I also help take entries at the home arts department for our county fair. That is a day and a half that sometimes seems much longer. When I pull out my hexie flowers at either of these places I always get ribbed about how long I have been working on this quilt. Someone asks if it is my second or third quilt, and there is always a bunch of teasing. The kicker was 4 years ago as I sat and sewed on a flower at the quilt entry table of our county fair, a young woman walked in with a finished Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt to enter. She was 18 years old at the time and a friend of my youngest son. She told me that she had seen me working on my quilt several times in years past at the orthodontist's office and had really like it. She had found a pattern, learned how to make it, completed it--right down to the hand-quilting, and was there to enter it in the fair. And there I sat not even halfway through making my flowers. Boy, talk about feeling sheepish.

But I have gathered courage from the many bloggers who have posted about long-term hexie projects and yesterday, as we drove an hour each way to visit some hospital bound relatives, I took along my hexies and finished a flower I haven't worked on since the last election! I tell myself that this will come to pass--someday!!
But there is more (sorry). After initially learning the technique of English Paper Piecing I did some research on it and put together another quilt to work on when there was nothing else to do on the pioneer site. I used repro fabrics and found sewing implements as vintage-looking as I could afford. I chose to do this in the diamond (or as the early English quilters called "lozenge") shape. I collected reproduced newspapers of the 1800s from heritage villages in Utah and Illinois--having found in my research that many such quilts were pieced onto old letters and newspapers. Old letters were harder to come by.

 There was not a lot of idle time on pioneer site, so I didn't get very far with this project, either. We were usually kept busy dipping candles, cooking over the fire, quilting, talking to groups of school children in the schoolhouse tent, or on the handcart trail. But when things were calm, I would pull out my sewing box and try to look as "period correct" as I could with my handwork, because you know what they say about the evil of "idle hands."

Until next time, from the little mountain valley where we are being walloped with rain,
Janet O.


  1. Wow... them's a lot of hexies/lozenges! How wonderful you've inspired others to make them too! I have the feeling that I will get to hexies one of these years... great Lady-in-Waiting project!

  2. I watched a fellow quilter on a bus making hexies and learned the shortcut way to stitch them. I have maybe 3 different versions to the "flower" stage/ I just stitched some on a background square and used them in a row robin last year.

  3. I have been working on hexies for a long, long time, too. When I am shopping with a friend and we see packages of those hexagon papers she always teases me and says that I should buy just another package so I have plenty to finish my project. I also have a stack of finished blocks that my Mom left me to make a quilt for my daughter.....someday. But, how wonderful that you inspired that young girl to keep working on her project and even hand quilt it. I hope that she won a ribbon.

  4. Thanks for sharing your hexie story. Very fun to read. I had to laugh about needing the glasses! Your fabrics are old, but they are still pretty and colorful. Love how you are putting the diamonds together. Just keep stitching!

  5. You are all one step ahead of me...I'm still in the "dreaming of making a hexie quilt" stage!

  6. Fantastic story - lol ! I love hexagons - I have several quilts in progress. One day they will all get finished :-)

  7. Send some rain this way...well not until we get this hay put up! LOL!

    I love your hexagons! Giggle...I have a hexagon UFO from many years ago too. I did the same as you and used it as a take along project. But now mostly when I want to work on something on the go, I take my yo-yo's. I always have to have my hands busy even while watching tv.

  8. I love your hexagon story Janet!
    Too funny about the 18 yo old entering hers in the fair! LOL

  9. That is a great story! And I love that you are doing a real 'reenactment' of quilting with the old letters and papers....that's so fun! And don't worry about how long it's taken to do your hexie....the fun is in the process.....enjoy it, and let it linger! lol

  10. I loved your hexagon story. I have been working on mine for 2 years now and its still my largest WIP. I love seeing hexagons and yours will look amazing once its completed. Love the colors.

  11. My heaxagon-story is rather the same as yours......... :))
    I also have started many years ago and I'm still working on my LIW-project whenever I'm out of the house.......waiting for the (grand-)children; at the doctor or any place that would fit it.......
    My top is growing little by little........ And I really hope to have it done....... some time......
    Enjoy your hexies!!

  12. I enjoyed your story. You tell a tale well.
    Love the part about the 18 y/o who was inspired by you and got hers done for the fair.

    I also have 2 unfinished EPP projects. Each time I pull them up and start again, I remember previous times with needle in hand--waiting time in a hospital, long miles in a car, a granddaughter helping to match the parts of gramma's flowers.
    You have a lot done. It will get finished.

  13. I found you through Kristie's blog. I am sitting here knodding my head reading about your Hexie quilt. LOL I think most quilters have a long term, tee hee, hexie going. Now I want to get mine back out LOL.

    Your other quilts are lovely as well!

  14. Yeah, I've tried to start doing hexy's, but I just can't get going!

  15. LOVE the hexagons!! BRAVO to you for keeping with it...

  16. YES...YES...I have a Hexie project too! I stalled out, I just need to cut out some more that's all...when I get around to it!! HA! Looks like you are making great progress with yours. I never thought about using up some of my older fabrics. Yours look pretty good cut up into smaller hexie size!!


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