Monday, September 7, 2015

1970s Hexie Love

Honeycomb Hexagons, c. 1975, Alaska, 75" x 86"
Hexie love is a thing today. I know dozens of quiltmakers who enjoy making English Paper Pieced hexagons when they are away from their sewing machines. Hexagons, also called mosaic quilts, have long been part of English and American quilting tradition and have had periods of popularity throughout quilt history.

Albert Small's record breaking quilt, seen in "American Quilt
Collections: Antique Quilt Masterpieces" by Shelly Zegart
collection of the Illinois State Museum
Some people have even specialized in hexagon quilts. Albert Small, an English born heavy machine operator and explosives handler in Illinois, made some of the most remarkable hexie quilts in the 1930s and 40s. One of his quilts included a record number of pieces--123,203 miniature-scale hexagons creating a complex, gradated geometric design.

Hexie Wood Dragon Quilt, by Gail Weiss
More recently, Gail Weiss of Portland Modern Quilt Guild made a series of pictorial hexagon quilts, something I hadn't really seen before. I can recall just one vintage pictorial hexagon quilt in my travels, and it was made in the 1930s or 40s.

pictorial hexagon quilt, seen in "American Quilt
Collections: Antique Quilt Masterpieces" by Shelly Zegart
collection of Rowland and Eleanor Bingham Miller
Hexagon quilts are so prized, people find ways to preserve and repurpose the usable bits of quilts in disrepair. Mary Kerr recently published a book called "Recycled Hexie Quilts: Using Vintage Textiles in Today's Quilts" on the subject. One quilt in the book, formerly from my collection, was made in 1842.

Mary Kerr's book about repurposing vintage hexies

I have a few 1970s quilts made with hexagons, and one of the most charming is the Honeycomb Hexagons from Alaska. It includes a variety of soft colors with a few stronger colors in the mix; and it has concentric rows alternating between solid and print fabrics. One of my favorite details is the smiley face fabric-- it is so 1970s!!

This quilt was one of the first 1970s quilts I bought four years ago when I recognized there was something about the 1970s. At that point, I was drawn in by the color, but I quickly learned there was much more to the 1970s quilts than color. The quilt is 75" x 86", hand quilted, and made of cottons and cotton/polyester blend fabrics.

The Honeycomb Hexagons quilt is part of a select group of domestically-made 1970s quilts, currently on display in  "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon. For more information about the exhibition, location, hours,  and other venues showing quilts during Quilt County 2015, click here.


  1. My mother passed away in 1979. I have the last quilt she made, a quilt-as-you-go reversible Grandmother's Flower Garden. One side is floral calicoes and the other solids. If you are going to the ASQG Seminar I'd be happy to bring it along to show you. Otherwise, I can send you pictures. When I remarried in 1981 my dad asked me what I wanted as a wedding present and I said "that last quilt The Mama made under your bed." He didn't even know it was there!

  2. What a great mix of hexie quilts!!

  3. Thanks for including me in your group of hexie quilts - I'm in great company!