Monday, August 19, 2013

Hand-quilting Hexie Quilt

Thank the universe and libraries for books on tape! Without them, I don't think my Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt would ever get quilted. Last week, thanks to "Uncle Tom's Cabin," I got one corner finished, probably about 1/20th of the top. Here's how it looks (click picture to see details):

As you can see, the quilting around the petals doesn't show much, because I made a conscious decision to more-or-less match the thread color to the fabric. To me it seems the quilt is "busy" enough with over 400 different fabrics in it. I want the design, the placement of the flowers, leaves, and pathways, to be the dominate feature of the quilt, downplaying the hand-quilting.

Truth be told, there's another reason for downplaying the hand-quilting. I'm not very good at it... actually not at all good at it.  It feels like I've captured a bit of the fabric on the back with each stitch. Yet later, looking at the back of the quilt, I see "skipped" stitches where the thread didn't catch the backing fabric. Also, my stitches are uneven. I hope to improve as I continue quilting.

The pathway of my quilting stitches is shown above in hot pink. I'm emphasizing the flower shapes rather than the hexie shapes, which is the more traditional way to quilt hexie quilts. These are only 3/4 inch hexies, so the quilting is fairly dense. It probably isn't necessary to quilt around the white pathway (or outer flower petals). So I tried a couple of them just to see if it made a difference in the over-all appearance. Since it looks better that way to me, I'm going to invest a couple hundred extra hours to do it.

I really like how the quilting design looks on the back side, with the embroidered flower centers and the outlines of the petals and leaves in different colors. Isn't it sweet?!

Since I'll be listening to dozens of audio books (from a great selection at our local library), I thought it might be fun to give a little review of each one as the quilting progresses.  So here are the three best I've heard so far, all of them rated Thumbs Way Up in my opinion:

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe, narrated by Richard Allen

Although very slanted toward Christianity, Stowe tells it like it was, developing characters and plot from real situations and people during the slavery years just prior to the Civil War. I learned a lot of history, both sad and hopeful. Richard Allen did a fantastic job of narrating this unabridged version of the book (16 CDs).

"Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, narrated by the author

I very much enjoyed reading Gilbert's memoir shortly after it came out. It has a lot of meaning for me, as I am dealing with some similar issues in my own life; plus I enjoy her frank, often humorous, honest narrative. I wanted to hear the audio version of the book because I wanted to hear it in her own voice. Thumbs way up on her reading skills!

"Animals Make Us Human" by Temple Grandin, narrated by Andrea Gallo

Dr. Grandin concentrates on the emotional rather than the physical life of animals, although the two are clearly related. I was especially fascinated by her discussions of the "seeking instinct," described for dogs, cats, horses, pigs, cows, and wild animals, the roll it plays in their lives, and how we humans can understand them better and improve the quality of their lives by giving them opportunity to gratify this instinct.


  1. So much effort but so well worth it! Just a great quilt! I love making hexies!!! Good TV work for sure and I agree about books on tape!! Wonderful!! Have you listened to 'Silent Snow' or 'Black like me'...both good books!!!

  2. Kelly Wilbur8:00 AM

    Keep it up, this is going to be exquisite!

  3. I totally admire your hexagon quilt work - beauty combined with meticulous detail!!! At the same time I have a suggestion: Why not write your doctoral dissertation on literature, once you've finished with the hexies? :)

  4. Sounds like a lot of work and sore fingers, lol. In truth though, I bet it is very therapeutic and satisfying, much like bead embroidery. I had a friend in college who made a hexie quilt and was amazed she had the patience for it. I think it took most of her years at college (3) to complete it.

  5. I love audiobooks! I've read the biography of Temple Grandin... she is a fascinating person. I'll have to check into Animals Make Us Human. Thanks for sharing about that.

    And your hexie quilt is lovely! It's funny... when I first saw it started, I was "meh, not my thing". But it's totally grown on me, and I'm enjoying looking at all the different prints in it with the tiny designs, contrasted by the quiet oases of white. Now I love it. :-)

  6. your quilt is so sweet! I love the back.

  7. So interesting to see the progress being made. Having joined the Beading Project this year it is amazing to see all the other beautiful handmade projects people are making. Always a joy to see.

  8. I started my hexy quilt this spring! I have enjoyed the process very much and find it relaxing. I'm in my thirties with four kids so I love to take it along and work on my flowers as time allows. I'm making mine a lap size so I can actually finish it before I have grandchildren, lol! I'm still unsure how to layer my top batting, and backing together. Can u recommend any YouTube videos to watch to help me out? I've enjoyed finding your blog and watching your progress. I've been a quilter for 12 years, but this is my first quilt done 100% by hand, and so far it's my favorite!

    1. If you'll reply with your email address, I'll send you some of my notes and pictures that show the steps in order. I think it will help you. I don't do much with YouTube because my internet is so slow, as in takes half hour or more to download a 3 min. video. It was difficult to find information on the web, but I did get some help from the folks at La Conner Quilt Museum, especially by looking at some of the vintage Grandmother's Flower Garden quilts in their permanent collection and one that was on exhibition from Japan.

  9. Realmente es precioso!!
    That beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Elena! It is finished now, and won a big award at the La Conner Quilt Festival judged show in October, 2015! I've started a second hexie quilt. Yikes! What am I thinking?!


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