When I was a child, we spent time in the summer at a farm in western Minnesota. It was a small farm belonging to a classic pair of Norwegian Lutheran Bachelor Brothers that would make Garrison Keillor proud. These two were my dad’s cousins, and seemed old to me even then. The short one collected antique farm tools in an old chicken shed; the lanky one played the trombone. They fed us waffles with sausages and ice cream at the crack of dawn, and homemade pies for lunch.
I think my sisters found the house, well, cluttered and perhaps not the cleanest place, but I loved it. I am certain it was their parent’s home before then, probably built in the 1880’s, with white clapboard and tall windows. I know now that it sat on a part of the farmland that my grandfather was raised on. There was evidence of a once-lovely garden out front, and a barn full of soy beans and hay for the milkers. We were free to play in all the spaces we cared to enter, and had a ton of fun around the barnyard and riding on the ancient tractor.
The brothers each had a small bedroom, but the large one was maintained as a guest room, with two rickety white steel double beds which my sisters and I shared. Every bed in the house had rough white sheets and old quilts. Piles of quilts on each–utility quilts, quilts from newspaper patterns, and lovely visions of white muslin peppered with flour sack prints. I remember tracing their pieces with my fingers, even as a very small tot.
My first image of a traditional Grandma’s Flower Garden quilt is probably from there. Faded, well used, in need of repair, but all the better for the patina that actual use had given it. Not unlike the photo here, it was a sea of posies on the old white beds. I looked for it every year when I visited, and claimed it for my own bed.
That love of hexagon quilts has never left me, and probably helped lead me to postage stamp quilts as well. But I never made one. I tried my hand at English Paper Piecing years ago but could not imagine having the patience to make a bed quilt like that. Fast forward to today. Pinterest and Instagram are full of new, modern quilts made with hexies of many sizes. Some are random, like hexagon quilts from the late 1800’s, but many feature the garden posies, or diamond shapes. Well, gee, if hundreds of quilters spend their spare time paper piecing hexie scraps, I can too!
I mentioned it to a quilty friend, and she sent me a gift – a Fiskar’s Hexagon Punch that easily pops out paper forms for a 2″ hexagon. They come in smaller sizes too, but I am glad she passed this size on to me. The minute it arrived, I was punching paper, trying different weights, and grabbing scraps to try my hand at a couple of posies!
This project will be a UFO for a very long time, I am sure. I have no plan yet. Do I make small or large flowers? Do they touch each other or float on a background? I don’t know, but that is quite alright with me. Playing with fabric is always fun. I am all about the process, and this is so different from chaining strips of fabric on my sewing machine.
Back to the old farm. As a teen, my dad and I went there every fall for pheasant hunting season. The old dining room, merely ten feet square, then housed a full-sized pool table. The wall held a rack with a dozen cues, each sawed at a different length so players could hit any shot without striking the walls or windows. As the lone female on those adventures, I was housed in the smallest bedroom with a small iron bed, a lumpy mattress, and a pile of old quilts in dire need of repair. It was a noisy house full of men ready to hunt, the dogs sleeping in the kitchen. Pool balls clicked all night, and the trombone usually sounded at some point. “The boys” still served waffles and ice cream for breakfast, before we headed out for glorious fall walks down country roads. I can’t drive by a cornfield today without looking for pheasants.