For the Love of Hexagons: Grandma’s Flower Garden

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. old farmhouseThese 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.

iron bed tooThe 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. Vintage Grandmothers Flower Garden quilt, Illinois State MuseumNot 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!

photo photo(2)

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.

800px-Corn_field wikimedia commonsBack 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.

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About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
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15 Responses to For the Love of Hexagons: Grandma’s Flower Garden

  1. Sarah S. says:

    And this is why I love your blog. Not only do I learn things, share little charms, and get inspiration. I get to read wonderful little articles by someone who writes really well. I can smell fall in my mind after reading this. My dad never took me hunting (I would have refused) but what a great set of memories you have.

    Looking forward to seeing your hexagon garden blossom slowly.

  2. Barb says:

    Beautiful memories – thank you.

  3. treadlemusic says:

    Distant relatives of mine lived on farms (brothers!) in Alden, MN, and I would visit, with my family, and sleep in such a bed…..mattress, quilt and all! Coming from the Twin Cities Metro, and only knowing that lifestyle, such farm things mystified me. Such things as: how does the farmer know when to ‘hay’ a field!!! Today I think back at those questions/times/visits with wonderful warmth. Thanks for the memories……….

  4. Janet says:

    Waffles and ice cream for breakfast, oh my! My waffle iron makes waffles in shape of a hexagon, now I think I will dust it off and use it this weekend.

    How does that paper punch work, as in could I use it with my arthritis?

  5. Linne says:

    I LOVE this post! First time I’ve seen anyone mention Garrison Keillor; I chanced upon the DVD “A Prairie Home Companion” at our library one great day. I’ve taken it out and watched it many times since. The music is from my parents’ era; music I grew up with. When I was young, many families made their own music; something I miss to this day.Thank you so much!

    As to the quilts and the old farm and all the associated memories; I don’t have too many like them; the old bedframes and old farmhouses are familiar to me, though. I’d love one of those old metal beds again.

    BTW, if you want to make hexies in an even easier way, check out the “Quilt Patis” that you can buy at this site: http://quiltpati.tripod.com/id12.html I have purchased them from Sew Sisters online shop at this link: http://store.sew-sisters.com/stores_app/Browse_dept_items.asp?Store_id=807&page_id=17 and been extremely happy with them. The patis are re-usable plastic hex templates.

  6. You took me back to my great-grandmother’s house. Love the chilly mornings when the wood stove hadn’t vanquished the frigid air yet, all snuggled under the pile of quilts. Lovely.

  7. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Lisa Lisa says:

    Great story 🙂 I haven’t decided what I’m doing with mine yet either, but it will definitely be a quilt. As you know, I also have a Fiskars punch and love it!

  9. Rockgranny says:

    Wonderful post, I was raised in Croatia (SE Europe) in different culture but have similar memories. Making hexies is perfect projet for long winter evenings while watching TV. I’m working on my second hexie quilt now in which are included many of 2,5″ squares I swaped in last year Charm swap and yes, all hexies (except neutral background) are different
    You are welcome to my blog to see it
    http://quiltsofmanycolours.blogspot.com/2013/09/new-flowers-in-my-friendship-garden.html

    • djmat says:

      Grand memories you have! I hold dear the hexie quilt momma would bring to the hay field & spread it out under a 250 yr old oak so daddy & I could sit and cool off & take a little dinner (called lunch these days!) & some sweet tea. Momma said it didn’t matter if we spilled because the quilt was “tea washed”. Sis & I used the same quilt in early summer to lay by the lake, and on the living room floor in winters while watching Lawrence Welk and early Disney movies, we must have watched Dorothy & Toto at least 12 times under that precious quilt. Sis has first dibs so I have to make my own, but I hold the memories!

  10. Thank you all for the kind comments, and happy memories you share!

  11. Valerie says:

    I’ve just recently found you blog and I love it! 🙂 I too am a huge fan of scrappy quilts and have a pile of hexagon flowers that are waiting to be assembled…no plans other than I enjoy making the flowers. Cheers

  12. carol kumer says:

    What wonderful memories….You jogged my thoughts of my great grandparents farm. I don’t remember quilt but I’m sure they were there…We usually went in summer so I remember the rows of corn, sheep nose apples the best apple and the sound of the big clock in the kitchen. I love the spring water that my granma said tasted so sweet. The house was built like the one in your article and I esp loved th people who lived there aunts, uncles and cousins…Thanks for the memory..Carol Kumer

  13. Astrid says:

    How did I miss this post?! Love it! Such wonderful memories and a touch of Norway. Always admired Grandma’s Flower Garden quilts, but not sure I have the patience. One never know though! 🙂

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