Monday, December 21, 2015

Heirloom Quilts

My mother's mother was a prolific quilter. Up until about three months ago, I was aware of four quilts she made for my mother. Several years ago my mom gave each of us four siblings one of the quilts. Since I'm the oldest, I got first pick. So I naturally picked the double wedding ring quilt she made for my parents when they married 63 years ago. These are photos of my Grandmother: one from when she was about 16 or 17, and one from about about the time of her 50th wedding anniversary.


I mentioned to my mom that I would love to try to catalog all of the quilts her mother made for her children (eight of them) and her 41 grandchildren. It was a couple days later that my mom told me she ran across four more quilts that Grandma had made for her. Three are baby quilts with embroidered tops. One of the quilts was made for me as a baby, but it is in very bad condition. The back is in threads. I guess I must have really loved the quilt. It was fun to know about and see these baby quilts. (I'll do a separate blog post about them sometime soon.)

But the quilt that really caught my eye was a machine-pieced, hand-quilted star quilt featuring stars made from 60-degree diamonds set around a yellow hexagon.


I absolutely love this quilt. Yes, it IS machine pieced. I love the variety of fabrics. And especially the snail print in the block above. While there are a few repeats, most stars use a fabric that isn't used elsewhere in the quilt.

I decided to see how hard it would be to make the block. I started with a star from six 60-degree diamonds with a hexagon appliqued over the center. It looked fine, but clearly wasn't how my Grandmother made the block

It was interesting that after becoming aware of this quilt, I started noticing sixty-degree diamond star quilts all of the time. Jaybird Quilts is clearly the master of sixty-degree diamond quilts! I did buy her Hex and More ruler for cutting my diamonds.

Here is the classic Seven Sisters block, comprising seven sixty-degree stars set together as a hexagon. The large hexagon blocks are then set together to form the full quilt.


Close, but no hexagon center to the stars. Plus, my Grandmother's quilt is set together differently.

Then I discovered this quilt block. The stars have the hexagon centers. Getting closer, but the setting still wasn't quite right with the large hexagon at the center.

Here's a quilt set like my Grandmother's, but still no hexagon centers.

I thought I might be on to how to set the quilt together. Unfortunately, no such luck. Without the hexagon center, it can be put together just like a tumbling block quilt. (If you change the values of the diamonds, you have a tumbling block quilts. Several clever quilters have even figured out how to strip piece this quilt. But it can't be done with the hexagon centers.)

So I did some more test blocks to make sure I could machine piece the block with the hexagon center. First a star that is bigger than my Grandmother's quilt:


Successful piecing! Plus lots of practice with Y-seams. (I'd done them before, but after doing a few, I could tell that the Y-seams would go well. Just need to take my time.)

Here's a smaller version of the block (with a fussy-cut hexagon center):

I think my next step is select my fabrics, piece all of the stars, arrange them, and then figure out how to set the blocks together with the diamonds. I'm sure it will become obvious after I lay it out.

But I've already learned so much just doing the test blocks. But the number one thing I learned is that my Grandmother did not shy away from quilts that have some complexity to them. I already knew that she made several double wedding ring quilts for her children. But this one was clearly tricky and not for the beginning quilt maker. She must have liked the challenge of this quilt and felt a real sense of accomplishment when it was completed. While she used scraps, she unified the quilt with the same background fabric and center hexagon stars. Grandma, I'm impressed! And I've already told my mom she's not getting this quilt back!

1 comment:

mdghall said...

Love your quilts and what a great history. The quilt pattern looks like Texas Star. I made a small quilt top (still not quilted)using Texas Star Ardco metal templates. The blocks finish at 8 inches.


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