For well over a century mostly women, but some men as well, have been English paper piecing fabric scraps onto hexagon shaped paper creating petals and then hand sewing these to each other to create flowers. These flowers are pieced together in a design with a pathway that meanders between the flowers. Some of you may have heard of this quilt pattern. It is called Grandmother’s Flower Garden.
Everyone has some stress in their lives. I don’t think we need to go very far to read or be told by Doctors and other professionals that maintaining stress in our lives is not good for our health. Everyone has family health issues to deal with as well. Theirs or a loved one. I was going through some anxiety as my sister was having radiation and chemo and my mother was diagnosed with stroke-related dementia. I was looking for something calming and relaxing as we also had other family health issues to deal with as well and life still goes on. My sister suggested to me that I should do some hand sewing because it is soothing.
When you work with your hands, your emotions can be absorbed in your activity. Your focus changes. Quilters and runners both get into their zone.
Coincidentally, I attended a needlework festival in Toronto shortly after having this conversation with my sister and just as I was leaving the venue, there was a vendor display and the owner was demonstrating hand sewing hexagon flowers. I watched. I was hooked. I knew that this was what I needed to do. It was a simple concept and was very portable. I could take it anywhere with me. And, I do.
I continued to make hand sewn hexagon (hexie) flowers for almost two years. They accompanied me to doctor’s appointments and they traveled with me. As well, I worked on them at home. I completed that hand sewn element of the quilt and started another for our daughter and son-in-law. Now those two quilts need borders and other embellishment added to them.
In the fall of this year, I was looking on Facebook and found a group of women who were making hexies. These women were trading the individual flowers. They made a plain center which they signed with their name, city, and country and then they dated it. Six petals were added to the center hexagon to make the flower, and it went in the mail with a note, postcard or a short letter to a recipient who sent one back. We are a group of all ages and life experiences. It is so nice to connect with these other people all around the world who know the pleasure of creating a hexie flower. Quilters seem to bond quickly. I have sent and received mine from almost all of the States in the USA, from Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain, Scotland, Guam, Germany, Ireland, Tasmania, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Some of us have sent messages back and forth and have traded more than once. One woman told me she loves the connection with others who like to create what she does. I like that as well. She lives in an outreach area of Australia in a tiny community.
It does amaze me how hexie quilts were made in the 1800’s out of necessity to use scraps and create a useful object. Something beautiful made from many little scraps! Eventually, these hand pieced quilt tops became quilt sandwiches and were hand quilted by a community of individuals who shared a common love for needlework and shared the companionship of sewing together. Quilting creates community. It creates bonds and individuals share tales, techniques, and projects.
In this age of digital communication and modern technology, it is so ironic that the internet can meld so smoothly with the old method of mailing a letter. I love to get the mail now. I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of getting the mail and seeing what I know is ‘hexie mail’. Inside the envelope is a beautiful hand sewn flower accompanied by a note or a letter. The connection is heartwarming.
As the saying goes, ‘art is cheaper than therapy’. Create a piece of art, connect with others all around the world and do a calming, rhythmic, meditative activity, handpiece and trade a hexie.