Well over 30 years ago, my Mum completed a hand sewn hexagon patchwork ‘flimsy’ … that is, a piece of patchwork without any wadding, backing or quilting. She didn’t know how to back it, so hemmed the edge and used it as it was as a bedspread. Over a year ago, she asked me to put a back on it, in other words, to ‘quilt’ it.

It’s far too big for me to machine quilt, and I have several pieces of my own that require attention so I wasn’t prepared to hand quilt it – not that I’m any good at it any way! So I decided to tie it (see here) … but soon got bored. And it’s been sitting in my spare room ever since.

But as you know, I need to clear the spare room so we can live in there while the kitchen and dining room are being knocked in together, so this week I’ve spent my mornings in the spare room – the Olympics streaming on a laptop – tying Mum’s quilt.

Patchwork wasn’t the craze hobby then that it is now … and Mum used whatever fabrics she had to hand. The cottons are still strong, but the polyesters are now falling into shreds, although the polycottons are OK for now. I considered patching it – I wouldn’t cut out the damaged pieces, instead I’d put another patch on top – but realise that once I started, it would turn into a bigger job than I have the time for. So I’ve continued to tie it as is, since the damage isn’t very noticeable and it’s not a show quilt.

I’ve been able to make use of that knowledge – about the fabrics – on another project that also came my way via Mum. A contact of hers was moving house, and offered Mum her unfinished patchwork – also hand sewn hexagons. In the end, she only ever brought about half her stash – it would have been an enormous project had she finished it! Some pieces were already sewn together, others were mounted for sewing and some were cut. I might have simply continued the project – there are sufficient hexagons for a reasonable sized quilt, but when I looked, the finished pieces weren’t in good shape. Literally. The hexagons weren’t regular and whoever put it together had had to juggle edges and corners to make them fit :( I could simply have decided not to bother, but there’s something of a scavenger about me and I can’t bear to throw anything away that I can make use of. So I have begun to take apart the sewn shapes. My plan is to cut some slightly smaller hexagon papers to remount them all and make them into a new quilt. The new hexagons need to be smaller since the fabric isn’t well cut either … some shapes had hardly any hem at all and would have fallen apart when washed.

But as I’ve carefully unpicked each shape, it’s clear that some of the fabrics aren’t 100% cotton. Some are polycotton, while some have no natural content at all. However, the colours are wonderful … that’s one thing I don’t really have is a sense of colour and how to combine them … so I’ve hesitated about choosing not to use some of the fabrics … only Mum’s quilt has persuaded me to stick to first principles and use only the cottons. So the final article will be much smaller – I’m passing on perhaps a third of the cut shapes – and a different colour scheme (I’ve not been able to match the polycotton solids she used, at least so far). In fact, I might make two even smaller quilts – there are two different base colours that hadn’t been combined in the completed pieces and I’m unsure how to merge them effectively.

But that’s part of the fun! I’ve questioned my perfectionism … after all, even the polycottons will last 40 years judging by Mum’s quilt … but this quilt (or two) will not only have been hand sewn, but hand unpicked too … several hours of additional work!

I’m seeing Mum this weekend. Sadly her quilt won’t be quite finished … the tying will be done, but I don’t think I can get the binding cut and applied by then. Hopefully I’ll finish it up next week, so we can take it to her while we’re on holiday. I’ll make sure I take some pics first! :)