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Historians believe that the hexagon pattern might be one of the oldest pieced quilt patterns?
Pieced hexagon quilts had roots in England as far back as the 18th century. It is thought that the mosaic patchwork was most likely fashionable among upper class women who not only had the time to spend on the intricate hand work, but also had access to paper. Also, many of the shapes were fussy cut suggesting that the quilters had the luxury of wasting fabric to highlight a specific part of a print.
Immigrants soon brought the hexagon pattern to America. Templates for these quilts have been found that were made around 1770. The earliest known American made hexagon quilt is dated 1807 while an English hexagon quilt is dated even earlier. Most likely they were made for years before that time, but quilts back then were often not dated and few of the quilts from the era have survived.
One of the oldest Hexagon quilts from England
Godey's Ladies Book, founded in 1830, published the hexagon pattern in 1835. It is thought to be the first pieced quilt pattern published in America. All things English were emulated by American women during this period and making hexagon quilts was very popular in England.
During America's pioneer days, “paper” quilting became very popular. Interestingly, paper was scarce in early America and women often saved letters, newspaper clippings and catalog pages to create patterns. In many cases, paper templates were not removed from the quilt – the paper served not only as a template, but as extra insulation. These paper templates have become important pieces of history both preserving first-hand glimpses into pioneer life and also serving to help date the quilt. It may be that the challenge created by the lack of paper was responsible for the increase in popularity of the standard quilt piecing techniques that the U.S. is known for.