Finishing Grandma Dunn’s quilts–6 pointed stars

One of the sets of unfinished blocks from my grandmother’s sewing area were these 6 pointed stars set with a hexagon in the middle. I think of them as star flowers. I don’t have early pictures of these, but they all had been set at some time, and then ripped apart, with a LOT of thread tails remaining in the fabric. They smelled like my mother’s house, which had been in Missouri’s 1993 flood up to her floorboards. I remember spreading out these blocks and using a lot of Febreeze on them. By the time I finished I hated the smell of Febreeze mixed with musty!

I remember taking them with me on one of my flights to see now DH in California. The flight is about 3 1/2  hours long, not counting the waiting time. I took a tape roller with me, and teased out all the threads. Grandma had a treadle machine, and sometimes it made really tiny stitches.

Grandma’s quilts were unique. She worked with the fabrics at hand, and if a quilt was for a specific person, she used scraps sent to her by that family. There were lots of us who sewed, so Grandma had paper sacks in her closet with the names of who sent the scraps on the outside of the bag. At times she must have tried to use up a lot of different fabrics, such as in this quilt. I’m sure that the pink fabric is from one of the first dresses I made for a friend in the very early 1960s. A lot of my scraps were pink. That one star of pink is the only fabric I recognize, so most of these came from other’s scraps.

The stars themselves varied from ones made from just one fabric, to ones where every star point was different. The inside hexagons differed in color, but all were made out of solids. In with the stars were a bunch of yellow 60 degree diamonds, all with the ripped out threads attached. I thought she had tried to use these as setting diamonds, without success. (They were cut wonky.)

I picked three fabrics, a yellow, a dark blue, and a vintage green, all prints that read solid at a distance, to use for setting diamonds. I began by setting in a diamond around each of the star points, making the blocks into hexagons.These were all done as Y seams, one at a time.  When I finished 18 of the 19 blocks, I realized there were not enough blocks to make any decent size of quilt.

One year for Christmas, about 1975, my mother gave me a large box for a present. In it were scraps of fabrics she had accumulated from her various friends that quilted. Most of the fabrics were older. We laughed that when someone died, my mother helped clean out their homes for sales, and scraps were not something anyone wanted, so she brought them home.

I now, in 2002, got out that box, separated the cotton scraps, and washed and ironed them all. I had been using a Marti Michell template to “square up” the star points of Grandma’s blocks, and to cut the setting diamonds. I used these templates to make the additional 14 stars plus 4 half stars out of these older fabrics. You can tell mine because the center hexagon is slightly larger, and all the centers are yellow. I tried to copy Grandma’s, making some out of one fabric, some out of two, and some where all the star points were different.

After making all the blocks, I then sewed the blocks to each other, making sure I had all three setting fabrics coming together at the intersections. Each “corner” was  Y seams. I never figured out a way to set them easily, even though I scoured all my quilting books for an easier method.

As I cut out the blocks, I cut additional diamonds of some of the fabrics. These were used for the borders. If I had known as much as I do now that I have a longarm, I would have sewed a stay-stitch line on the outside of the borders. I had it quilted at the local quilt shop in a meander pantograph with fluffy poly batting. Grandma’s blocks weren’t exactly flat, and the poly helped with the fullness in some places.
There was one star left over that was very wonky, and the only one made of solid fabric star points. I decided to disassemble it, recut and re-sew it. Since it was a solid, I wrote the story of the quilt on it, and used it as a label on the back. It was finished in 2002, and I gave it to my daughter at one of her bridal showers. We recently brought some of her quilts to my house so I could take pictures and document them.

One less UFO to finish!

Happy Quilting,


Dar said…
This quilt is such a treasure. I loved the story but the colors and pattern are wonderful. Your grandma would be so proud of you. You did a wonderful job and I can tell it was from the heart. A great heirloom to be kept in the family for many more years.
Kath said…
A piece of history for sure. I love how you restored and finished this quilt so sensitively.
I wonder if you will be able to pass on this quilt's story? I read somewhere that you might make a pocket on the back for a written history to be stored safely with the quilt, which I thought was a great idea.
I really enjoyed this post Becky, especially as hexagons are close to my heart.
Gwen Dixon said…
Becky - This is wonderful. Your grandmother and my friend's mother could have been sisters. Mrs. King lived in Tarpon Springs, FL. Thank you for this, it will certainly help with putting Mrs. King's quilt blocks together.
Gwen in FL

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