Marcus Fabrics Coasters and Doilies

Marcus Fabrics Coasters

Hexies. They are the original patchwork and continue to enchant needleworkers the world over. Today, I’m sharing a hexie pattern for making coasters and doilies. 

What is a hexie? It is a form of English paper-piecing, a traditional needlework technique that involves sewing fabric onto geometric shapes made of paper. The paper provides a foolproof shape so that each individual hexagon (or other shape) comes out perfectly, every time. English paper-piecing dates to at least the 17th century, when upper middle-class women created quilts from small pieces of fabric, making elaborate mosaics from hexagons, diamonds, and other shapes that can interlock to form a larger pattern. Contrary to popular myth, not every paper-pieced quilt was made out of scraps. A letter written by Jane Austen, in May of 1811, to her sister asks for more new fabric to complete a diamond-pattern quilt: “have you remembered to collect pieces for the Patchwork? — we are now at a standstill,” indicating that newly-acquired fabrics were essential to the project.

Many paper-pieced quilts were, however, made from scraps of an extended family’s clothing. This made such quilts not only thrifty, but also a cherished memento. One of the oldest pieced quilts known in America, the 1704 Leverett-Saltonstall quilt, is made from a wide range of clothing textiles, including silk damask, satin, and brocades, according to Paula Bradstreet Richter, curator at the Peabody Essex Museum. Even the paper used for piecing the triangles that make up the quilt had personal significance: in addition to bits of the Harvard College catalog and Boston newspapers, there are letters and notes among the paper scraps used, which were left in the quilt.

Today, English paper-piecing is enjoying a revival. It was last popular during the Great Depression and World War II eras, when, marketed as “Grandmother’s Flower Garden,” pastel-colored kits featuring hexies laid out in a floral design with a green background were sold in the mail. They were popular handwork to do while listening to the radio. Hexie pieces were small, ranging from less than ½” to 1”, making these traditional quilts a labor of love. They often took a year or more to complete.

Paper-piecing today is much more diverse than the pastel kits of yesterday or even the traditional mosaic quilts of the 17th-19th centuries. Pieced hexagons are used as embellishments, purses, and to grace tables as coasters or home decor.

I used larger, 4” pieces to make large doilies that make great coverings on top of console tables, such as the Patina Vie Rue Montmartre, especially in bold, vintage-style fabrics such as Marcus Fabrics’ 19th-century-inspired Red Rose & Vine. Mixing and matching large-scale prints with delicate geometrics, these “doilies” go together quickly, and, paired with a versatile, elegant table like Rue Montmartre, make a console table the focal point of your room. Whip up one of these table toppers in an afternoon, changing out colors and designs to suit the season. Make a set to bring a whole room together–put some smaller coasters on your Patina Vie Rue Montmartre Coffee Table or Swedish Cottage Coffee Table for when friends drop by to chat. You’ll protect your 222 Fifth furniture, brighten your space, and have a fun way to blend contemporary home decor with the traditions of bygone days.

So how do you paper-piece? It all starts with printable templates, which you can download in the attached pattern. Grab your favorite fabrics, selecting colors that contrast or blend together. All you need is a needle and thread, scissors, and a few straight pins, making them the ideal take-along project. Check out the step-by-step details in our pattern here.

Want a black and white dish set to match your coasters? Shop for our Ciras Dinnerware Set.