Essex Linen Hourglass Quilt

Essex Linen Hourglass Quilt

I hope you all had a great holiday – I’m finally getting everything back to normal around here and can’t wait to get back to my sewing machine. I finished this quilt before Christmas but didn’t want to post it because it was a Christmas gift. This design is an hourglass quilt, which uses my favorite half square triangle blocks. I alternated a solid block with an hourglass block, because this entire quilt is done in linen and I thought an hourglass block all the way through the quilt might be too heavy with that many seams.

I really love items sewn with linen and I almost exclusively use Robert Kaufman Essex in Flax, a cotton/linen blend that is really nice to quilt with and is machine washable.  It’s a nice neutral color that blends well with a lot of quilting cottons.  For the colored hourglass blocks, I wanted to try to match the fabrics in the room where this quilt was going to end up.  Robert Kaufman’s Essex Yarn Dyed linens were just about a perfect match and they are the same blend of cotton/linen, but with a cross thread of white to provide a beautiful tweedy look that is just gorgeous.  These fabrics just appeal to me so much.  You’ll see more of them in my quilts in the future.

essex linen hourglass stacked

I do have some tips on sewing with Essex Linen, though.  I know a lot of people do not prewash their fabrics before sewing (I prewash everything) but I strongly recommend that you prewash linen.  Unlike regular quilting cottons which may or may not shrink or change after a wash, the linen will shrink. And it may be just enough to ruin your project.  So I put mine through a very delicate cycle on cold water and then tumble dry it until it is thoroughly dried.  If the fabric is going to change in any way – bleed color, shrink, fray, etc. – I want it to do it now, before it’s sewn into a quilt.  I know people have had trouble in the past with linen and you don’t want any surprises.  So dry it well, iron the heck out of it and it should be fine. I even sewed double seams in this quilt – for every single block, just to ease the tension on the seams and prevent fraying. I don’t recommend trying to zig zag or overcast the seams – this actually makes the fabric fray and splits it.  I think sewing a double seam on a small stitch length, like 1.8, does the trick. This is so worth the extra time to not have to worry about quilting with this gorgeous fabric.

sewn double seams on every block to ease tension:


essex quilt hanging

The drape and softness of this fabric is really nice.  The linen has a weight and heft to it that makes a really snuggly quilt.

The colors I used in this quilt were Essex yarn dyed Taupe, Rust, Red, Olive, Leather, Charcoal,  and Espresso.  The background color was Flax.

essex linens
see that beautiful tweedy look the white cross thread gives the linen?

essex hourglass stacked closeup

I made sixty 5.5″ hourglass blocks and sixty 5.5″ squares out of the plain linen. The quilt is 10 blocks wide by 12 blocks long. The finished quilt measures about 50″ x 60″.

essex hourglass before quilting

before quilting and after

essex hourglass overhead

I didn’t want to stitch in the ditch at all for this quilt – again, not wanting to add any stress to the seams – and so I stitched lots of diagonal lines around the blocks.  This was the first quilt that I tried using Auriful 40 weight thread instead of my usual 50 weight.  I really liked the heavier look and did not have to adjust the tension of my machine at all.

essex hourglass back and front

For the backing, I used Zen Chic’s Modern Background Paper Handwriting, an awesome fabric that I thought went well with the linen. It’s a larger text fabric than the one that I used in my Shire quilt. Both super fabrics.

essex hourglass

I used something new for this quilt. I’ve always used Warm and Natural cotton batting for my quilts, but I was in a quilt shop recently that didn’t carry it – they firmly believed that Hobb’s made a superior batting.  It’s a blend of 80% cotton and 20% polyester, which gives it a little more loft and softness.  So I tried it in this quilt.  I could definitely tell a difference. The quilt was softer and had more drape, better for a quilt that you want to snuggle up with.  The Warm and Natural is a firmer batting for sure and probably a better choice for a wall hanging quilt.

essex linen quilt front

essex quilt full back

I even made a little pillow to go with the quilt!

essex quilt and pillowessex hourglass pillow

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and thanks for dropping in!


Linking up to Fabric Frenzy Friday, Sew Fresh QuiltsLinky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River and Blossom Heart Quilt’s Sew Cute Tuesday

31 thoughts on “Essex Linen Hourglass Quilt

  1. Sam

    Your quilt and techniques are so inspiring.
    I love the colour combination you have chosen. I am sure the recipient of this beautiful quilt will cherish it. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Jody Mellenthin

    So I just found your blog – a happenstance – a HAPPY one for 2016! We both love Essex linen and the Magnolia line. Question – how do you prewash batting? Won’t it fall apart in the laundry?
    I find your work very inspiring.


    1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

      Thanks, Jody! I prewash batting by letting it soak in the washing machine for about 30 minutes and then drain the machine, without agitation – spinning is ok. I’ve also put it in my laundry utility sink and soaked it, then squeeze out most of the water. I dry it in the dryer on gentle cycle. As long as you don’t use agitation, the batting holds up really well, especially Warm and Natural. I did really like the Hobbs, though. You have to be gentle with that batting. But it’s worth it to me, to not have it shrink. Hope this helps!


      1. Jody

        Well today certainly is full of surprises! I just realized that you are the Italian Dish! And I follow you and your knitting, but had no idea that you also quilted! And you do all three so well! I’m glad to know about the washing of the batting, but I don’t think that my machine will allow me to regulate it as you indicated. I’ll have to check. Sometimes I LOVE the look of a quilt as it comes out of the dryer, but sometimes I miss having it look so new and pristine. Don’t you find a large batt difficult to handle – especially the hand squeezing? My machine quilter uses 100% wool batts. But I like the cotton and use it a lot. Maybe I’ll start with the cotton. Thanks again for the advice. LOVE your linen Hourglass so very much.


      2. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

        Jody: That’s too funny! How did you stumble on this site? I know what you mean about the look of the quilt after it comes out of the dryer – if I’m going for an old-fashioned look, I won’t pre-shrink my batting, but lately I’ve been doing a lot of “modern” quilts and I really don’t want the batting to shrink. As for size, I don’t really quilt anything over about 55″ x60″. I do a lot of lap quilts, so the batting isn’t too bad to handle.


      3. Jody

        I found you because I was looking for pieces made with the ‘magnolia’ line which I am bonkers over. And I found that you too love those little fabric trays. I am also pretty smitten with the Cloud 9 fabrics.
        I’m so happy to have found you!


  3. Andrea @ Tideline Quilts

    I love the subtle shades of your quilt, and the hourglass pattern is fantastic! The recipient must have been thrilled beyond belief to receive the lovely, lovely quilt! So glad I saw your post!


  4. Teje

    Hi Elaine! This is gorgeus quilt! I love the soft colours you have used and the simple pattern. Linen looks beautiful! The photo of the top before quilting reminds me of tiles on floor. Thank you for visiting my blog – I’m happy I found you! I’ll go to read more… x Teje


  5. Louisa @ Sewmotion

    I absolutely love your quilt, the colours are gorgeous! However, you’ve also scared me silly… I’ve just started a Millefiori quilt in Kona solids and a grey Essex Linen!!!! ahhh! Thanks for the heads up!


  6. Lara B.

    An incredibly beautiful quilt Elaine! Wow!
    And alos, the details youi’ve included are so helpful. I have a project lined up using Essex Linens and , while I’m a die hard prewasher, it will help a lot to know to double sew the seams. Did you use a twin needle?
    The backing you chose is so perfect and your quilting complements the quilt so well!


    1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

      Lara: No, I didn’t use a twin needle – I just sewed each seam twice, about 1/8″ next to the original seam. I know. It was double the work, but there are some stories out there about Essex fraying after projects have been washed . . . I just figured the double seams would ease the tension a little bit! And prewashing this particular fabric is important.


  7. Kathy

    Wow! This is gorgeous! And thank you for the information about working with the essex linen. I am SO impressed that you double stitched every seam. Beautiful!


  8. eamylove

    Beautiful quilt – so understated and sophisticated, but also inviting. I would love to curl up in it. The design is so cool, and the quilting is perfect – I’m going to put it on a Pinterest board. I’d like to make a linen quilt someday, too.


  9. Tracy Hansen

    Just beautiful!
    I love working with linen too, and agree that it should be prewashed to prevent shrinkage. Right now I am hand quilting a linen quilt for one of my boys and it just so lovely to sit under. It will be a wonderful quilt to snuggle under.


      1. Cheryl

        Is there an actual pattern and instructions somewhere? I Love this and am new to quilting and prolly need more detailed instructions, lol!


  10. AnnieVee

    Hi Elaine. I love thus quilt so much that I sourced out the linens on etsy — 5 different suppliers! Couldn’t find it locally (Ontario). And I’m anxious to begin 😀 But just wondering how you put together the batting when it’s smaller than your finished size? Should batting be bigger?


  11. Carol

    Did you prewash the backing also or just the linen material on the quilt top? Love this quilt and am in the process of making one like it. Thank you so much for sharing it!



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