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Pennsylvania Dutch "Hex" Signs

In 1953, Alfred Shoemaker, of Franklin & Marshall College’s Pennsylvania Folklore Center, wrote a booklet titled HEX, NO! He concludes with the following comment, “I must say with absolute honesty that I have never found a single shred of evidence to substantiate any other conclusion but this: ’hex signs’ are used but for one purpose, and to put it in the Pennsylvania Dutchman’s own words, ’chust for nice.’” My family lived in Pennsylvania Dutch country for almost 200 years, and many relatives still do. My loving but practical aunties would have scoffed completely at the very idea of magic, even. So I present these Hex crossstitch patterns ’chust for fun.’

Many of these hex sign designs are adapted from the masonite designs "lovingly" painted by Jacob Zook, The Hex Man, at his original store, Will-Char: The Hex Place, The Home of Jacob Zook Original Hex Signs. Jacob Zook's Original Hex Signs Zook successfully pioneered the hand silk screening of hex signs. Jacob Zook signs are still made this way today. Most hex symbols are screened using four paint colors. Each color is applied as a separate step with about a day allowed for the paint to air dry before applying the next color. It's only after the fourth or final color is applied that the hex design becomes recognizable. Others are from Rau's Nostalgic Signs; Hex Sign Clip Art Pennsylvania Dutch - mothergoose.com, Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs adapted from the work of Professor Johnny Ott, Hexologist; EquiHex Designs Equine Hex Signs & Gifts; die Hexenmeisteren; or W. Schuster Signs - Handcrafters of PA Dutch Hex Signs & Gifts.

As you can see from the samples, more modern hex sign designs can employ many more than four colors. Using the Big Daddy hex as an example, designs and colors from one designer to the next, while similar, may be quite different. Distlefink birds take on wide variation as shown by the many signs which include Distlefinks. Finally, the Circle is a completely modern design; the original picture from which the pattern derives makes stitchers dream of flourescent floss colors. Try variations in colors. Try mixing the basic elements to create new designs. Anything goes!

(Colors in examples may not accurately represent the stitch colors depending on your monitor.)

Simple 8-point Hex

Abundance & Goodwill (Pointed Star)

Abundance version one-small

"Abundance," an early geometric sign, depicts a large, eight-pointed star, usually blue, with tulips and sheaves of wheat alternately between the star's points. A smaller eight-pointed star forms the design center. The stars and wheat symbolize abundance and goodwill; the tulips are for faith and trust in mankind. It's one of the more commonly used barn signs. Because it was so frequently used over the years, designs run from even more simple than this one to very complex and stylized using all colors of the rainbow.

Abundance - Zook

Abundance, Version Two

Abundance small - Zook

American Eagle (Strength & Independence)

There are several different design incorporating eagles. The North American bald eagle spreads his wings to proclaim his power and majesty. The eagle's breast sports a red, white and blue American flag shield. The shield represents independence for all. The stars add a generous measure of good luck. The overall design symbolizes strength and independence. See also the Double Eagle below.

Bird of Paradise Wilkum (Welcomes One & All)

The "Bird of Paradise" with his long, flowing tail symbolizes the beauty, wonder and mystery of life on God's earth. The Pennsylvania Dutch "Wilkum" proclaims a welcome greeting to one and all. The hearts and tulips add love and hope for all mankind. The design is worked on black fabric which provides striking color contrast.

Bless This Child

Bless this Child

A large, lace edge picture frame heart filled with love forms the design center. The child's name may be proclaimed in the heart. The lambs symbolize wonder and innocence. Distelfink birds add happiness and good fortune; the overflowing Trinity tulips provide faith, hope and charity. A heart border, to reflect everlasting love, completes the design. You can either personalize the heart or leave it blank.

Bless This House

Bless this House

Bless This House small

"Bless This House" features a large, red, picture-frame-style heart asking for a blessing on the house. The Distelfink bird wishes the home happiness and good fortune. And flowers and greens ensure the home is filled with life and vitality.

Circle large

The Circle

Circle small

The circle, among the oldest symbols known to man, is a symbol of eternity or infinity. Our sun, the planets of the solar system, and our earth are round. Hex signs are traditionally round, utilizing this ancient symbol of continuity. What goes around comes around.

Circle original picture The picture from which "Circle" derives shows clearly why I wish for flourescent floss colors.

Daddy Hex large - Zook

Daddy Hex (Good Luck All Year)

Daddy Hex small - Zook

This design features a large, multicolor 12 petal rosette. The rosette is another of the traditional good luck symbols of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Here, a good luck petal is provided for each month to give good luck all year. A much smaller 12 petal rosette forms the design center to provide a little added good luck during particularly difficult periods in any month. A wavy outer border wishes for smooth sailing through life.

Daddy Hex 2

Daddy Hex, Version Two

Version two, from a different designer, is more colorful than the Zook design. The designer says red for love, blue for truth and protection, yellow symbolizing life and the sun, and green for abundance, good fortune and happiness. Also represented are the 12 months of the year, and the center rosette which wards off adversity and assures good luck.

Distelfink (Happiness and Good Fortune)

Distlefink - small

The Distelfink is the good luck and happiness bird of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Distelfink birds, often very stylized, were used to decorate marriage and birth certificates, bible fly leaves and furniture. It was based on our thistle seed loving Goldfinch. Here the Distelfink is perched on a large heart bursting with tulips. The heart adds love; the tulips add and faith. Overall, this design proclaims good luck and happiness. Happiness and good fortune is another accepting meaning.

Double Distlefink

Double Distelfink (Good Luck & Happiness)

Two Distelfinks double one's good luck and happiness. This is especially helpful during life's trying times. A double heart for much love, Trinity tulips for faith, hope and charity, and a scalloped border for smooth sailing in life completes the design.

Double Distlefink two

Double Distelfink, Version Two (Double Good Luck & Happiness)

Zook painted two versions of the Double Distlefink hex sign, the simple design above and this more stylized and complex design. The yellow distelfinks have special significance because of their color — yellow means life, sun, and gentility.

Double Distlefink two

Double Distelfink, Version Three (Double Good Luck & Happiness)

Other designers have produced many different designs of Distlefinks. All have the same meanings.

Double Eagle - Zook

Double Eagle (Courage)

A large, stylized double headed eagle represents strength and courage; the trinity of tulips adds faith, hope and charity; and the heart adds love.

Doves of Peace (Peace, Faith & Trust)

This design depicts two facing doves perched on a flowering tulip and heart "tree". The doves, heads turned away from each other, symbolize peace and trust. The bold, red heart is for love. Its use to form the tree's base also suggests love may be the necessary foundation for lasting peace. The flowering tulips are "overflowing" with faith for all. This very popular symbol proclaims peace, faith and trust.

Dutch Irish (Luck of the Irish)

One of the most popular of the hex symbols. A large, green Shamrock - the traditional Irish good luck sign - forms the design center or heart. Irish Distelfink birds shower the Shamrock with a "double measure" of good fortune. A heart for love, Trinity Tulips for faith, hope and charity and a scalloped border for smooth sailing in life complete the design. Overall, this design proclaims good luck of the Irish.

Family Blessing

This design features a large, endless floral "ring of life." The ring's center (or heart) proclaims the family blessing for all to see. The floral ring's many tulips "shower" the family with faith and hope; the star flowers add good fortune in our lives. Overall, the family blessing highlights the importance of a loving, supportive family in everyone's lives. This design is very popular for family gifts.
Family Blessing
Lord, family togetherness is wonderful! So, too, are the things that make each of us different!! Help us to be both ... Together and different, in love. And bless our family with peace.

Fertility 12-Petal Rosette

Fertility, Health & Friendship

While this is the version most frequently seen, these can be almost any colors to match your decor and still convey the same wishes.

Good Luck, Love & Happiness

This design features the mystical "Bird of Paradise" symbolizing the beauty, wonder and mystery of life on earth. The four leaf clover add a large measure of good luck. Overall, this design extends "good luck, love and happiness" to all mankind.

Haus Segen (Bless this House)

This design is one of the most loved of Jacob Zook hex designs. It depicts a large, red "picture frame" heart proclaiming the house blessing. The decorative lettering reflects the influence of early German writing. Colorful Distelfink birds and lush flowers surround the "home blessing" to ensure family happiness and good fortune.

Hereford (Protects Farm Animals & Pets)

The hereford was also used in hex signs. Herefords, steers raised for food, highlighted the importance food and food animals play in life. Like the horse head design, the hereford also protected farm animals and pets.

Horse (Protects Farm Animals & Pets)

The horse played a major role in early farm life. It is not surprising, therefore, the horse was one of the symbols selected to ensure protection for farm animals and pets. It helped protect against disease and lighting. An early version of this design showed a stylized horse head cleverly placed inside a five pointed star. Here, the star provided an added measure of good luck. This design protects farm animals and pets.

Keep Away Bad Luck hex

Keep Away Bad Luck

Keep Away Bad Luck small hex

A little-seen hex sign to keep away all bad luck. Sometimes seen with veins down the middle of the petals. Two sizes available in crossstitch, the regular 10-inch and a five-inch.

Love & Friendship

This very striking design depicts two Distelfink birds warmly embracing to show their love and friendship. Their "one" heart is laced with love for each other; the tulip adds faith this love will be everlasting. An endless ring of rain drops showers them with life's bounty. Overall, this popular symbol proclaims love and friendship.

Love and Marriage crossstitch hex

Love & Marriage (A Loving, Happy Marriage)

Here the "heavenly" joining of two doves symbolizes the matrimony of a man and woman. The two hearts, united in love, represent the joining of their bodies and spirits as one. Trinity tulips ensure a life filled with faith, hope and charity. The scalloped border ensures smooth sailing on the sea of life. This design is often personalized as a keepsake of this important event. (We do not personalize hex signs.) Overall, the marriage sign proclaims a loving, happy marriage.

Love and Romance

Love & Romance (Enchantment & Happiness)

This more simple design is quite typical of older geometric designs. A large, six petal rosette in the design's center is one of the basic good luck symbols of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Red hearts are prominently placed between the rosette's blue, red and gold petals. The rosette ensures luck and success in love. The hearts, carefully placed in a closed circle, provide endless enchantment and happiness. A decorative, scalloped border completes the design.

12-point Multicolored Rosette

Luck Multicolor 12-point Rosette

Wishes you a joyous month for each month of the year, love and kindness, and smooth sailing through life. These can be simple with two or four colors, or multicolored like this one.

Maple (Appreciation of Life's Beauty)

The "Maple" sign features five large maple leaves. The maple leaves, radiating from the design center, sport an array fo colorful earth tones. They portray the diversity and beauty of life here on earth. A good luck rosette (in the center) completes the design. Sweetness and purity of life is also an accepted meaning.

Mighty Oak (Strength, Health & Long Life)

Four large oak leaves in bright, bold colors radiate from the center of this design. The oak tree symbolizes strength, health in body and mind, and endurance or long life. The four oak leaf colors are used to represent the four seasons of life - spring, summer, fall and winter. Smooth sailing throughout life is shown in the scalloped border. This very popular design conveys strength, health and long life to all.

Morning Bird (Health & Happiness)

This very pretty design features two, facing morning birds joyfully singing their song of happiness. A large, four pointed "star" flower adds a generous measure good fortune throughout life. The lush flowers and greenery symbolize health and vitality. The "endless" outer ring offer everlasting life. Overall, the "Morning Birds" offer health and happiness to all. The presence of two birds also suggests true happiness may require others in your life.

Petal Rosette

Petal Rosette (Joy & Prosperity)

Aptly named, this very familiar geometric designs shows a large rosette having 12 colorful petals. The rosette is the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch good luck symbol. Here, the twelve petals, one for each month of the year, ensure good fortune all year. The leaf clusters near the outer ring symbolize family groupings. Placing the leaf clusters in a continuous ring highlights the importance family unity and support plays in our joyous, happy life. The rich earth tome colors create a very striking design. Joy and prosperity are the key themes of this design.

Pineapple (Warmth & Hospitality of Your Home)

This design features a large, stylized pineapple ripe with color. The pineapple symbolizes warmth and hospitality for all. Overlooking the pineapple, a welcome greeting is happily offered to all. Flowers and leaves symbolizing unending life complete the design. The pineapple sign extends a warm and cordial welcome to all.

Sun, Rain & Fertility (Abundance in Field, Barn & Home)

This well known geometric design features a large, eight-pointed star with a stylized "sun" center. The sun warms Mother Earth and lights our lives. Rain, shown as an endless circle of rain drops, provides the water essential to life on earth. Together they provide all bountiful harvest and renewed life to all. The design conveys abundance in field, barn and home.

Tree of Life (Happy Life and Joyful Memories)

This design depicts a large, stylized "Tree of Life" lush with God's bountiful fruit. Each of the tree's fruits embodies a traditional geometric hex symbol. The rosette offer good luck; the eight pointed star provides abundance; the tulips shower life with faith, hope and charity; and the rain sign proclaims harmony with nature. An "endless" outer circle imparts everlasting life. The "tree of life" offers a "Happy Life and Joyful Memories" to all mankind.

Welcome Sign (Welcomes Others To Your Home)

A classic, well known design often seen on home entry ways. The large, stylized Pennsylvania Dutch greeting, "Wilkum," extends a warm and friendly welcome to all. Facing Distelfink birds ensure happiness and good fortune. A "lucky" star and greenery, symbolizing life's bounty, complete the design. A lovely way to welcome others to your home.

White Unicorn (Piety, Virtue, Peace & Contentment)

This very striking design depicts two large facing unicorns. These wild, legendary "horse like" animals had a horn in the center of their foreheads and a lions' tail. Unicorns symbolize piety and virtue. Their close placement is designed to show all God's creatures, even "wild animals," can live in peace and harmony. Love and a generous portion of faith are added by the heart and tulips, respectively. Overall, this design provides piety, virtue, peace and contentment. It was the design often placed on the hope chests of young ladies.

Willkommen - Welcome one and all

Willkommen (Have a Happy Home & Many Friends)

Wishes for a happy home and many friends is the meaning of this sign. It features a large "welcome greeting" (in German) to one and all. The large red, centrally placed heart symbolizes a loving home and heart. Tulip "couples", show the importance friends and family play by showering the home with love and support. A Distelfink bird provides an added measure of good luck and happiness to all. The heart can be personalized or left blank.

For complete information on Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs, see: Legendary Hex Signs by Jacob Zook and available from Will-Char and the German Corner.
Legendary Hex Signs by Jacob Zook This book takes a look at hex signs and what they mean. Jacob Zook, a Pennsylvania Dutch man, explains history, colors, hex signs and their meaning, as well as hex stories.
Paperbound, 18 pages, 8 1/2 x 11", 4 oz
Catalog ID: 13140 $3.00

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