Monday, July 14, 2008
Today's free quilt pattern is The Anvil.
The topic of today's blog is the naming of quilt patterns. The names given to quilt block patterns are not as old or as definitive as some quilters think. The first named pattern I know of was the hexagon, from Godey's Ladies Book, 1835. It was rare in women's magazines to find patterns for quiltmaking until the 1890s. At that time the Ladies Art Company began publishing and naming patterns. Connie Chunn is a quilt historian who has done extensive research on the Ladies Art Company and lucky for us, she shares it on her web site, Ladies Art Company. Quilt blocks continued to be advertised well into the 1960s, most notably in the Kansas City Star. Ruby Short McKim, Eveline Foland, and Nancy Page (the pen name of Florence LaGanke Harris) were some of the designers whose work were syndicated all over the country. The Magic Vine was one of Nancy Page's most popular patterns and a free version can be found at the Sentimental Stitches website. Patterns were named after places (Road to Oklahoma, Indiana Puzzle), historical figures (Lafayette's Orange Peel), household objects (Churn Dash), etc. In the 1920s and 1930s, the names were given romantic histories by authors Carlie Sexton, Marie Webster, Ruth Finley and others. There is no evidence in wills, household inventories or diaries that these names were used by colonial settlers or westward pioneers.
Publishing patterns began to wane during and after WWII. During the 1950s and 1960s, patterns were exchanged through Round Robins, where pen pals traced and traded blocks originally published earlier. Mimeographed catalogs from Barbara Bannister and others offered reprints of the syndicated newspaper patterns. Homemade quilt newsletters Aunt Kate's Quilting Bee and Nimble Needle Treasures were the precursors of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. The bicentennial began a renaissance in quiltmaking. Now we have many magazines, websites, and pattern companies to provide patterns.
This brings us to The Anvil. I drafted the pattern after finding it in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. The pattern in Brackman had seams in the center square. Brackman's pattern was from an unknown source. I had no luck finding a reference to this pattern in the Kansas City Star, so I don't know where it originated. Finding the definitive name for a quilt pattern is impossible. Many patterns that are geometrically the same were given different names (Churn Dash, Hole in the Barn Door). Different geometric patterns were also given the same name (Corn and Beans). Add to that the infinite variations made by individual quilters and the quest becomes even more impossible. Brackman's Encyclopedia is currently the best compilation, but by no means a complete resource.
When I know the history of a quilt pattern, I will include it with the free pattern. However, I have only scratched the surface of this topic. If quilt pattern history interests you I recommend the following websites for a start: Barbara Brackman: Quilt Historian, American Quilt Study Group, Quilt Patterns & Their History (includes free patterns!), and the Quilt History List.
Next week: Party Basket
Posted by Beth Donaldson at 11:12 AM