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Quilt Patterns

Quilt Patterns History

A quilt is a bedspread or blanket made of two layers that is filled with a material, such as cotton, wool, feathers, or down, and is stitched together, usually in a decorative design. It is believed that quilts originated out of need, as they provide warmth, rather than as an art. Early patchwork quilts were made of left-over scraps of fabric, often times not following a quilt pattern.

Quilt making as a form of arts and crafts only evolved in America in the 19th century, and this is when quilt patterns began to take on new importance amongst quilters. County Fairs began to appear where quilt makers could receive prizes for their valuable quilts and designs, and to compare and share different quilt patterns. Quilting Guilds and Quilting Bees were formed, again emphasizing the social structure of quilters and allowing for the trading and creation of quilt patterns. During this period, new quilt patterns were introduced; in fact, most patterns found in today's quilts were developed during this period.

Quilt patterns, as their name implies, are a type of a template to guide the quilter in making the quilt blocks, which are the smaller units that make up the quilt top. Some quilt pattens are more difficult than others, requiring more steps and materials.


Because early quilt patterns were for the mot part transmitted orally to friends and relatives, and were designed by individuals across America, there is no standard guide for quilt pattern names. One woman could have made a pattern and called it by a name, and a different woman with a totally different design could name hers the same thing! As one can imagine, this made for confusion about the origins of quilt patterns and their true names, a confusion that still exists today! The introduction of quilting publications helped to organize the patterns, and Barbara Brackman's "The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns" catalogs 4,000 quilt patterns published from the 1830's to the 1980's.

Quilt pattern names are as diverse as the patterns themselves. Names can range from war heroes and religious icons to the town where the quilter was from. Some examples of Biblical names are "Job's Tears" and "Crown of Thorns". The patterns "Abe Lincoln's Log Cabin", "Martha Washington Star", and "Dolly Madison's Star" all show national pride. Themes of home life are seen in quilt pattern names like "Broken Dishes", "Baby Blocks" and "Hole in the Barn Door". Some examples of quilt patterns named after the quilters' home state are "California Rose" and "Ohio Star".


There are many different types of quilt patterns; we will briefly discuss here a few of the more common ones.

A 4-Patch is a quilt pattern where the quilt block is divided into four equal sections. A basic 4-Patch has two different fabrics creating a checker-board look. A 9-Patch quilt pattern divides the quilt square into nine equal squares, similar in concept to the 4-Patch. Half-square triangles are the most used pieced unit in quilting. In this pattern, the block is divided along the diagonal with different fabrics on either side, usually a light and a dark. A symmetrical quilt pattern is a design where each side mirrors the other, so that no matter which side of the quilt is on top, it looks exactly the same.

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RSS | August 23, 2019

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