Tag Archives: Barbara Brackman

My First Set of Three for Foot Squared Freestyle (F2F) Bee

I joined the F2F group a month late, so this is my first participation. Blocks are 12 x 12 (Foot squared) (finished measurement) and the maker chooses the method and pattern (Freestyle). The “queen bee” chooses the colors. Annette chose orange, aqua/teal, and green with white background. I like the results enough that I might try something with that palette later.

Most of my standby blocks are one or two color with a background, so I browsed my trusty Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. And I found this one, Brackman 1144.

Brackman 1144

12 1/2 x 12 1/2

Yeah, by the time I finished there are more than three colors. Sometimes when two colors don’t seem to work together, they will play well if you add colors. So I did.  Technically the color change makes it a variation of the number marked by adding a letter, but I’ll use the number for convenience.The variation would have to have been in print before the 70s to make the system.) Those two center squares are not black, but a very dark mottled aqua and green. Brackman lists the block as “Sunny Lanes” by “Nancy Page.” Florence LaGanke Harris wrote a syndicated mail-order column under the name of Nancy Page from the late 1920s to 1940s. I remember a friend trying to research Nancy Page’s bio and not finding anything until she finally learned it was a pseudonym.

I could make three of the same or three different ones.  I like variety sometimes and this was one.  Right next to 1144 was a block that was shown in two colors plus background, but I could see a way to modify the colors, Brackman 1143. (Same qualification on number usage as above.)

Brackman 1143

12 1/2 x 12 1/2

Following the pattern exactly, I would have made the orange squares the darker green and the peach, white. I debated a while between the peach and white, and though I really like that orange and peach together, I think I might have liked the block better had I used white. But I don’t dislike this one enough to rip. Brackman found this one in four places with three names. (I wonder if all four thought they had invented it.) “Nancy Cabot” (a pseudonym for Loretta Leitner Rising and later Wilma Smith) called it “State House” as did Robert Frank in his catalog. It was called “Double Four Patch” and “New Four Patch” in Household Journal  and a related “Aunt Jane” pamphlet. Some block names are not so picturesque as others.

And the third block doesn’t appear in Brackman’s book, though she shows Variable Star with many different centers.

Variable Star

12 1/2 x 12 1/2

A block with a large center just asks for variations, and you can do anything you want with that square. I had left over squares from auditioning them for 1144, so I decided on this arrangement.

The arrangement also allowed for  repetition of fabrics. In a sampler quilt I like to repeat fabrics 2-3 times at least, and each color I’ve used has been repeated except the two lighter solids.  So if Annette also feels that way, she has some repetition here.  Maybe it is not quite so necessary when the colors are so close.

Check out the F2F Gallery here.



Filed under design, quilting

London Roads x 3 and an Oops

The sketch from several days ago has become three blocks. First the block like the one in my 1980s Sampler.

London Roads

15 1/2 x 15 1/2

This block amused me so much with its dead ends. And it may be named “London,” but it could be any city with one way streets.  I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has driven in a strange city and found  intersections of one way streets forcing me to go a different direction than I had intended.(I don’t recall the dead-end problem, though.) ETA: I do remember one time when I was an hour late because a freeway had been built in Baltimore. I was visiting after a few years; I had refused directions because I  “knew” how to get there; I could see the house across the freeway. I passed the same man mowing his lawn several times. He kept trying to tell me how to get across, but I kept missing one of the turns.

I found this block in copies I had made of an old catalog. In the 70s we didn’t have all the pattern books that are available now. We had books that taught how to draft patterns and The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt by Carrie Hall, who had set out to make a block from every pattern she knew. Between the two, I could make many blocks. I also had thumbnail size diagrams in catalogs I’d copied–one was dated 1900. But it was the only title page I had copied.  I copied pages from three different catalogs as blocks appealed to me. We could get photocopies at the library (no Kinkos yet) for a quarter per page,so at that rate, one skipped title pages. (That was before I was interested in quilt history.) I don’t remember if any of the companies of the catalogs were still in existence, but I doubt it. If the were, I think the quilters who shared them would have told how to order a new copy. Quilters kept old catalogs for reference. The “London Roads” block came from one of those dateless, titleless catalogs.

When I got Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, I looked to see if I could get more information. She listed two blocks named “London Roads,” but neither was exactly like mine. This one was close.


It had one less dead end than the one I’d made before.  Brackman identifies blocks by number, and this one is 1677b. Its source was the Ladies Art Company of St Louis. LAC numbered their blocks, and the numbers convey the dates patterns were available. This block was #238, which means it was in the 1895 catalog. Brackman identifies LAC as the first mail-order quilt pattern company, in business till the 70s.

Here is Brackman’s second London Roads.


This “London Roads” is attributed to “Nancy Page,” a syndicated quilter’s column  written by Florence LaGanke Harris from 1928-1940s. (The block also appeared in LAC as “Mosaic,” #336 in the 1897 catalog.) Brackman notes that “Page” gave it with an all over setting. One wonders if “Page” renamed “Mosaic,” reworked the old “London Roads,” missing the old joke and seeking to be more logical, or if she created what she thought was a new block that reminded her of traffic circles.

It is a two color block, but I added the third because I didn’t like the arrow completely disappearing into the background. Keeping the value the same seemed enough of a nod to tradition.

So those are the three blocks–I plan to make 8 from those three designs, alternating them with the building fabric; each block is 15 1/2 inchs square.

And the Oops.

Like you, I know that one should make one block before cutting everything. Although it is given as a way to test if a pattern is correct, it makes sense to do it when working from one’s own math (especially my math). But I was in a hurry and didn’t this time. So the three-bar square that forms the shafts of the arrows ended up 4 1/2 inches one way instead of 5 1/2 inches square. Since the shafts really needed to be centered, I added 1-inch strips to each side.  (I guess I could have trimmed everything and ended up with a 12-inch block. But I wanted 15.) So not only do I have to make a bunch of strips before I continue making blocks, I’ll have to buy more brown (or improvise).

Maybe the message is that I should be binding that other quilt.

Linking with Needle and Thread Thursday.


Filed under design, quilting

Naming Quilt Blocks

I am fascinated by the wealth of traditional quilt blocks, but even more so by the many names they go by and their variations. And I can’t help wondering how much variation it takes for a block to become a different block. Browsing Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, I’d posit that when shapes change–even one in a 9-patch block–a block gets a new number.  When shapes remain the same but fabrics change, it gets the same number with a letter suffix.  I’ll have to look more closely to see if that holds true.

3 quilt blocks

It’s block lotto time and January is blue-and-yellow month. The two to the right are among my stock blocks for lotto. I’m used to calling the block “Churn Dash” or “Monkey Wrench”; however, I was surprised to see it has been published under 19 different names (and four fabric variations). *

I had two reasons for exploring other block options. 1. I wanted to try something new. 2. I had been given the yellow/blue print fabric scraps by a friend who was house cleaning. I had decided I’d use all of it. Most was in 2 1/2-inch strips, but some pieces were large enough to get 4 1/2-inch squares and 5-inch squares. So I decided to cut as many as possible and add blue and yellow as necessary.

After using two 4 1/2-inch squares in the Churn Dash blocks I still had four. The block to the left was perfect for them. It has only one name, published under Nancy Cabot’s name in 1933 as Double Hour Glass. (# 1687a. There are three other fabric variations.)

Jacob's ladder

I had 20 small squares and two 5-inch squares left to play with. These two blocks use the same shaped pieces, I think of it as “Jacob’s Ladder.” Brackman shows five fabric variations, two worked for me. The block to the right has seven names.** I kept the two color arrangement but switched the print and plain–I don’t think that counts as another block because elsewhere Brackman simply notes in parentheses that fabrics were switched.

“Jacob’s Ladder” is among the seven names for the block to the left as well.***

Of course I could have cut the shapes and moved them around instead of finding block patterns first. But even if I had, if I’d used regular shapes, I’d have figured that someone else had already done it, and looked for a name.  Both design approaches are fun. Starting with the book can be faster unless you get caught up in browsing all 4000+ block designs.

The encyclopedia is no longer in print, but the information is available electronically as Blockbase from EQ.

This block has a different history.

Black Bird block

“When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing . . .”

A long time ago an invitation was put forth to make blocks representing nursery rhymes. A limited number would be made into a quilt. I had just seen how to make a bird from drunkard’s path blocks, and thought of “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” I sent it in. Obviously it wasn’t chosen. We must have sent SASE for the return of unused blocks–before electronic submission days. I was surprised to find it in a box of very old scraps. It was blue and yellow, so it went along with the others.

Linking up with LAFF and Show off Saturday. Here’s hoping that using one scrap fabric and a block found at the bottom of a box of scraps is scrappy enough for Oh Scrap!

*For the hardy souls who are still reading and who want to know all 19: Double Monkey Wrench, Old Mill Design, Hen and Chickens, Double  T, Shoo Fly, Sherman’s March, Love Knot, Hole in the Barn Door, Puss in the Corner, Lincoln’s Platform, Indian Hammer, Quail’s Nest, Broken Plate, Joan’s Doll Quilt, Fisherman’s Reel, Picture Frame, and Ludlow’s Favorite.#1646a

**The other six names: The Railroad, Golden Stairs, Road to California, Off to San Francisco, Going to Chicago, Susie’s Fancy. #1695a

***And the other six: Stepping Stones, The Tail of Benjamin’s Kite, Trail of the Covered Wagon, Wagon Tracks, Underground Railroad, Double Hour Glass. #1695b

ETA Brackman classification numbers


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History is a Good Thing

I have been enjoying reading Barbara Brackman’s Historically Modern posts. Today’s, “Modernism Takes a Break” was particularly interesting as she traced the pendulum swing between decoration and austerity. Check it out.


Filed under design

Christmas Placemat

Plan A for the WIP Wednesday winning (here) from Shabby Fabrics was a lap quilt with the Santa’s at the center of Variable Star blocks–my go-to pattern when I want to feature a novelty print. While waiting for the additional matching red and green that I’d ordered, I got another idea.


Placemats and napkins. I think the fabric with the Christmas ornaments got me thinking Christmas tree. It was an easy step from that idea to Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns (OOP, but available electronically as Blockbase) to look for what might be turned into a Christmas tree.  From the 2 1/2  pages of tree blocks, I selected #805 called “Norway Pine” in the Farm Journal and “Pine Tree” in Old Chelsea Station Needlecraft Service.

With the triangles red instead of green, it became a decorated tree. And a square from the star print provided the star atop the tree. I may add four green triangles in the inner row to get more tree, but I rather like the airy look as it is.

And placemats need napkins. So instead of fussy cutting the Santas, those fabrics become the napkins. Should make a festive table or a Christmas gift.

I’ll be linking with WIP Wednesday. Grab a cuppa and browse awhile.


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Redefining Minimalism

Today I read farther down Barbara Brackman’s Historically Modern sidebar than I usually do and found an older post on modern minimalism.

Most of her examples fit what I had considered minimalism, which emphasized big, plain, and simple. However, I was surprised at the Kandinsky she included. Simple shapes, well yes, mostly squares and triangles. But what about those irregular shapes and curves? And it seemed so fussy, compared to the one above and below it.

Better to expand than constrict, perhaps.

I don’t have any photos today, but there are plenty if you follow the link to Brackman’s post.



Filed under design

More Thoughts on Modern Quilting

ETA: Linking with Val’s archives. And no, I haven’t decided how to proceed with it. 4/26/16

I started blogging about modern here when I started the Classic Meets Modern Block of the month (BOM).  And then I missed working on February’s  BOM.  But I’m back in the swing for March. Besides the features I listed for modern quilts, friends added more in their comments. So the list grows. And my thinking continues.

I have enjoyed Barbara Brackman’s Historically Modern blog and the irony that modern WAS approximately 1870-1970. She too lists asymmetry as a feature but adds others, like use of simple shapes and flatness–not even trying for 3D effects. Here is her post on asymmetry. Interesting, her observation that as we tire of either asymmetry or symmetry, styles shift to the other.

When I was listing features, I forgot  the lack of frames/borders. And even more extremely, use of facing instead of binding to avoid framing the quilt completely. Brackman had several posts on this: here, here and here.

Of course, eliminating borders would be a whole quilt design more than a block design. I’m still working with asymmetry, wondering how many traditional blocks will remain  recognizable when made askew. This month’s classic block was the Drunkard’s Path two-piece unit in one of its variations.  I decided to modify the Fool’s Puzzle variant. (Image of the traditional quilt here.)

door prize fabricIn addition to asymmetry, I had modern fabric to use, Over a year ago I won this fabric, and it has been patiently waiting for a project.  (ETA the fabric line is Crazy Love by Jennifer Paganelli–glad I finally found the tag.)  And that is another feature of many modern quilts, using one line for the whole quilt. I don’t usually because the hunting and gathering phase is the most fun for me. But since I have it, this month’s block is modern in three ways. Maybe four. The 2-piece blocks are 4 inches, larger than usual. Though maybe not oversized enough to be a modern feature.

Oh, you wanted to see the block?

fool's puzzle --my versionThe top four units are like the upper right of the traditional Fool’s Puzzle blocks shown in the link (several variations exist–some color differences, some shape differences). The lower four are my modification. I have enough fabric to make  a lap quilt.  Haven’t decided whether to repeat this block or to keep improvising, whether to vary the size or keep it the same. No hurry. I can think on it.



Filed under design, quilting