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.
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.)
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.
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.
*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