VI. QUILTING PATTERNS
OLD-TIME quilting patterns were few compared to the great number of
designs for patchwork. About a dozen standard patterns, with their
variations completed the list. Here they are: diamonds, shells or
scallops, circles, ovals, cables, crescents, stars, hearts; leaves,
running vines, tulips, roses, buds; pineapples, harps, birds, baskets,
and feathers, feathers feathers!
The easiest pattern of them all was made of single lines running
diagonally across the quilt. Diagonal stitching shows to better
advantage than that running parallel with the weave. Too, the cloth is
less apt to tear or pull apart than if the quilting lines are run in
the same direction as the threads of the fabric.
The single diagonal lines may be made in sets of two and three thus
making the patterns called the double and triple diagonals. This is the
first step toward ornamentation in quilting. A further step was made
when quilting lines crossed to form the diamond, or differently spaced,
the "hanging diamond" or the "broken plaid."
You can make any of these designs without a printed pattern adding them
to the top after it is stretched firm and smooth in the quilting frame.
For straight line quilting you can borrow an idea from the carpenter;
use a cord lightly chalked fastening it in place tightly stretched. Let
a second person snap the cord, it will fly back making a straight line
that can be brushed off when no longer needed. One tradition was that a
bride could snap her "Bride's Quilt" but that was all; she was not
allowed to quilt it.
Nowadays we use a yardstick or thinner strip that is perfectly
straight, marking on either side to fill in such spaces as used to be
In making the more complex designs with loops, circles and segments of
circles it is easiest to buy a pattern. But if you try making one
yourself use an improvised compass. This requires a pencil, pin and
piece of twine. After determining the radius of the circle measure off
the same distance along the twine from your pencil. Tie another loop
and let the pin serve as the axis from which the circle radiates. A
plate or saucer will also do for marking round designs, and one common
little pattern is called the "teacup border" where 3-inch circles make
a continuing overlap.
An easy way to make the shell pattern is to trace a row of half circles
the desired size to a short strip of cardboard. With a pair of sharp
pointed scissors cut around the tracing. This scalloped strip can be
laid flat on the quilt and traced. One row completed, lay the strip
close to the top of the first row, jogging the placing one half unit
and repeating to fill any desired area.
Close shell quilting is beautiful either for borders or background
spaces. Larger shells make a favorite edge on a quilted puff or
comforter and are nearly always used on the silk comforter that
scallops around the edge, then reverses the scallop pattern to make the
shells face in for half a dozen or more rows.
Both pieced and applique blocks are almost always marked for quilting
in lines which parallel their seams. For instance a nine patch block
with its finished squares two inches across would be quilted on all
nine squares one fourth inch in from all seams. This would mean 9
squares, each 1 1/2 inches across, 1/2 inch apart at all places. Each
alternate plain square might be gorgeous with a small feather circle, a
series of crossed lines, a star or pineapple. A pieced "Skyrocket,"
"Weathervane," or any star block will make a lovely pattern on the
reverse side when quilted to follow the seams. So for strength as well
as design we retrace the pieced block when quilting it. Some quilters
do not draw lines for this but sew along at an even distance, usually
1/2 or 3/8 inch from the seams.
For exquisite quilts of fine white muslin or sateen, the very careful
quilters marked out with a roweled dress-making wheel or by scratching
the line with a needle. In fact, the Kentucky quilters make a marking
tool by sticking a strong needle into a large cork, leaving the eye end
out to mark with. But only a small space may be marked at a time this
way as the line disappears soon.
Marking around cardboard or crinoline patterns with a hard lead pencil
is an approved method, but the lead must be hard or a soiled, smudgy
surrounding will result. Crinoline's advantage for quilting units is
that they may be pinned through this stiff, buckram-like cloth to hold
even an elaborate design in place while marking.
The stencil type pattern is also used, or cut out parts with an ornate
outside. Many, many hours are spent in marking out a quilt—it
a specialized craft by the time honored methods. That is why we have
adapted so many of the loveliest old quilting designs into wanted sizes
and produced them in perforated form. With the busy modern woman in
mind, we have made patterns simple or elaborate that will stamp an
entire top artistically, which means suitably, in an hour or two of
time. Almost every cutting pattern has a harmonious quilting design
suggested to use with it. Definite stamping instructions accompany each
order, but it is the same simple process used with any perforated
When using perforated patterns it is well to stamp the quilt top on a
table before stretching it in the frames, or even to stamp blocks
singly before the top is set together. When the women who are to quilt
it do the marking out, they usually stamp a "reach" at a time, which is
about 12 inches.
The design of your patchwork will largely determine the designs used in
quilting. Angles with angles, and curves with curves, does not always
hold true as most piecing is angular and much quilting is curves. Large
plain blocks make the major demand for ornate quilting, while the
converse is comfortingly true. That is if your piecing be elaborate the
quilting may, yes, be simple!
PATTERNS OFFERED IN THE
ORIGINAL 1931 EDITION >>
6 · CHAPTER 7