What Are Pattern Quilts And Quilt Blocks?


You have certainly heard of a quilt pattern, but have you ever heard of a pattern quilt? A pattern quilt is one of the ways quilters in “the old days” shared quilt patterns with each other. They stitched together the blocks they liked and made a quilt top. In some instances, they even quilted finished out the quilt. This is a pattern quilt.

Of course, quilters did not always compile a quilt or quilt top out of their pattern blocks. Sometimes they simply shared the blocks. Nowadays, if we want to share a quilt block pattern, we email a pdf or scan a copy of the design and print it for a friend to use. Those modern day conveniences just were not options back then.  The only means of transport was by personal delivery or mail, so the fabric version of the quilt block pattern would have lasted much longer.

In the pattern quilt and pattern quilt block, colors and fabrics were not a primary concern, although it made sense in terms of time to just make an extra. Using quilt blocks as a way to share patterns was also handy if the quilter had happened to stitch too many blocks to begin with.  Old scraps could also be used for pattern blocks, as long as the fabric pieces were large enough to accommodate the pattern.

A quilter who received a pattern block had two options. They could leave the block intact and trace the block design elements, adding their own seam allowance to the tracings; or, they could dismantle the block and use the fabric pieces as-is for their patterns. Once they had a paper pattern for themselves, they might keep the pattern block, or send it to another quilting friend who had admired it.

Pattern blocks did more than just serve a utilitarian purpose. In a way, they were a form of social networking.  Some pattern quilts or pattern blocks traveled quite a distance and passed through many hands. In hard times, receiving a pattern block was a treat. For rural people whose nearest neighbor was many miles away, getting together to exchange pattern blocks was an event. In many cases, pattern blocks were exchanged at quilting bees. For those who did not have the ability to gather socially, getting a pattern block in the mail was as heartwarming then as a Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest “like” is now.

Times have certainly changed. We have many ways to share our quilt block patterns and designs than we did even twenty years ago. In addition to sharing patterns (always obey copyright laws when sharing, by the way), there are things like online webinars to help new quilters learn the ropes. A new quilter doesn’t have to attend a quilting bee to get personal tutorials these days. Plus, webinars and online video tutorials can be viewed at the quilter’s convenience. If watching a recorded webinar, you can even pause it and watch the instructions over and over again until you get the hang of the technique!

To share your creations with quilting friends all over the world, create a photo account online (like Flickr or Instagram), or just display your creations proudly in your favorite social media outlet; and when you do, keep in mind that sharing quilts and quilt patterns wasn’t always so easy. It all points out a simple truth: quilters are sharers. Long ago, sharing took more time and effort than it does today, but now we share our love for quilting in a much faster world. Other than how we share and learn our craft, not much has changed. We still need the same basic supplies – fabric, batting, scissors/cutter, needle, and thread. All the extras are just luxuries.

By Penny Halgren of http://www.How-To-Quilt.com

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