What Are Pattern Quilts And Quilt Blocks?

You have almost likely come across the concept of a quilt pattern; however, have you ever come across the concept of a pattern quilt? In “the good old days,” one method by which quilters passed on their designs to one another was through the use of pattern quilts. They produced a quilt top by piecing together their favourite blocks and stitching them together. In many instances, they even sewed and stitched the quilt to complete it. This is a quilt with a pattern.

Quilters did not necessarily piece together a finished quilt or quilt top from the pattern blocks they created. There were moments when they simply took turns using the blocks. These days, if we want to give a friend a quilt block pattern, we send them a downloadable PDF file or scan a hard copy of the pattern and then print it off for them. Conveniences we take for granted today were just not available in those days. Since the sole means of transport were human delivery or the mail, the fabric version of the quilt block pattern would have lasted significantly longer than its paper counterpart.

In both the pattern quilt and the pattern quilt block, the choice of colours and fabrics was not a significant consideration; but, given the amount of work involved, it made sense to just produce an additional one. Using quilt blocks as a way to share patterns was not only convenient, but it was also helpful in the event that the quilter had stitched an excessive number of blocks to begin with. Old scraps of fabric may also be used to make pattern blocks, provided that the pieces of fabric were of a size that was sufficient to contain the pattern.

Quilters who were given a pattern block were given two choices to make with it. Either they could keep the block whole and trace the design features of the block, adding their own seam allowance to the tracings, or they could dismantle the block and use the fabric pieces as-is for their patterns. Either way, they would have the option to make their designs. Once they had a paper pattern for themselves, they could either keep the pattern block or send it to a different quilting friend who had appreciated it. Once they had a paper pattern for themselves, they could also keep 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.

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