Friday, December 10, 2010


The word scherenschnitte means "scissor cut" in German, and is also a term used to describe paper cutting design. Scherenschnitte art work often has symmetry within the design, and common forms include silhouettes, valentines, love letters, and applique quilt designs. The art tradition was founded in Switzerland and Germany in the 16th century, and was brought to colonial America in the 18th century by immigrants who settled primarily in Pennsylvania. 

The two blocks in this blog could be called scherenschnitte. Both designs include elegant, symmetrical shapes that resemble paper cut snowflakes, but these designs may seem like something other than pure scherenschnitte because they include more than one piece of fabric. Some of the most distinctive examples are seen in quilts from Pennsylvania, but also in Hawaiian quilts. 

The first block (pictured, top) is from the second row, second block from the left. The center part of the block is a squared paper cut design made of oxblood/maroon/burgundy fabric. Leaves sprout from the corners, and budding flowers from top, bottom, and both sides. The second block is a unique design, but the central part of the design is actually made from five pieces of matching oxblood/maroon/burgundy fabric. In that regard, it is a fabricated scherenschnitte with seams visible only on close examination. This design has matching, unique green shapes in each of the four corners.

Even though scherenschnitte was prevalent in Pennsylvania quilts of the middle to late 19th century, the influence made its way into other types of quilts, including this album from West Virginia. These two scherenschnitte blocks are also among the most original and unusual designs in the quilt.

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