Monday, December 6, 2010

Whatcha-call-its? or Whirligigs?

I have great respect for people who can identify applique designs - especially those who have a good, working knowledge of botany. Neither area is part of what I can say I know, so I apologize for not knowing what to call these two designs. Whatcha-call-its? or Whirligigs? They do appear to have some things in common, and that's why I've grouped them together in this blog. Both of these designs seem to be based on a botanical eight-pointed star.

The first block (pictured, top) is from the bottom row, second from the right. It is the more elaborate of the two designs. If I'm counting correctly, it includes 30 pieces of fabric. It looks like more, but there is reverse applique involved where the yellow hearts peek through the green leaves. Here's where I know my friend Liz from Sydney, Australia, would say she wants to see a close-up - so here you go, Liz! :)

If you click on the picture and click again to enlarge, you'll see the applique was, indeed, done with colored thread while the quilting was done in white. The green thread appears bluish, but it could have matched the fabric more closely when the quilt was made. The yellow may have faded out of it, or not. The thread used for the oxblood/maroon/burgundy applique is quite a bit lighter than the fabric - almost pink. It, too, may have faded.

The lavender print applique could have been done with lavender thread, but it's really hard to tell. The delicate chain stitch embroidery looks like it could have been done with the same color thread used for the green applique.

The second block (below) is from the second row, far left, and also appears to be based on an eight-pointed botanical star. In both stars, the points seem to be made of leaves. This second design appears to be more simple that the first, but on closer inspection, the level of difficulty is there. All of the cheddar orange details are done as reverse applique, with the cheddar orange colored shapes peeking through the oxblood/maroon/burgundy fabric.

In both block designs, Mary Couchman Small's sewing skills seem far more advanced than those seen in the quilt made by her daughter, Harriet. The two block designs are shared by both quilts, but Harriet's do not include as much of the reverse applique hearts seen in Mary's quilt. As mentioned previously, Mary would've been about 50 years old when the quilts were made, and her daughter, Harriet, would've been about 14. Two more detail shots of the second block design appear below.

It's difficult to pick favorites when looking at all the blocks in this quilt, but these two designs are among my favorites. Both have a sense of movement, particularly the second design, which has directional leaves sprouting from the tips of the stars. It looks like it's spinning, and its exuberant beauty is dizzying. This quilt truly makes my head spin!


  1. I haven't a clue as to the pattern, women then like woman not, created for themselves. What I really love is the amount of quilting, stunning!

  2. Thanks for keeping all of us who appreciate old quilts entertained. If I had to choose between the two blocks, my vote goes to the second. Both do show lots of movement, not something I usually associate with applique. Sorry I can't help with identifying anything, but I am enjoying the close ups.

  3. whoa! I think that is the closest hand quilting I've ever seen! Just beautiful!

  4. Pieced blocks are so much easier for me to identify/name than applique. I think applique lends itself to much more individuality leading me to have to say "in the style of or like" a lot!

    Love the reverse applique and the graceful leaves in the second block.

  5. Wow! Those are two wonderful and quirky blocks. I'm always amazed how different quilts look when you are looking at the whole or a close up of one block. I love the details!!

  6. Since seeing this beauty close up I would just call is beautiful... Hugs to you Bill! Ronda K Beyer

  7. I love both blocks! It looks like the same pattern was used for both, with some of the extra bits left off on the second, and the colors changed? The more simplified version in her daughter's quilt is wonderful too!
    Thank you so very much for the detail pics. :)

  8. Funny side note to the whole discussion of this quilt. When I first saw it, I was very much involved with sports and sports journalism, and I said, "Those are USC colors!"

    I've come a loooooong way since then. :)