Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the quilt catalogue: the pinwheel pattern

beautiful pinwheels  for :: the quilt catalogue ::

row one
*shabby* pinwheel quilt by carolina patchworks

pinwheel patchwork blankie by frolicdesign
pinwheel quilt, maker unknown, circa 1900-1920

row two
pinwheel quilt blocks in progress by momtwoangel's photostream
pinwheels quilt via by red pepper quilts
bright scrappy illusion quilt by twiddletails

row three
quilt top by CampFollowerBagLady
moda bakeshop's fabulous pinwheel baby quilt pattern
pinwheels by philistine made

row four
pinwheels quilt by casual attitude
spinning in the wind quilt by NoDuplicates
pinwheels by solgrim


ah, quilting & patchwork! it's one of my true delights in life. and the patterns that have shaped the vibrant history of quilting thrill me. i love when modern works build on the strong foundation of historical handmade arts. in this new rikrak studio series, the quilt catalogue, we'll be exploring some fabulous traditional quilt patterns, the stories behind them, a dozen different takes on the theme, patterns to make one yourself, and an opportunity for you to share your own quiltworks! so sit back, and let's meander down a wonderful handcrafted needle-arts path!


as warmly summer turns to windy autumn, i see pinwheels spinning in delight in neighbourhood gardens. and it's no wonder to me that these wonderful, colorful whirligiggs captured the imagination of some of the earliest patchwork quilters in north america!

let's explore: the pinwheel quilt!

the basic formation:
it's a patchwork, 2-square quilting design.
1 block is traditionally made from four half-square triangle units.

a little history on the pattern:
reddawn notes in her quilt history that circa 1795, (shortly after the invention of the cotton gin) the "pieced pinwheel block pattern developed" in the US. And that "patchwork blocks and pieced borders begin to be incorporated into quilts" at that same time, while the most popular quilt remained an "overall {quilt} design with a center medallion with one or more borders."

although most quilt patterns were "unnamed" in their early incarnations, as quilt historian laurette carroll notes in her lovely article, "quilt patterns names" , she also points out that the "Godey’s Lady’s Book" was the first American periodical to publish a quilt pattern in the US in 1835", and history has shown us that the pinwheel pattern was already very popular by that time in the Americas.

the "pinwheel" name fits well into the popular notion of traditional quilt patterns reflecting the homelife & outdoor aspects of the quiltmaker's daily lives! ( i think of the dresden plate, log cabin , churn dash, hole in the barn door, grandmother's flower garden and rail fence to name a few everyday life patterns.)

personally, i think of the pinwheel as a beautiful foundational pieced block in the *quilting canon*, that's for certain! i also love how the pinwheel pattern lends itself well to other beautiful variations such as the double pinwheel, cartwheel (whirligiggle), kaleidoscope, virginia reel , flying kite, whirling pinwheel, and has birthed numerous other wonderful variations on the theme!

now... let's make one!
{some great how to's:}

:: basic block construction link ::

:: basic pinwheel quilt pattern ::

:: a fun pattern for making a pinwheel quilt out of fat quarters ::

:: a more advanced pinwheel block here on mccalls. ::
: & a wonderful & adorable little pinwheel baby quilt pattern by moda bakeshop! ::


i must say, i think pinwheel quilts are delightful. i especially love a two-tone quilt with contrasting colours (i.e. light and dark) and the wonderful contemporary quilts of this and the 20th century incorporating a variety of fabrics on a pale background. i've tried my hand at a few pinwheel quilts myself, but gosh -
perfectly fitting those pinwheel points is not my forte! heavens!

i so admire a great point setter!

ever made a pinwheel quilt? we'd love to see it!
please add a link to an image of it below...

(i hope to do a followup post on reader's quilts each series & include yours!!)

have a pinwheel quilt tale to share?

have a favourite quilting block pattern? do tell!
happy stitching!
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  1. This is a wonderful new series! I've never made a pinwheel quilt, but i agree that they are so lively and fun! We have a pinwheel quilt we cherish that my husband's aunt made. It lays in a place of honor on the guest bed!

  2. what wonderful quilts! i made a simple quilt some years ago (just squares) using scraps of old clothes, and it took forever! i admire any quilter!

  3. oooh! what an great idea for a new series! i'm not much of a sewer these days, but i do tend to spend lots of time drooling over contemporary quilting images! This is an art form that I truly admire!

  4. I've never made a quilt, but I might need to start! Those are great!

  5. I love pinwheel quilts too! I haven't actually made one yet, I always get distracted by something else, but one pattern I do really enjoy is the windmill style because you don't have to match points, yet you still get the contrast and swirl of a pinwheel, here's a photo:

    Can't wait to see what block you choose next!

  6. Great idea for a series! I'd love to know more about Grandmother's Flower Garden. We have one my own great-grandmother made, and I just think that it's beautiful!

  7. a favorite for sure and your collection of them is wonderful!

  8. This is a timely post, thanks!

    My next plan is to make a quilt for my bed...we'll see how that goes!

  9. thanks for your kind words, nicies! i'd love to see photos of the works as they progress!


thanks so much for your comments, nicies!
it's a joy to read what everyone writes here.
thank you!