Saturday, July 2, 2011

Laura Ingalls Wilder Week on Ponderings Day 2: Little House Quilts

As a quilter, I am particularly interested in references to quilt blocks in the Little House books. In the book On the Banks of Plum Creek, Chapter 36, "Prairie Winter," is this passage:  "Mary was still sewing nine-patch blocks. Now Laura started a bear's-track quilt. It was harder than a nine-patch because there were bias seams, very hard to make exactly right before Ma would let her make another, and often Laura worked several days on one short seam."  Poor Laura!  She had to do all that un-sewing before the invention of seam rippers!

Laura's bear's-track quilt block, sometimes referred to as a bear paw or bear claw, has one large square, one small square, and four half-square triangles with tricky bias edges.  The brown and tan block pictured above is a bear paw block I made.  It belongs to one of my UFO's (unfinished objects), also called PIGS (projects in grocery sacks) by my Canadian quilting friends. Someday this block it will be part of a really great lap-sized "guy quilt." Here are some links to other references showing bear's-track or bear paw quilt blocks (you may have to Ctrl-Click)

The nine-patch block, in Laura's childhood days, would have been made by hand-piecing nine squares together in a two-color pattern.  The photo above shows a small hand-pieced nine-patch that was made using fabrics from a slightly later era.

Here is another link to a reference showing a nine-patch quilt block (Ctrl-Click to open):

In one of the latest books in the Little House series, These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 32, "Haste to the Wedding," there is another mention of a quilt.  In this passage, Laura was packing her trunk before marrying "farmer boy" Almanzo Wilder:

"Laura brought her Dove-in-the-Window quilt that she had pieced as a little girl while Mary pieced a nine-patch. It had been kept carefully all the years since then." Here is a link to a reference showing a Dove-in-the-Window block (Ctrl-Click to open):


There is some informed speculation as to whether the Dove-in-the-Window and the Bear's-Track quilt were one and the same.  Both blocks use squares and half-square triangles, but the half-square triangles are oriented differently.  I found this archived blog post that considers that very question, and includes a side-by-side block comparison of the two blocks.

The authoritative work on quilt block identification and variations is Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Quilt Patterns, American Quilter's Society (1993), which includes over 4000 quilt blocks methodically indexed.

If you'd like to make your own Laura-inspired quilt, check out Quilting with Laura:  Patterns Inspired by the "Little House on the Prairie" Series, by Linda Halpin, RCW Pub. Co. (1999).


LeAnn aka pasqueflower


1 comment:

  1. I love these posts! I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie. I was always jealous of the fun they used to have. But of course in my childhood days we didn't have tv video games, cellphones, play station, or anything electronic. I remember the kid in my class telling me his dad bought a little calculator that you could hold in your hand and I didn't believe him until I walked into Carson's that Christmas season and there they were, behind glass!