My Double Wedding Ring
by Keiko Goke
Judging by the blog postings, this wedding ring quilt by a Japanese artist was quite a hit at Quilt Market and Quilt Festival earlier this month. The color and the scale grabbed you as you walked by and the detail kept you there.
It's always fun to look at an old pattern in a new way.
How old is the Double Wedding Ring pattern?
Here's the earliest date-inscribed wedding ring I've been able to find.
We're all used to seeing the typical 1930-1960 examples, usually small scraps of prints contrasted with plain white background and four-patches of solid colors.
And sometimes with plain pastels in the background.
Quilt historians agree the design developed in the 1920s,
a variation on an older design with spiky pieces in the arcs,
something we call pickle dish today.
Tied wedding ring, fabrics look to be 1900-1925
But could the Wedding Ring be older than the 1920s?
There is a small subcategory of Wedding Rings made up in the fashionable colors of the 1900-1925 era---indigoes, cadet blues, turkey reds, shirtings and double pinks.
Alice sent in a photo of these blocks she found in an online auction.
The fabrics look 1900-1925.
Quilt historians also agree that the earliest published pattern yet found for the design is October 20, 1928 in Capper's Weekly.
Capper's Weekly sketch for the pattern, 1928, from Quilt History Tidbits
This quilt looks like it was made from the Capper's Weekly pattern.
Or was the Capper's pattern drawn from a quilt like this?
Note the alternating darks and lights in the arcs. The background, now tan, was probably bright red at one time.
Another example with the high contrast stripes in the arcs.
I bet the background here was once red too.
My guess is that the pattern designers picked up on a pattern that was being passed around hand-to-hand, a design that might go back to the teens or the 1900-1910 decade.
At the end of the 1920s quilts underwent a design change and so did the Wedding Rings.
The high contrast striped arc lost importance.
From Deb Rowden's collection
Prints very much in the 1900-1920 styles but the arcs aren't dark next to light.
Double Wedding Ring pattern from
Hubert VerMehren's Des Moines pattern company in the early 1930s.
It was important that the arcs be scrappy in the 1930s examples.
High contrast was no longer valued. And the modern pastel and bright prints were a necessity.
See more about the history of the pattern on Wilene Smith's webpage Quilt History Tidbits. She's done most of the research on the design.
And see Leigh's Hart Cottage quilts. She's quite interested in the design too because the Wedding Ring is supposed to be part of the Underground Railroad Quilt Code, which would mean that the pattern should date back to the mid 19th century. It's just not a possibility.
For related Double Wedding Rings click on the links below
Ann Champion's blog post
The James collection at IQSC
American Folk Art Museum