Monday, May 6, 2013

Rhythm, Repeat and Flow

A few weeks ago I did a post about rhythm, looking at pattern like this which sets up a rhythm, isolating a  design with neutral intervals between the design. These isolated motifs with a rather cool and calm rhythm have been a feature of patchwork quilts since Americans started making block quilts around 1780.

See that April post here:

There are other kinds of rhythm and repeat.

After the Civil War isolated blocks had strong competition from designs in which the blocks interlocked and formed secondary patterns.The log cabin design was a very popular example.

Log cabin designs achieve amazing variety mainly with shading.

Variations on the theme were pineapple log cabins.

The Drunkard's Path pattern, popular after the 1880s, sets up a flowing rhythm.

The rhythms in these interlocking patterns like the Split Nine Patch create a sense of movement.
Quilters were eager to find new patterns. The more complex the secondary designs the better.

Notice how that one accidentally misplaced triangle upsets the flow a bit here.
(It's in the center strip just below the center point.)

The all-over designs sometimes make it hard to see where one block starts and another one ends.

When I started making quilts in the 1960s
these were the kind of patterns that knocked me out.
I made one of the Indiana Puzzles above in red and green
for my niece. (Hard to focus on it to quilt it, though.)

I made one of these for my brother.
What impressed me was the interaction between the blocks.

I was not the least bit interested in this kind of static rhythm.

But everybody dances to her own beat.

See more about design on my other blog---
Historically Modern: Quilts, Textiles & Design.


  1. I too am enamoured with secondary pattern. OCS was great at creating "allover" designs. However, When I first saw Mary Schafer's quilts I thought they were boring, but I have to love her static style. It seems graceful and serene.

  2. I would never have noticed that bad block if you hadn't said something, lol. All of my quilts have a God's eye or a few of them, so I will never achieve flow, lol.


  3. Thanks! I think you've pin-pointed what I'm struggling with on my design wall the last few weeks. I always learn something from your posts. Just this weekend, I was looking through your Encyclopedia of Quilt Blocks, and was amazed at how you did all that research WITHOUT the internet!