Friday, April 1, 2016

Charm Quilts and Odd Fellows

A charm quilt from 1870-1900, a single diamond
shape. The goal was no two pieces alike.

Third Time's A Charm
28" x 36"
405 Pieces
I just finished binding this hand pieced, hand quilted
charm quilt. There are duplicate pieces, but
I didn't intend for that to happen.

I've been keeping track of names for charm quilts in which every piece of fabric is different (or at least one attempts the idea.)

Tumbler shape, quilt top from 1920-1940 perhaps

As I said in an earlier post I feel confident that the name Charm Quilt was in use in the 1870s.

Here in 1878 is a reference to 8-year-old Myrtie Benjamin winning 50 cents for a charm quilt at the fair in Montpelier, Vermont.

But the idea of specifically choosing fabrics with no repeats is decades older. I recently found a reference in 1837 to Lucy J. Bowler's entries in the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association Fair. She entered two. "In one, every square is a different style."

That might refer to a sampler in which the blocks are different patchwork patterns, but it could refer to fabrics.

From the Pat L. Nickols collection at the Mingei Museum
Estimated date: 1870-1900

I've been finding  period names other than "charm" for the idea. One name is Odd Fellows as in the above 1876 explanation in the Christian Monitor. The author suggests a diamond for use in "one kind of patchwork known as Beggars quilt,' or having no two pieces alike they call it 'Odd Fellows.'"

 I'm guessing that a Beggar's quilt here is a scrap quilt and an Odd Fellows is a charm quilt.

Mrs. John Middleworth of Detroit won a prize with an "Odd Fellow's quilt patch work" in the 1856 Michigan Agricultural Fair.

I've found variations on the Odd Fellow's name
Below Harriet Stanley won a prize in 1853 in Washington City in the Mechanics Fair with her Odd Fellows' delight.

But because there are no pictures we have no idea what these Odd Fellow's quilts might look like.

This is in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilts Patterns as #147-
Herringbone or ZigZag.

I've been sorting pictures and names for tessellated designs, the kind of pattern used for charm quilts.
My latest way of keeping track of them is using Pinterest pages
sorted by BlockBase numbers.

See my Pinterest page for Tumbler shapes here:

I think this is the third time
I've done triangles.
There are many other possibilities.


  1. Just love the scrappy feeling of charm quilts and never knew they were called old fellows before. I did a charm quilt with triangles in the Ocean Waves pattern:


    Later I bought an antique one, to be seen here:


  2. But couldn't Beggars' Quilt refer to the need for someone making a charm quilt to beg pieces of different fabrics from her friends and acquaintances?

  3. Could. But they seem to think they are two different styles.

  4. I love the tumbler quilt! Scrap quilts are really special :)


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  6. I would love to know where you found the reference of the entry for the quilt entered in the Mechanics Association show? I am actually researching another piece that was shown there and would love to see if I can find more information and documentation on it.
    Thank you so much
    my email is dlayman at neo dot rr dot com if you could email me I would greatly appreciate it!!

    Denise Layman