Monday, February 8, 2010

Mystery Pattern: Swirl

For years the owner of this quilt and I have puzzled over the pattern.

She's drawn it up. She is going to make it, she says.

I am not.
But it does stick in my memory because it is so odd (and so difficult to draft---much less sew.)
I was looking at the pictures of cheddar quilts that Kathy Sullivan has collected and came across a cousin.

It's similar in its kind of yin-yang design but this doesn't repeat in the same complex way. (See below for the true Yin-Yang symbol.)
Neither are in my BlockBase computer program or Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.
This is the closest I can find---but it's a distant cousin. Carrie Hall called it Spinning Ball.

The date on the red and white quilt is probably 1930-1950. That curvy ice-cream cone border makes me think it's after 1930 and so much Turkey red would not be likely after 1950.
The chrome orange block quilt is probably early 20th century, or possibly late 19th when so many Southerners made graphic designs with solid-colored cottons.

Thanks to Barbara and Kathy for the pictures.


  1. Patricia Logan wrote a pattern using a version of the Swirl block, calling the quilt "French Twist", using up French fabrics bought on a tour to France with Yvonne Porcella. her swirl isn't set in a circle though. It was in the April 2004 issue of "Quilter's Newsletter Magazine" (p 56 & 57). She got around the piecing difficulty by using freezer paper applique for 3 out of the 4 swirls. But alas, no more info about the origin of this fascinating block than that it is traditional.

  2. There is a blue and white version of this quilt, without the added border, in Quilts of Indiana.(page 106 if you have the book) They call it the swirl quilt. Owner Lynn Demaree thought it was pieced in Connecticut around 1890. It is mostly machine pieced. No other information about the pattern is given. No matter what...it is stunning and mind boggling to think about doing without our modern tools and fabrics.

  3. A spectacular quilt and thank you for showing it to us. I like the way it is quilted too.

  4. Oh, I love red and white quilts and curves!

    Wondering if this could be done as wholecloth reverse applique, similar to Hawaiian applique.

  5. It is a beautiful quilt and the two tones really make the pattern stand out. Maybe the person saw the pattern in something she saw and copied it?


  6. The pattern for this Swirl block is in Great American Quilts 2002. The red/white combination is wonderful.

  7. Every now and then you see a quilt that defies words of praise. This is one such beauty. No fudgiing or dodging details with a stark red and white color scheme here. Perfectly pieced and perfectly quilted. Thanks Barbara for showing this one to us. Julie in TN

  8. HI again. Just found the templates for the Mystery Swirl blocks on ARDCO. Oly for the brave!
    LINK: http://www.ardcotemplates.com/osw.shtml

    Julie In TN

  9. Thanks to all the quilt detectives who found the Indiana example,templates and patterns.

  10. I follwed the link to the Ardco templates. Maybe in another lifetime! I'll try a snail's trail pieced pattern if I want such movement.
    The red and white quilt is lovely!

  11. Oh I'm so happy I found this post! As soon as I finish my king size hexi I'll need another hand project and this one is so appealing. I was flipping through the April 2004 issue of "Quilter's Newsletter Magazine" which I just picked up recently at our guild meeting. I was thinking I was going to have to have a template made but of course there's one out there. So delighted to just be able to order it. Yay! Thanks Julia for the point in the right direction. ^^

  12. The block is called "Candy Swirl" in Debra Wagner's book "All Quilt Blocks Are Not Square" (Krause Publications, 1995). It actually IS a square block, with 4 identical pieces. Fairly easy to draft by rotating the same curve 90 degrees around a center point. Wagner's excellent instructions make it easier (with a little practice) to piece than you might think. I machine pieced this huge (110" x92") swirl quilt in 2002, using my own original setting. I think the blocks finished at 9" square.