Sunday, November 28, 2010

Botch Handle/Devil's Claws

Or why I never get anything done around here....
Botch Handle quilt 
Shown in Quilting Traditions: The Art of the Amish,  from the collection of Tom and Marsha French, at the Dairy Barn last summer. 

Bonita writes:

Recently took in an exhibit of Amish Quilts at the Dairy Barn in Athens, OH. Wonderful collection in a most perfect setting! I was curious about one quilt named "Botch Handle". Looked it up in your Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns and found it also called Lily and Des Moines. A friend of mine said she knew it as Devil's Claw. So, do you have any clue as to why or how it came to be titled Botch Handle and what it may mean?
I could have said all I know is in that Encyclopedia. Even though I wrote it 30 years ago, I haven't found much new about quilt pattern names and their sources since then. The name Botch Handle comes from Robert Bishop and Elizabeth Safanda's Gallery of Amish Quilts. I do not know their source for the name, but it is used commonly now for Amish quilts in the pattern. I could have said that.

But no-o-o-o, although I should be mulching the roses I started looking at the whole picture.

In the Encyclopedia I listed several published names for the design (#2058a and 2058b) with Bishop and Safanda's being the most recently published. About 1900 the Ladies Art Company, a pattern sales company, published it as the Lily Quilt Pattern and Hearth and Home magazine published it as Des Moines. In 1934 the Kansas City Star quilt column suggested you embroider your name across the center in album quilt fashion and called it Cluster of Lilies. A smaller source the Needlecraft Supply Company published it in 1938 as Pond Lily.


The Amish may very well call this Botch Handle. I don't know a thing about Amish language. I guessed botch might be a German word, but I looked in several dictionaries and found it as an Americanism. In the 1830 American Dictionary of the English Language Noah Webster defined a botch as

1) A swelling on the skin
2) Patch
3) The part of a garment patched or mended in clumsy manner, ill finished work in mending.

Which is still the same meaning we attach to botch. So what is a botch handle? A bad repair?

For more botched automobile repairs click here:

As far as the Devil's Puzzle Pattern. It's similar, also based on four stars.

This pattern was published as Devil's Claws by the Ladies' Art Company.
Other names include Idaho Beauty and Cross Plains.

The name Devil's Claws refers to a number of plants with spiky parts, particularly a South African creeper
with an alarming seed pod.
There are probably many American plants also referred to as Devil's Claws, so we can imagine that is the source of the Ladies' Art Company name. (Roseanne sent a link to an American Devil's Claw plant that grows in the western U.S. http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_prpa2.pdf )

Quilts in both designs go back to about the 1890s, the time when the Ladies' Art Company started selling quilt patterns.

See four vintage versions of the Botch Handle/Lily made by women who were not Amish by looking at these references from the Quilt Index.

Well this was more fun than mulching the roses, and maybe someone who has interviewed Amish quilt makers can tell us more.
Me. I'm getting back to my sewing room and finishing a  botchwork quilt I've been working on.
P.S. Chris Jurd sent a photo of her recently finished Devil's Claws

See her blog:

UPDATE on November 29th in the afternoon.
Someone in the Comments said that her grandmother used the term Botch Handle for what your grandmother might have called a meat tenderizer. I found some pictures of antique tools. Now we know what a botch handle is and why the pattern would be called that. Thanks.


  1. Right now my whole sewing room is botchwork.....or so it seams..... with the patriotic fabs that are coming next year I am thinking a botch handle might be a way to showcase the fabrics.....

  2. Barbara, you made me laugh. Thanks, as always, for an informative post delivered with plenty of humor. Michele

  3. I truly enjoy your dry sense of humor, Barbara. As for Botch handle, and thinking of the kitchen of an Amish woman, I'd picture a large cook pot with a large welded metal handle on top. Picture in your mind the diagonal half of the block design and compare that with a pot lid with a welded handle.

  4. Your posts are always a joy to read.

    Love your humor!

  5. I'm currently working on a quilt with the Devil's claw/puzzle block only the book I found the block in calls the block Crowfoot. I sure enjoyed you post and your links - I hope your roses don't suffer too badly for it :0)

  6. My grandmother was of Pennsylvania Dutch descent. She told me that a botch handle was a
    meat hammer with raised areas to tenderize tough
    meats. I have seen these with a rough side and a smooth side over the years.

  7. I knew someone would have a grandmother who used the term. Thanks.

  8. What a fascinating post. I love that block but I didn't know the name of it. Botch Handle is so funny but then you've shown pictures of those hammers and it really makes sense. Chris Jurd's quilt is beautiful!! I love the colours she's used. I'm sure this post will inspire some more Botch Handle quilts in the near future.

  9. They have a kit to make one of these at the Quilted Moose. They're calling it "Turkey Tracks"

  10. Most interesting and I love the history! The red and white one posted on my face book page sure had many of us stumped! It looked more like a maltase cross or a Celtic cross! When someone finally found a pattern called devil's claw...I was quite surprised. I like Botch Handle much more!