Monday, November 22, 2010

Double Wedding Rings

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.
How old?
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


  1. I had trouble imagining the red, white, blue and yellow one with a red background until I saw the one in the American Folk Art Museum collection. Stunning!
    Keiko Goke's quilt is just beautiful - thanks for showing the close up of the detail. I posted about it today - it made me wonder if I could turn those early Double Wedding Blocks into a little quilt - or would it be better to leave them as are?

  2. Keiko Sato is a favorite of European quilters, but her books and quilts haven't made it to America. On Amazon I looked to see if any of her old books were for sale and found only one that the seller wanted $376 for. She is really great at improv piecing without making everything look busy, busy, busy. Bonnie

  3. I have only seen the double wedding rings that were from the 1930's and I fashioned the two I made that same way - scrappy. Great looking at the photos of the quilts that weren't from the 30's.

  4. What about the applique versions of Double Wedding Ring? I've seen pictures of some that have thin solid color applique rings laid out in the same fashion. Did they predate the pieced versions?

  5. Thank you for the history lesson. I'd put aside a high contrast one I'd started over a year ago. Think I'll go get it out again right now!

  6. I think Alice should use her 1910-1930 blocks to make a quilt. They aren't unique enough or old enough to make them more valuable in their unchanged state. And it will be fun to see what she comes up with.