Sunday, August 26, 2012

Show Off Piecing: Victoria's Crown

Victoria's Crown or Caesar's Crown
Show-off piecing from the 1840-1865 era.

I've been posting about Show Off Piecing this summer, vintage quilts that look appliqued but are actually pieced. One of my favorites is Victoria's Crown or Full-Blown Tulip, a popular design after 1830 or so.

The block itself is difficult to piece into a square. Most people would applique it but look for seams from the points into the edges of the block, indicating the block is all pieced. I digitally enhanced this block from a quilt in the collection of the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum and I see faint seams, which I've indicated with the black lines.

See the whole quilt here at the Quilt Index:

Piecing such a difficult block is not really Show Off Piecing---it's just good sewing skills. What makes some versions Show Off Piecing is the extra shapes pieced into the background like the quilt below. It's not just pieced blocks, it's sashing pieced into the background too.

Pieced Sashing, like Pieced Borders, is Show Off Piecing

This version on the cover of the catalog of the Royal Ontario Museum has a British sensibility in the color scheme, purples and pinks.

Whereas this variation from Wylie House Museum in Bloomington, Indiana has the classic German-American color palette. See another shot at this post at SewUniqueCreations.

The name Victoria's Crown comes from Ruth Finley's 1929 book. The block she shows is in BlockBase ( #3648).

I modified it a little here making the curved pieces a bit easier to piece. Finley showed them extending right into the corners. I imported the pattern from BlockBase into Electric Quilt, went into the Drawing Board Set Up and made the Snap Grid for the block 144 x 144 so I had lots of points to hang the lines on. Then I grabbed the lines with the Shape drawing tool and pulled them in a little in the corners and added a small seam.

 16 blocks, 64" square, all pieced.

It's still too show-offy for me to try to piece but I love to figure out the patterns. Of course, a real show off wouldn't piece it as a block but would make those pairs of white pieces one piece.

Lots of the comments on these show-off piecing posts are "Why?"

Sampler from Pennsylvania's Quaker Westtown School, 1801

One option is that the patterns were from needlework teachers. In the pre-sewing-machine age a girl's education was measured by her skills at sewing. Schools were competitive. Would it not be smart for the teacher to have her students excel at show off piecing. Other girls might learn to applique a design, but a pieced version would set one's students above the rest. More parents would be willing to enroll their girls.

This 1813 sampler labeled Weston School
may also be from the Westtown School,
but spelling consistency was not so valued as the stitchery.

Stella Rubin has a show-off version of the Victoria's Crown for sale

A quilt found in West Virginia with a different shape linking the crowns.

Here's a pieced block with applique  between---a very imaginative applique.

See a post I wrote about the block pattern here:


  1. I love this pattern. I have an old top done in pink and green of this pattern that I will quilt some day http://timquilts.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/pink-and-green-antique-top/
    Love the examples you shared

  2. I really like the design and I like the stella rubin version with the leaves turned so they don't touch, that would be stunning on a bed.


  3. I love this post. Such fabulous quilts!! I don't even want to think about the tears of frustration that would be shed trying to piece 16 blocks of that pattern but thanks for the inspiration nonetheless :0)

  4. I've always felt that in the pre-machine age when it seemed that everyone learned fine sewing skills, there was not much difference in difficulty between applique and hand piecing, the constant seamstress would be proficient at both. Piecing does sometimes save yardage,though. You don't have to cut out that fabric that lies in a layer under part of the applique.

  5. I was going through a couple trunks of items from the late 1800s. One dress is a velvet blue ensemble made by Carrie Hall. There are lots of doilies an appraiser quoted at 100s each. What resources may be available to sell my items. Thank you Michael

  6. Eleanor K HunzingerMarch 7, 2017 at 7:01 PM

    I have made all the blocks for Mrs. Brown's quilt. I just need to trim them down and sew them together. I will post a picture soon. I used lots of cheddar, dark reds and yellow greens. I had lots of fun with it. Kay H.