Sunday, July 28, 2019

Regional Pattern: Railroad Crossing

Here's a great Ohio invention:
The Railroad Crossing quilt

A small community of Amish quiltmakers who lived in Holmes County at the end of the 19th
century started piecing their solid color scraps into triangles.

Holstein Collection at International Quilt 
Study Center & Museum

And pieced those into bigger triangles.

About 1920, Holmes County, Ohio

Date inscribed 1921 L.J.H.

A star, some sashing---
a masterpiece.

Even if some of the color faded.
Darwin says NOT faded.

The earliest I have seen the pattern and the name published was in Quilters Newsletter in 1977.
I saw it as an octagonal block fit into a square and gave it a number in the octagonal blocks,
BlockBase #299.4

Here's a variation with a pinwheel in the center. Same magazine
but a square block. #2932.

1928, Christina Yoder Schlaabach
Perhaps this is the one I indexed.

Now in the Faith & Stephen Brown collection.

Or maybe this one. Both the pinwheels have been in Darwin Bearley's inventory.

Darwin still has a shop in Akron.

He says he still owns all of these and they are pictured in his book
Antique Ohio Amish Quilts. He also says:
"I've always thought this pattern was developed by the Ohio Amish as I never saw another one that wasn't Ohio Amish."
He is the authority.

A 20th-century version with a small nine patch instead of a star or pinwheel.

Signed and dated 1888 Melinda Miller

This one has a simple nine patch in the center of the block.
It's also in the Brown collection, the earliest date-inscribed
Amish quilt they have.

Small nine patches where the blocks meet in the center line.

Another from the Brown collection. No extra
patchwork blocks in the square---but a lot of triangles.
I count 44 in each of the larger triangles.

Most stitchers made do with fewer HSTs.

1914 Anna Hershberger, 
from Darwin Bearley's inventory

 International Quilt Museum

The story I have heard is antique dealer Sandra Mitchell (1942-2000), who lived in Columbus, Ohio, found the quilts in Amish families in the 1970s just as the market for Amish quilts was getting hot. Holmes County has one of the highest per-capita populations of Amish in the U.S. with families  going back there for generations.

But Darwin says Sandra was more likely to have obtained the quilts she sold from pickers and other dealers.

Holmes County
Sandra and Darwin sold many of those pictured here to collectors.
We assume the name Railroad Crossing was used by the families who inherited these quilts. 

Here's a version of the basic block. It's not in BlockBase.

Mainstream quilters made it too...

from the prints popular in the 1880-1925 period.

From the Virginia project and their book Quilts of Virginia. 

These "English" quilts are pretty much the same pattern.

But I haven't found a published source.

An extra row of triangles...Maybe once red and green?

If you were going to make one you'd probably want to cut and piece your triangles like this so you have a straight edge along the straight edge.

You don't want to have to corral your edges like Anna did in 1914.

72 x 95"
I figured out a 20-inch block in EQ8.
3-inch sashing between the blocks
Diagonals cut 3-3/8" wide
by 12".

Cutting would be smarter starting with 5" squares instead of 5-1/4". How big would the block be? See what happens.


  1. I've never really paid attention to this block before. Now I want to make one using hand dyed scraps. I think I would foundation piece the triangles in rows.

  2. I gasped and sighed my way through this post; now I know what I am going to do with all those trimmed off corners from flying geese blocks. Thank you!

  3. Wow -- sooooo many triangles! Filing this in my "ideas for someday." Just a slow-and-steady rest of one's life project :)

  4. Vicki, Barbara, I know what your scraps look like. Go for it.

  5. My TO DO list keeps getting longer! I just love the look of this block and the quilts.

  6. Oh I love those - thank you.

  7. What a great block and such visual differences depending on color!!

  8. Wow! It’s like sewing on on point quilt with setting triangles briny ones! LOL! I have a basket of already matched hst from a discarded Bonnie Hunter mystery. I may have to play.

  9. What a wonderful post of information and inspiration. I like the way the ones with the blue/green/light/black, with squares in the corners, look like sparkly cut glass. I just this summer gave away all my triangles cut from various things. Of course!