Don't miss Elaine Elliott's Class/Workshop on machine piecing a Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt! And don't pass up this class just because you're not a fan of 1930's fabric...
What mental image do you form when someone mentions the Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern? I think most of us conjure up images of colorful 1930s fabrics, humorous character prints and of course "that" green and "that" pink! The standard pattern is a center hexagon, followed by two rings of different colors, then a third ring of background fabric. There are several variations and many names for the block.
In her Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns Barbara Brackman documented some of the many names given to this pattern: The Hexagon, Old Fashioned Flower Garden, Aunt Jemima's Flower Garden, Hexagons, Grandmother's Rose Garden, French Rose Garden, Martha Washington's Rose Garden, Rainbow Tile, Country Tile, and of course,Grandmother's Flower Garden. Brackman linked most of these names to 1930s sources. However, this pattern predates the 20th century.
Godey's Lady's book was a periodical published in Philadelphia from 1830 to 1898. It contained much information on current ladies fashions. Occasionally, it would also publish a group of patchwork patterns, many of which were copied from English periodicals. In 1835 it published a small, one color ring version of this pattern under the names Honeycomb, Six-sided Patchwork, and Hexagonal Patchwork. Perhaps this is how English Paper Piecing got its name.
But how did this pattern become almost synonymous with the 1930s? It may have been "reinvented" by some talented quilter. It is more likely the quilters of the 1930s simply reinterpreted a 100+ year old pattern using contemporary colors. Isn't this what we quilters do today?
I truly love old quilts, but I hope we don't get so caught up in the past (and reproduction fabrics) that we overlook the gorgeous palette of fabrics we now have at our fingertips thanks to the current popularity of quilting. We have access to colors and prints our grandmothers could only dream about. Imagine what they would think of the silky textures! We need to sew (or is that sow?) our own gardens, using our own sense of color...and remember our grandmothers.