Square in a Square

January, 2013

Square in a Square

Maker unknown
Square in a Square

Circa 1890-1910
Probably made in Pennsylvania
Jonathan Holstein Collection, 2003.003.0298

“The formal rhythms seen here derive from two different but closely related blocks that create complex secondary designs when they are combined. The visual effect of such light and dark interlocking geometric forms is often, as here, one of grids that advance and recede as the quilt is observed. The eye catches one pattern only to lose it to another. The blocks, which are set on point, on a diagonal, are assembled stacks of squares. The more complicated pattern block is a square inside a square times five. The gradually larger series of triangles gave the maker an opportunity to show off a fine collection of oil calicoes, the small prints so popular with quiltmakers in the decades around 1900. She began in the center with a dark blue and progressed through a red square, a yellow, a double pink and finished the blocks with either a green or blue-green fabric. The simpler block, a blue-green print pieced into a Turkey red square, adds a layer of depth to the design and a unifying grid to the composition. The published pattern names, a bit prosaic, are “Scrap,” and “Triangle Design.” Quiltmakers might call them both variations on the Square-in-a-Square construction.”

- Excerpt by Barbara Brackman, from “American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940,” ed. Hanson, Marin and Patricia Crews, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2009.