Monday, 30 March 2015

Red Sky at Night Quilt - Weathervane

I just got home from a weekend in Melbourne with my brother. We were there for work, but in our spare time, we had a little stroll around the old city, where I made him take photos for this week's Red Sky at Night block. This is Weathervane. And it had nothing, really to do with urban living, but everything to do with one very industrious woman.

Last week I finally branched out and bought Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia Of Pieced Quilt Patterns. I'd been trying to do a lot of my research online, like I used to for my History degree (though I could, back then, access the University Journal Database). I'm learning a lot about quilt historiography in this project. Quilt historians write books, quilt museums don't tell stories unless you take a tour, and a whole century's worth of a whole nation's newspapers and magazines and their quilt block patterns are sitting in libraries around the United States on Microfiche rather than on the internet. (why? WHY?) I'm starting to think a visit to America is in order. Can I stay at yours?

So this week, I bought a book. And I'm excited again. Because it helped me put some big puzzle pieces together. Brackman writes about her interest in collecting old patterns, which then turned into a career as a quilt historian. She talks about the history of published quilt block patterns in America. Newspapers and journals advertised patterns available by mail order. Pop a coin in an envelope and receive the templates! Even as I read that, I got that same buzzy feeling I get while waiting for a fabric order to arrive. I'm so glad for Paypal, but things haven't changed that much, really!

While blocks were mostly shared in periodicals, quilt block names changed by region, but then a few quilting legends started to publish books, and more and more names became canonised. Enter Ruby Short McKim, a creative and clever business woman with a supportive husband, who together, built a business around her artistic ability and needlework. She first started a quilting column in the Kansas City Star in 1916, and by 1931, she was so recognised and enjoyed that she published her first book, 101 Patchwork Patterns, which includes the first known pattern and mention of the Weathervane. It's available through the above link for free!  She writes, however, that the block, "dates back to the time when great-grandmother used that commodity to “calc’late a change,” instead of listening to a scientific forecast on the radio."
Did she just guess the block had been around forever? Or did she know of quilts made from her childhood? I think I need lunch with Barbara. 


You will need:

Red: One 4.5" sqaure, four 2.5" squares, eight 3" squares cut in half to make half square triangles.

White: Four 4.5" x 2.5" rectangles, four 2.5" squares, eight 3" squares cut in half to make half square triangles.

1. Start by sewing the red triangles to the white triangles, press and trim to 2.5"

2. Lay out as below.

3. Around the outside row, you'll find the red triangles facing each other. Sew these together first. Press.

4. Sew the white rectangles to the now bigger red triangles.

5. In the corners, take the half square triangle and sew it to the next-door square. The sew those two pieces together.

5. Now you have a Nine Patch! Sew the squares together in rows.

6. And sew the rows together.

I love old weathervanes (especially the ones with roosters!). And I love this block. But what I love most is how this block speaks of hard work, making opportunities, and family support. So maybe it was absolutely fitting to take photos of my block on a work trip in Melbourne while Tim stayed home with the kids!


  1. I love love love your photos! Especially first one - there's something magical there!

  2. I love this block! And as always, your research is fascinating!
    And if you do need to come to rural central Virginia, you can stay at mine :P

  3. Great post! I'm in north texas. Come stay with me if you are ever in the area!

  4. I have this book as well, and several others on the topic. There is also a wealth of books on the topic at the public library. You may have to order them interlibrary but I am sure there are some available.

  5. Continuing to enjoy this quilt-a-long. But need to catch up what I missed while on a cruise (holiday).
    Also love the little sneak peak (whether intended or not) of coming blocks when you have your hand drawn blocks in a picture lol.

  6. Thank you for a fascinating story about the life story of quilt blocks.

    I have a book you might like - 500 QUILT BLOCKS by Lynne Goldsworthy & Kerry Green


I so love your comments! I read all of them and reply when I can. If you don't hear back, I'm lost under a mound of scraps or outside jumping on the trampoline with the kids. Jodi. xx