Monday, 28 September 2015

Broken Wheel - Red Sky at Night Quilt

I wonder if was a sunny day, back in the 1920s, that Kansas girl, Carrie Hall woke up and decided to make a block in every single design she could find. Sunny days make everything seem possible, don't you think? It was supposed to be a sensible notion, as I'm sure all exciting ideas feel at the time. Afterall, she could never make whole quilts of all the wonderful patterns coming out in newspapers and catalogues. But if she just make one block, well that would be fun and worthwhile!

When I read about Carrie this afternoon, I felt like I'd found a kindred spirit. She came to quilting through a dressmaking business (as ready-made dresses in department stories became popular, her business declined), and a long love for history. Carrie grew up in a pioneering family, and throughout her life, used her energetic interest for knowledge, her creativity, and her entrepreneurial spirit in the pursuit of the story of quilts. She traveled and taught lectures around the country, sewed for the war effort, and collected a library of over 3000 books. She also, apparently, had a knack for biting off more than she could chew. Soon her sensible project to stitch all the sample blocks known to womankind, turned into a collection of 800! As someone who has now made 43, I'm just a little in awe. And also relieved I'm not the only one to dive into enticing projects without thought for whether they are actually possible. I wonder if she really felt she'd exhausted all the possibilities, or if she realized she never would? Oh, I wish I could ask her! 
These are now in the Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas. I'm adding a visit to my bucket list! But if you're never able to make it, you can find the collection here. I encourage you to scroll through as many as you have the time for. It gives you a sense of just how enormous the number 800 is.

One of the blocks in that collection was named simply, "Wheel", but by the 1930s, it had been published under several names, the earliest by the Ladies Art Company before the 1900s. You may have seen it as Single Wedding Ring, Rolling Stone, or perhaps even Squirrel in a Cage.


You will need:

Red: One 4.5" square, four 3 3/8" squares, four 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles.

White: Eight 3 3/8" squares, four 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles.

1. Cut the white 3 3/8" squares in half diagonally. Sew them to opposite edges of the red 3 3/8" squares. Press them outward.

2. Sew the remaining triangles to the other sides. Press outward. Trim to 4.5".

3. Sew the red rectangles to the white rectangles. Press.

4. Lay out as below. Sew together in rows. Press seams open.

5. Sew rows together. 

In 1935, Carrie's friends encouraged her to write a book about all the stories and quilt knowledge she'd collected. She decided to call it "The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America." While I would never call a book that, I do love that it reveals her love for the art. It's obvious that the stories and colours captured her imagination, enough to keep stitching on past 43 blocks!


  1. Our family just took a day trip to Lawrence, KS this weekend to visit the natural history museum there. I was literally within walking distance of all these quilt blocks and had no idea. What a great excuse for another little road trip! Thank you!

  2. 800 that is a rather awesome achievement. Your quilt is looking stunning - I love the hand quilting. I will be sad when this series ends - I have enjoyed all the little stories and historical facts with eh block. Looking forward to your next project.


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