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From my sketchbook: Paradise Found

Updated: Jun 4

One of my favourite aspects of quilting is the way that block designs gently evolve over the centuries. Each maker's hands adapt, interpret and amend them as their imagination is sparked by the work of the women who went before them. And their work, in turn, will be the spark for future makers.



This evolution is captured in the names that quilters give their blocks, often referring them to an object, a place or a specific event. Tying them to a moment in time. The Union Square block, which was the inspiration for my quilt, is very typical and has strong links with the American Civil War, although I'm not sure whether it was designed then or just became popular at that time. I suspect that the block evolved from the popular Ohio Star with the addition of 'arrows' in each corner.


But it's also known as the Four Crowns block, which perfectly describes its appearance when made traditionally, in two colours, as shown below left.

Adding a third colour and playing with the placement completely changes the block, centre above. So does the method of construction and, having drafted the block in three rows of three units, breaking down the crown motifs and adding the third colour immediately made the block feel more 'floral'. Like many quilters before me, I often see natural forms in classic blocks.


Once I'd started tweaking I couldn't stop: what would happen if I drafted the block in two rows of two units? It could become a little flock of birds, or rather four Darting Bird blocks, below left (I've separated out one of those units so you can see it more clearly)...

...which had me exploring the bird theme a bit more. The resulting bird looked very exotic to me, a Bird of Paradise in fact! And because the bird blocks are 'directional' they added a lovely sense of movement to my design.



I used Corey Yoder's delicious collection of prints, Strawberry Jam (for Moda Fabrics) to make my quilt, repeating one of the green prints in each of the 'flowers' to tie the blocks together. My quilter Jayne added some suitably exuberant feathers to enhance the Bird of Paradise theme.



But, just to be contrary, lets go back to that original classic block and see how the quilt would look in two colours:

Now those birds could be Eagles, long associated with North America...which takes us full circle to the American roots of the Union Square block.


I'm delighted to tell you that you can find my Paradise Found quilt on the cover of issue 60 of Today's Quilter, which will be arriving on your newsstands any day.


Nicola xx

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British designs by Nicola Dodd

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