When Quilt History Repeats

This is a post of discovery.

Have you ever seen a quilt or a pattern for that quilt you thought you’d seen before and it is now packaged differently?  This is a tale of a Bear Paw block pattern I saved way back in 1996 when I was just beginning my quilt making journey.  Back then I subscribed to Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine and in April 1996 I fell in love with the cover quilt, Chaco’s Paw.  You can see it below…isn’t it amazing?DSCF9014

Well, kind of a side story, remember a few weeks back when I went to an Estate Sale and picked up lots of fun quilting stuff?

That Scrap Quilt book, the one in the middle by Judy Martin,DSCF9018 was one of the three books I picked up.  So I was lying in bed browsing my newly acquired acquisition when I flip through the opening of the book (good stuff by the way) and the first quilt photo is this…DSCF9019

Whoa! I KNOW this quilt!  That’s Chaco’s Paw!  Or was it?

Wait.  When was this book written?  I checked the publishing date and it is 1985.

Huh. That is 11 years earlier than Chaco’s Paw from the Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine of 1996.  I read the print underneath the photo and discover this is referred to as a Bear Paw Variation estimated to be made sometime between 1875-1890, at the time of the book (1985) this quilt was in the collection of the Levi Strauss & Company art collection.  So second thought there to myself was wondering if that blue is denim, but that was beside the point here.  I was completely dumb struck.  I kept thinking I’d seen this quilt before.  Judy Martin created a pattern for it, available in the book as well…DSCF9020

So my curiosity to find that old Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine had to be satisfied.  I had to see for myself if this was the same quilt.  Here’s the write up about the cover quilt…DSCF9016

Ah yes!  The pattern for the cover quilt is in the magazine (something that doesn’t usually happen)…DSCF9017

Now wait a sec I thought.  This looks identical to the pattern in Judy Martin’s book.  Let’s read the print, upper left…

“Laurie Evans of Austin, Texas, made our bright and cheerful cover quilt.  She patterned her quilt after a late 1800’s Bear’s Paw variation in the Levi Strauss & Company art collection as shown in Judy Martin’s Scrap Quilts book….

Ah Hah!!! So this was from Judy Martin’s book.  But I wonder why Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine didn’t SAY this was Judy Martin’s PATTERN?  The only add on to Judy’s pattern were the prairie points.  I mean, the pieces are completely identical.

So furthering my study I pulled out another book from my library…DSCF9021

…from the Cover of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine.  I particularly liked that fire lilly quilt on the cover and had bought this book because of it.  However, low and behold we have Chaco’s Paw again…DSCF9022

This book was published in 2004 and the description of the quilt makes absolutely NO MENTION of the Judy Martin quilt pattern NOR the Levi Strauss original.  Just simply it was patterned after a late 1800’s Bear’s Paw variation.

So do you see where I’m going here? Yeah.  It is the quilt credits.  At what point in the inspiration phase of a quilt do we stop crediting the original inspiration?  In this particular instance I believe the original inspiration was Judy Martin and her pattern she did for the Bear Paw in 1985…DSCF9020

based on that antique quilt.  Laurie used Judy’s pattern and added her own twist to it, she referenced Judy in the original publishing but then now 20 years later Judy has been dropped and only a tiny reference to a quilt from the late 1800’s, making it seem to the reader of this 2004 edition that Laurie was completely original.

Which really was what I’d thought all along.

So isn’t that an interesting bit of history?

There was one other quilt that caught my eye, but only briefly, which was this log cabin.  In both Judy’s book from 1985 and the From the Cover book of 2004…


I didn’t even want to go there so I just made a mental note to self.

So.  Two books, 20 years apart and some interesting history about a Bear Paw variation pattern.

What are your thoughts about the standards for referencing history?  How do YOU reference your own quilts?  I think this subject is an interesting one and I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Have you discovered your own version of my chance encounter with quilt history?

Happy Quilting!


21 thoughts on “When Quilt History Repeats”

  1. Nothing is new, only in the fabrics you choose. It is sad that the history does not stay with the pattern. I love looking at the civil war patterns You have really knocked this one out of the park with your great memory and reference library. I agree with you that the original “history” needs to be repeated. I think a letter to the editor of QNM is in order. I generally won’t buy a pattern, as there is so much available “historically” in the quilt world; at the library, on the internet, open domain. That said, if I use someones pattern, I try to note that on my blog and my label. 🙂


    1. Thank you. I know what you mean about keeping the history. I thought about that, about contacting QNM but then the book is 10 years old. I figure I’ll more likely get an email from doing this post! (It’s happened when I’ve written on other subjects…)


  2. Reblogged this on stitchinggrandma and commented:
    Sewing for Life has made some great points about “Quilt History” repeating itself. Nothing is really new. I am “reblogging” this post, because I think it is important to realize the pattern you are “buying” may not be “an original” design. Recently a blogger I read was going toe to toe with a pattern designer about the use of her pattern and the designer insisting she NAME her quilt with the pattern name. In Lancaster PA there is a fierce battle with a company called “Almost AMISH” and local quilters using a pattern and selling quilts made from that pattern which they own the copyright to. Crazy world.


  3. I am not a quilter, but as a former English teacher understand the importance of giving credit where it is due. So happy this was reblogged so I could see it. Love the research you did for this post, so informative. Makes me want to think about quilting in the future. Maybe when life slows down. Ha when does that happen?


  4. So often I use mags from the early 90’s and just re-work the colours and fabrics. The new mags sell the same things, just in a different package! Still, there is creativity in that…


  5. Well, personally, I tend to be inspired by quilts I see and don’t even know the name or history of the pattern. I’ll draw it up and do the math and make my pattern and if in the original quilt, the blocks are 12″ and mine are 12″ then we likely have an identical pattern, but if the original is 12″ and mine are 9″ or 16″ the pattern differs slightly. I just recently started making a broken lone star and I really know nothing about its history but I still posted it on my blog and even am doing a tutorial for making it.

    I’m not that concerned about credit though. I’ve posted original patterns on my blog, too, and a big block quilt I made turned up in a recent quilt magazine as a block pattern. To me, it’s not a big deal because I don’t really feel that there is anything quilt and sewing wise that hasn’t been done in some form before anyway.


    1. Yes, it is true. It all has mostly been done before but we are all inspired by something, be it a quilt of the past or a place or a color. Thanks for the comment.


  6. That’s a tough question.. quilting sounds like it should have stricter rules applied to it than, for instance, recipes. For us, if there are three or more ingredient changes there is no law requiring a link back to the original creator. I still do reference the inspiring recipe, because, hey, why not? There’s more than one chocolate chip recipe in the world and they are all just a little bit different. Quilts, on the other hand, seem to be a very different matter.. especially if companies are profiting off the creativity of others by publishing their work!


  7. Hi, Judy Martin, author, here. I think Quilter’s Newsletter credited me at first because there were still some people there who remembered me, and the book was either still in print of not long out of print. In the later example, my book was long out of print. I do not want to take the credit for that quilt because all I did was write a pattern for it. The Colorado Log Cabin quilt you show, though, is something original I designed. I would like to be credited when someone makes a quilt in that design.

    The more you know about quilts and quilt history, the more you realize there are, indeed, some things that have not been done! I totally disagree with those of you who think it has all been done before. Certainly a lot has been done before, but I have had no trouble coming up with original designs during a 45-year career of making quilts and publishing patterns.

    One of the main reasons that an original design source is not credited is because the quilt maker failed to mention her source when she submitted her quilt for publication. Making it even more difficult for publishers to give proper credit is the fact that quilters often give quilts new names, even though the pattern designer named the same quilt something else. I am always getting letters asking where to find the pattern for such and such a quilt that I designed, but I can’t help the person if the quilt maker renamed the quilt. I can only say that I did not give any of my designs that name.


    1. So good to hear from you Judy! The last book ‘From the Cover’ is already 10 years old now and that Chaco’s Paw quilt has always resting strongly in my mind as one to do. I think I now have the skills to do it but the discovery in your book with the original antique quilt has hit me with so much…oh I don’t even know the right words…confusion maybe. I admire so many quiltmakers so making sure the originator of my inspiration gets the credit is important to me!


  8. That really is an amazing pattern– all those pieces!! I’ll have to get a whole lot more quilting practice before I could attempt it. But it is beautiful!


  9. I HAVE that middle book, the one by Judy Martin! Except I bought it in the late 1980’s when I first started cross-stitching from a craft store and thought I might like to try my hand at quilting at some point. It only took me twenty-five years to get around to cutting and sewing my first block.

    I have seen that happen quite often, ‘designers’ use a traditional block or design, lay it out a little different or use fabrics in a non-traditional way and called it theirs. Is it? I was browsing through some quilting magazines in the church basement from 15 years ago and came across a quilt that looked familiar to something I had seen elsewhere. I found it in a book I had recently purchased, exactly the same quilt in only a slightly different colour way, except the book author had used a fancy new ruler they had ‘developed.’ Sorry, that is not your pattern to lay designing rights to, oh great inventor, only the method by which you made it.


    1. Hi Arabesque, I like Judy’s comment on my post. I think it is important to use the reference in the credits. It can be your own pattern but if you used a reference then it’s important to mention that. All of my quilts on the blog are made from either a pattern I’m using (bonnie hunter, quilt in a day) or they are made completely my own design but inspired by traditional blocks (Olivia’s quilt, Churn Dash, Saw Tooth Star, Bear’s Paw etc.).


  10. I don’t know if you ever got to the bottom of this, but your post just came to my attention. I worked for Quilter’s Newsletter when I wrote the book, Scrap Quilts. The rights to the Chaco’s Paw pattern belong not to me, but to Quilter’s Newsletter, as I wrote it as work for hire. Just thought you’d want to know. Also, anyone who thinks there is nothing new in quilting hasn’t really studied quilts. I’ve been making original quilts almost exclusively for the last 38 years, though from 1969-1979 I made my share of traditional ones.


    1. Thank you Judy! I think of your pattern a lot. I joined a local guild and we are having our show in a couple of weeks. We havent had a show in 4 years but I was determined even if a small one. QN is now not published is that correct? Yes there is always something new.


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