Harriett’s Vintage Windmill Quilt Block

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Looking over the windmill quilt that my grandmother made I know that there were likely templates for each of the pieces that make up the 12-inch block and everything was pieced together in sections. My skills—and more importantly, my patience—for working with the “Y” seams she likely used, make it so that I won’t get a quilt made if I did it in the same manner that she did.

I figured out a way that I can make this block using foundation paper piecing. I know a lot of quilters who don’t like to piece in this manner, but I don’t mind foundation paper piecing so I think that’s the approach I will take with this project.

Once I figured out how the block can be constructed, using two different foundation patterns, I decided to play with different placements of the block to see how they would look. The first one shows the blocks laid out side-by-side, which is the way the vintage quilt from my grandmother is done. This layout creates a four-pointed star between the windmill octagons.

The second version shows what it would look like if I put sashing in between the blocks. Each version has its own appeal so we’ll have to see what direction my quilt takes as I get into the piecing part of the process.

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Harriett’s Windmills Vintage Quilt

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The other day after visiting my dad I returned home with some vintage quilts that my grandmother had made. One of these quilts really struck me as being unique. (All of her quilts were unique, of course, because they were made from the scraps of her everyday life.) This particular quilt had what I am calling a windmill block that I haven’t seen in other quilts from the era.

As you can see from the photos, this quilt has been well loved over the years. I can vaguely remember the quilt from my childhood. There’s something very familiar about it, but I couldn’t tell you for sure what bed it spent most of its time on.

Some of the pieces look almost new, while others have shredded to a point that you can’t really tell what the print on the fabric was. Many pieces were made from plaid fabrics that I’m sure were left from my mom and aunt’s dresses. Most quilters these days would shy away from using the plaid fabrics because they wouldn’t all match up. But my grandma needed to be frugal with her fabric scraps so she put whatever she had into her quilts. I think this makes for some very striking intersections throughout this quilt.

Some of the fabrics are undoubtedly feed sack or flour sacks. My mom remembers her mother sending her father out to purchase a certain number of sacks of feed so she could make a new dress for one of the girls. It didn’t matter what the print on the feed sack was, as long as all of them were the same print.

Well now I’m intrigued enough with this quilt that I plan to figure out how to make the block and pull together my own version. I’ll keep you up-to-date on my progress.

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