Block Quilts

The simple geometric device of a square subdivided into four equal sections by an “x” has been used to create a multitude of visual effects, depending on size, color, cloth pattern, and scale. This generic quilt pattern is sometimes referred to as Grandma’s Favorite, the name referencing its longstanding history and use.

 

Louise Norman Reagan of Ramer, Alabama, is believed to have made her version of Grandma’s Favorite in the late 1930s. She enlarged and varied the pattern’s squares by making them “foursquare” and using different fabrics for each quadrant. Her “x” forms are scalloped so that the resulting voids are rounded, quatrefoil shapes. The scalloped bars are a solid fabric that she inscribed with names of her family members and friends, creating the equivalent of a personal “memory book” in the form of a quilt.

 

Jannie Avant’s Grandma’s Favorite Block, 1990, is a contemporary update, using intensely colored fabrics that complement one another in their brilliant intensity. Her solid pink and yellow squares are grouped to create alternating vertical rectangles—the web of crosses overlaying them is constructed of a brightly striped pattern, which creates blocks that seem to recede into space where the crosses meet.  

 

The older quilt (created at the end of the Great Depression) addresses the traditional ties of family and friendship that were the roots of survival and social stability in those dark days. It speaks to nurturing warmth, protection from cold nights, and the communal support system that made life more comfortable. Avant’s quilt reflects that, in more recent times, these textiles are more firmly rooted in personal creativity and a decorative spirit of modernity that might enliven a wall just as easily as a bed.

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