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Associating Quilts with the American West

Updated on May 23, 2015
Ronna Pennington profile image

Ronna Pennington is a professional craft writer and a life-long crafter whose motto is "If I can hot glue it, I can do it."

A Simple Pinwheel

This simple pinwheel quilt block design is made of four half-square triangle sets grouped to depict motion. Print out this block for a 9-inch block pattern (seam allowance included)
This simple pinwheel quilt block design is made of four half-square triangle sets grouped to depict motion. Print out this block for a 9-inch block pattern (seam allowance included) | Source

Frugal with Fabrics

Even though we know quilts existed long before American pioneer days, we tend still to associate quilting with pioneers. The truth is, quilting was important to them. As families headed westward to homestead, every little bit of fabric was needed. The frugal pioneer women could afford to waste nothing, which is probably the main reason we associate quilting with that era (then, later, the Great Depression).


"Wheel" Blocks Capture Movement

One thing that is interesting, however, is that many quilt block patterns tell a story about the pioneers. One such design is the pinwheel. Wheels denote movement. The pioneers were definitely moving! Wagon wheels carried them across the nation. Wheel barrows made their work a little lighter.

Pinwheels also symbolized the necessities that made life go 'round. For example, wheels were used in food production. In gristmills, they ground wheat and corn into meal. In sawmills, they helped haul logs. Windmills helped pump water. You can see how important the wheel was to American pioneers. Given its importance, it is no wonder that the wheel motif worked its way into quilt block designs. In a way, we are not so different from that distant past. We still depend on wheels today -- on our cars and trucks, as mechanisms in our blenders, in DVD form to watch movies (or quilting videos) and more!

As anyone who has been quilting for a while might imagine, the wheel-related quilt block names vary. For instance, some pinwheel patterns may also be known as a pinwheel star. There are several variations of the pinwheel star design. Some have the saw tooth edging added around the block.


Easiest to Recreate

The simplest pinwheel quilt block is a four patch block made of half-square triangles. When using a dominant fabric and a more neutral one, the wheel design is obvious. If you are looking for a traditional design to make but need something really easy, this is a great pattern! Beginners should be careful though. There are other four patch pinwheel designs out there that are more complicated. These use squares and half-square triangles. Another challenging pinwheel design is the Flying Kite Pinwheel.

Even with the simplest pinwheel block, you can make a striking quilt. Experiment with colors and prints. Change the size of the quilt blocks for a different look. The pinwheel pattern provides an interesting look at how the lines of half-square triangles can work together to depict a circular motion!

Advanced Pinwheel Tutorial

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    • Ronna Pennington profile image
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      Ronna Pennington 2 years ago from Arkansas

      Thank you, Chance Harvey and Aviannovice!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      There are so many beautiful things out there that can be made, especially for those that have hobbies close to their hearts. That was nice historical info, too.

    • Chance Harvey profile image

      Chance Harvey 2 years ago

      Nice work here, good information.