Double Wedding Ring Quilt
By Wanda Lou Willis
On June 6 my great nephew, Johnathon Willis married Tisha in Nashville, IN.
What could be more romantic as a wedding gift than a double wedding ring quilt? The name inspires thoughts of love, romance and marriage. Thus, I presented them with a vintage hand pieced and quilted double wedding ring quilt.
There is a folklore belief that if the newly weds receive a double wedding ring and sleep under it they will be protected from bad dreams and bad luck. Their marriage will be blessed.
Another myth connected with this quilt pattern is attributed to the Civil War when a doting grandmother pieced and quilted one for her daughter who was engaged to a young man in the Union Army. When he returned to his beloved there was no money for a wedding ring. The grandmother presented them with the quilt stating, “This will be your wedding rings.”
This pattern is perhaps one of the most popular and favorite of all the many quilt patterns with thousands in existence and are still be pieced today. To trace its origin and history is very difficult. Though it is thought by many to be a very old quilt pattern dating to the 19th century there are some historians who disagree. They have not been able to find and document any of these quilts before the 1920s or early 1930s with the 1940s being their heyday.
The quilt consists of interlocking rings made up of wedge shaped pieces sewn into an arc, then joined either with a plain square of four patch block at the intersections. The quilt can be found in pastel shades, bright colors, flower printed pieces, and during the 1940s were often pieced in red, white, and, blue. The pattern lends itself to individual creativity.
The inspiration for this motif can be traced far back in history. Several existing Roman glass vessels and lamps dating from approximately the 4th century AD have been found etched or painted with this interlocking pattern. The Celtic Knot is also considered a possible inspiration for the double wedding ring quilt
Another possible source of this romantic motif inspiration could be the “gimmal ring.” This was a 15th and 16th century popular betrothal ring. It was actually two rings which fitted together to form one. When a couple became engaged, each partner wore one of the rings. During the wedding ceremony, the rings were interlocked to become the woman’s wedding ring.
During the last quarter of the 19th century, white, brown, ad other solid color cotton cloth were utilized in making feed sacks for packaging grain, flour, sugar, etc. Once empty these bags were taken a part, washed and utilized by the thrifty homemaker for the backs of quilts and even children’s underwear. .The printed names of the companies often were still visible. Imagine spending your childhood wearing a pair of cotton panties inscribed with Pillsbury’s Best. By the 1930s the feed sacks came in colorfully printed patterns that allowed the homemaker to utilize them for children’s dresses, shirts, skirts, aprons and quilts.
Not every quilt pattern has a name and by the same token several quilt patterns have many names. This can be frustrating to quilt historians attempting to index the thousands of quilt patterns. It’s not known how exactly how many quilt patterns and names exist today. Many quilt makers adapt old patterns or create their own adding to the numbers.
Quilt patterns and their names reflect all aspects of life. There are biblical/spiritual names — Cathedral Windows; home and farm life — Dresden Plate and Churn Dash; nature — Autumn Leaves; family life — Freedom Quilt given to a young man when he turns 21. There are also the patterns named for cities or states. Quilt patterns that reflect political issues prove that women were interested in and knowledgeable of political issues. Though their voices may not have been heard they spoke out in their work.
In the 1920s a quilting revival was going strong. Designers with art backgrounds were hired by periodicals to create quilt pattern columns creating a new repertoire of patterns available to quilters. . This era also was a period for the birth of cottage industries with women selling quilt patterns and kits from their own home based businesses. The number of quilt patterns abundantly multiplied due to periodicals, newspapers, and the cottage industries.
One of the cottage industries was begun by Marie Webster, a very creative women who lived all her life in Marion, Indiana. She was a leader in the 1920s quilt revival and was known world wide for her original appliqué quilt designs which appeared in numerous publications… She wrote and published the first book on quilt history in 1915 titled Quilts: Their Story and How To Make Them.
From her home in Marion she conducted a thriving mail-order quilt pattern business from 1911-1942. Her home, in 1992, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as a Landmark of Women’s History and a part of the National Park Service Historic Landmarks.
The Quilters Hall of Fame is housed in the Marie Webster home. This museum provides events and classes as well as quilt exhibits and is located at 926 S. Washington St., Marion, Indiana.