Connecting the Past and Present: The Mariner’s Compass Quilts Legacy
The Mariner’s Compass quilt pattern has been known and loved among dedicated quilters, only the best of whom could manage the intricacies of stitching the precise points of the compass or star, as it was variously known. While most early quilts were simple, the Mariner’s Compass quilt was complex, and often was reserved for special occasions.
While other patterns may suggest a star pattern, the Mariner’s Compass name specifically refers to quilts in which the star radiates from a circular center. The roots of this pattern are hard to trace. Barbara Brackman writes of the many names used for this pattern, including The Explosion, the Merry Go Round, the Rolling Pinwheel, the Slashed Star–even Chips and Whetstones. Each name suggests what quilters saw as they stitched their quilt tops!
Quilt pattern books began to use the Mariner’s Compass name, widely accepted today, around the 1960s; its first published use was in 1929. Various historians, knowing the pattern’s popularity in the American northeast, have suggested that seafaring folk saw the compass rose on nautical maps and reproduced it on their blankets. The Pennsylvania Germans picked it up, adding brighter colors and patterns.
Did you know?
Each step of the quilt-making process requires a particular woman's competence. Each of our ladies specializes in either assembling or quilting. At least 2 ladies are included in making each quilt. The women who sew the tops with each other focus on piecing particular quilt patterns. Considering that each quilter's stitches are different, just one lady does the quilting per quilt. This system enables each woman to become a specialist in her work.