Sunday, January 13, 2008

WHAT DO YOU SEE?





Pictured is an old quilt that my husband and I bought a number of years ago at a yard sale. At the time I was not really into quiltmaking. I just loved quilts and the whole idea of owning an old quilt seemed romantic, in some way. We took it home, very delighted with our purchase, and spread it on the bed to examine it. We could see right away that it was well worn and more damaged than we would have liked. That is probably why it was left by the collector ahead of us who bid it up to $30. Well, we aren't collectors and we didn't plan to re-sell it. The idea that it had been well used only added to the romantic notion of owning a bit of the past. I loved the pink sashing and the worn and faded colors. We have used this quilt quite sparingly over the years, and even less since I now make quilts myself. The other night my husband pulled this quilt out of the closet and spread it on the bed for an extra layer of warmth. I smiled when I saw it, and thought how comfort sometimes has more to do with sentimentality than anything. I like to think that the maker of this quilt would be pleased that it still brings pleasure and comfort to people. (Here's the part where all good quiltmakers are thinking, "Quilt Labels"! And I don't even have to write more on the topic, but if you want to read a Cute Quilt Story click on the link and scroll down.)



Last night my husband was watching football and as I sat and shared the same space with him I was looking through a book of antique quilts. I noticed one from 1910 that contained the same blocks as our old pink quilt. This block was identified by several names, including Whirligig, Fly Foot, Devil's Puzzel, Indian Emblem, and Swastika. The author claims that this block was quite popular for many generations. It lost popularity when the block symbol became associated with Nazi Germany. I showed the page to my husband and he said he never noticed Swastikas on the quilt. In fact, he wondered why I never made this block, and decided it must be too difficult for me. "Excuse me?" I say! "Well", he says, "It's all curved lines going every which way"!

Isn't funny how differently people look at things? Any quiltmaker would look at the block, break it down and see that it is simply Flying Geese! I feel like I have had a challenge thrown at me. There is no question that I can make the silly block! The question is, has enough time passed that we can bring this block back into our quilts? Can we see it as a Whirligig rather than a Swastika? I am sure there are many opinions out there around the world. What do you think?

26 comments:

Darlene said...

I think enough time has passed that many would enjoy making this block. A friend found a stack of blocks like these at an antique shop a few years ago and we all went nuts when we saw them - we didn't see the pattern as a swastika but as a whirly gig. Later another friend was looking at them and "saw" the swastika - interesting conversation after that.

I love the story about the quilt.

dot said...

I don't know if ever enough time will pass to bring this back. I immediately thought swastika. It is a shame when a perfectly benign symbol is taken and distorted for evil. It is a nice block but I don't think I could personally make it. A stated by Darlene different people are going to see different things. I will say the quilt is lovely.

DPUTiger said...

I didn't see a swastika until you mentioned it. I think fabric choice will have a huge impact on whether or not people will see a swastika on your finished project.

I know a lot of people will agree with Dot, but remember -- that symbol had a very long and positive history before the Nazis decided all that good history should be attached to their causes.

Becky said...

Well I did not see a swastika at all. I saw whirlygigs.

But I, like you I'm sure, would hate to offend anyone unknowingly.

I think the beauty of the quilt is what folks would notice. Perhaps a bit of "looks familiar" would come about but really, the fabrics and colors give the whole piece a different quality. How can anyone see something awful in something so beautiful?

floribunda said...

I've always known that block as "flyfoot", although I don't think I've ever made one. There are lots of things that look like other things, and I think you can't worry about all of them! The dictionary says that the Nazi symbol had a clockwise bend in the arms, so how about if you make your quilt blocks with a counter-clockwise bend? (like the ones in your antique quilt)

Libby said...

I don't know that I really see a swastika . . . but I miss alot *s* It's a darling quilt and I see no reason to not recreate it if the mood strikes you - go for it.

Lindah said...

I don't know. It is a pretty quilt and I for one would like to see the block re-claimed for beauty rather than evil. HOWEVER, I made that statement less than 10 years ago and was throughly "flamed" by a well-known Oregon quilt shop owner. Although, it seemed at the time that others on the list objected to the "flaming," I'm thinking that it may take yet the passing of another generation or 2 to make the reclaiming possible.
But it is a very pretty quilt and the block has so much potential.

Katie said...

The swastika is an ancient symbol (3000 years old) and the used for a very very long time before the Nazis got hold of it. It has has positive connotations up into the 20th century. The history is interesting. I'm sure there are other sources but here's one...
http://history1900s.about.com/cs/swastika/a/swastikahistory.htm

Interestingly they say that in England it was called a flyfot. I guess that's about as close to flyfoot as you can get!

It's a lovely quilt and quite obviously a great conversation starter!!! LOL

Mary said...

You know , I saw a great quilt for sale on the web the other day and was tempted to buy it but decided I'd rather save the money and purchase an old quilt. I have 3 in my collection so far that I love plus tops old tops off EBay that my original intention was to finish.

I didn't really notice the Swastika right away, probably because of the blendy fabrics. It would be more noticeable I'm sure with more contrast. You could always make a few blocks and see how they looked. If they screamed swastika at you...then I probably wouldn't make a quilt with this block.

Carole said...

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder! I saw the whirligig! If I'm not mistaken the original meaning of Swastikas is related to good luck and was often use within both Eastern & Western religions. It is quite an ancient symbol having meaning way before the Nazi took it on. I do like the block! Looking forward to reading what you decide on the challenge.

Gypsy Quilter said...

I see pinwheels. Those lovely toys we had as kids that swirled with a good breeze. Comfy quilts are the best!

ROZ said...

No, even though it is really merely a geometrical pattern, I would never make it or even a pinwheel pattern either.

Judy said...

I never thought swastika when I saw it. I thought flying geese they didn't quite see them and looked closer. I like them also done in the same color patterns so you have 2, 2, 2, and 2 flying geese, but the switch in color makes it really interesting.

Make one!

Eileen said...

Some comments you've gotten Marcie, But to me it's a great probably 20'30's quilt. I had to look close at that block to see the flying geese. I could see Bonnie making this in her scrappy way. I was more concious of the wide sashing. and the quilting which you can see in the closeup. Unusual. Great buy. Who cares if it is worn, It was well loved.

Kim said...

I did notice the swastika pattern, but only because you titled the post "What Do You See." Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have thought about it. Oddly enough, if you look at the floor plan of my office, you'd see that it is also a swastika. I'm sure it wasn't planned to look like one, but it sure does! Truly, I think it's just a common design and has been around far longer than the Nazis!

Francisca said...

I often read your blog and today the first thing I thought.......swastika! The quilt is nice and it is so good to have an old quilt in the house and the pattern will be a challenge to make.
It is a very very old pattern indeed, but the scars of the 2nd World War are still in many families in Europe, in my family too, though we do not belong to the people that were pursuited. I was born after the War and today I live near the German border, though borders hardly exist in Europe (I do my shopping in Germany), but this symbol is still 'not done'. I hope this will fade away.........
Hartelijke groeten uit Nederland!

Lea said...

How sweet memories you and your husbad had with this antique quilt. I enojyed reading your post. :-)
This quilt is so beautiful. I agree with you about how the quilts should loved and cared.:-)

about blocks, I didn't see a Swastika. But I saw Whirligig and Fly foot....

Karen Dianne Lee said...

What a nice post.

I've always seen the Whirligig. its a neat pattern actually and I've always liked it.

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

I've always known the block as "Flyfoot". It's a pretty quilt and well loved, that's what I see!

Finn said...

Hi Marcie, it's a very charming old quilt, and the fact it lives on with owners who cherish it and feel sentimental about it is enough.
I did see and recognize the pattern instantly, and it' snot one I would piece. As with the issue of slavery in the south, it's fairly clear it still rankles. But the choice is yours, and if you choose to make the pattern, never feel the need to apologize for doing so *VBS* Big hugs, Finn
P.S. Love the bright and wild fabrics she used!!

Evelyn aka Starfishy said...

Wikipedia has an amazing history of the swastika dating back over 3000 years - worth reading! There is a big movement in Europe for Hindu's to "take back" the swastika. I always knew that pattern as flyfoot.

Perry said...

Looks like a swastika to me! Probably my age has something to do with it. And, since our Iranian neighbor is so anxious to follow along the same path as the swastika, I won't make this block. Don't mean to offend anyone, but this is jmho.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I have a very strong opinion about this block. I immediately saw Swastikas and therefore took an instant dislike of this quilt. I can't see past the symbol and would wonder why anyone would want to make this block when there are so many other less symbolic blocks to make. Please don't take my comment as an offense, but as someone speaking very openly. - Sincerely, Gail in Canada

pamina said...

I didn't see a swastika until you mentioned it, but now that seems clear for me, even if it is obviously not the case. Your quilt is very nice, but so far as I'm concerned, I would not use this block today, because even if this cross is very old, its impact as nazi symbol is strong and it is always used by the neo-nazis.

Shelina said...

Marcie, as you said, this symbol was used much earlier, with many positive connotations, than the Nazis. It is still used in traditional ceremonies, like weddings, in India, today.

My personal opinion is that we should use it again, with the positive connotations, and take the symbol back from Hitler. It can only stop being a symbol of the Nazis when we use it as a symbol of peace and prosperity.

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