The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns is 522 pages of quilty goodness with 4,000+ blocks to inspire your next quilting project! The book is primarily a reference on how to identify quilt blocks. Curious how to use the book to identify a quilt pattern? Let’s step through an example using an antique block found at an estate sale.

Here is a photo of the block I’m trying to identify:

Key for Locating Patterns

The Key for Locating Patterns starts on page 7 of the Encyclopedia. Step 1 asks if the pieces are not organized in square blocks. This block is square, so we can move on to the next step.

Step 2 asks if the block is a Medallion, Two or Three Block, or a Block with a Sashing set. None of those apply to this block. Moving on!

When I get to Step 3, I can start working my way through the listed characteristics until I find a construction similar to my  block.

On page 9 I’ve found a good match for this block.

Now that I’ve found my match, it tells me to go to the Nine X chapter on page 308. There, I find a new set of steps in the Pattern Category Key to work through to narrow down the search.

Pattern Category Key

Step 1 on page 308 tells me that if the block is intersected from corner to corner by four diagonal seams forming an X, I should move to Step 2. Will do!

Step 2 asks for more details about the X in the block. I think this block fits the last option best. It tells me to turn to page 319. This leads me to the Like an X section and I can start looking for the block that best matches the antique!

Note: The last two illustrations under Step 2 are pretty similar and it may be difficult to determine which best fits your block. You may need to check both sections. But what’s the harm in looking at more quilt blocks?!  ;-)

After a little bit of perusing, I find block 2902 and I think we’ve hit the jackpot!

When I look at the block number in the column on the right, I can find the names that Barbara found for this block and the publications in which the block appeared. The colored versions of the blocks match the light/medium/dark values that Barbara used in her original drawings.

Photo of the original Encyclopedia showing Barbara’s hand drawings for each block.

Why is it important to find the name(s) for a particular block?

The name of a block can change over time. And the same block can be known by different names. One quilter might call a block Snail’s Trail, while another quilter may call the same block a Monkey Wrench. They’re both right! This is why Barbara choose to assign ID numbers to each block, rather simply picking one of the names a block was published under.

If you can find several names for the same block, it gives you options to find out more info about the block. You can find ideas for quilts using the block, or tutorials written for the block online. In other words, you can Google it!

Another reason to search out your blocks….

By tracking down the section of the book the block comes from, you’ll find other blocks that work well with your block. Here’s sampler quilt using block 2902 and three other blocks from the Like an X section:

See more in our preview video!

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Hear from Barbara herself!

Barbara explains how it all got started! Click to view the video on our YouTube channel.