Prints Charming and 1000 Buttons

buttons2You’ve heard, of course, of the modern-day charm packs.  Lots of different fabrics that have been cut into 5” x 5” squares and packaged together.  Did you know that this is a modern derivation of the old-fashioned charm quilts where the young seamstress was to have 1000 different fabric squares sewn into the quilt?

Charm quilts were prevalent from 1870 to 1890 and then again from 1930 into the 1940’s. These quilts were sometimes referred to as “beggar quilts” because the quilters would beg friends and family for fabric scraps.   Another name for them was the “Odd feller” quilt because each one was odd and there were no duplicate squares.

But quilt lore has it that occasionally a mother would purposefully make a charm quilt where 999 squares were different, but just one square was repeated, giving the young children in the family a chance to find the duplicate square —- a precursor to today’s “Where’s Waldo” game.

Charm quilts made with all kinds of fabrics took their cue from what was called “Charm Strings,” a practice dating from around 1860 where girls would collect 999 different buttons.  When she found her 1000th button, she would see her future husband.   (Maybe the search for “the perfect one” explains why so many of us love playing with buttons!)

Today, there are all kinds of patterns for charm packs – whether you’re using a modern assortment of packaged 5” x 5” squares, or utilizing the 1000 scrap pieces you may have in your stash!

(Sources:  The Button Book by Diana Epstein and “Charm Quilt History: The Ultimate Scrap Quilts,” by Judy Anne Breneman, at )


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