Craft Chat

Historical Sampler Quilt: Box Block

My favorite part of making a quilt is piecing the very first block.  The process can be tedious and repetitive at times, but after making many hours worth of duplicate blocks, it’s time to arrange them, connect them, and then actually quilt the top and the back together.

As an ongoing side project, I’ve decided to capture the fun of that first block by making a sampler quilt.  So I’ve been researching historical blocks, making one or two a week from my scraps as I have time, and eventually I’ll have a sampler quilt.  I have no timeline at all, since life is a lot busier now that I’m employed.

As I go, I’ll share the blocks I’m making as well as some of the history I’ve researched.  That has been the most fun for me–doing a bit of extra reading online and in books, looking for the history of each block.  The librarian in me (whether officially employed as such or not) can’t help it!  On that note — If you’re ever looking to get the general gist of a subject, with some interesting facts included, look for a children’s book!  The sentences will be straightforward, the illustrations colorful, and it won’t be dry or boring!

Be sure to check out my sources at the bottom of each post to do some additional reading of your own!

Today’s block is the Box block.


To create one 12-inch block, you will need:

  • color 1 (green): one 2″ x 4″ strip and one 2″ x 8-1/2″ strip
  • color 2 (green): one 2″ x 8-1/2″ strip
  • color 3 (blue):  one 2″ x 4″ strip and one 2″ x 8-1/2″ strip
  • color 4 (blue): one 2″ . 8-1/2″ strip
  • color 5 (red): one 2″ x 4″ strip and one 2″ x 8-1/2″ strip
  • color 6 (red): one 2″ x 8-1/2″ strip
  • color 7 (yellow): one 2″ x 4″ strip and one 2″ x 8-1/2″ strip
  • color 8 (yellow): one 2″ x 8-1/2″ strip
  • color 9 (background): one 2″ x 14″ strip and one 3-1/2″ x 14″ strip


  1. Cut all 2″ x 8-12″ “box” strips into one 5″ and one 3-1/2″ rectangles and cut all the 2″ x 4″ “box” strips into two 2″ squares.
  2. Cut the background 2″ x 14″ strip into four 2″ x 3-1/2″ rectangles and the 3-1/2″ x 14″ strip into four 3-1/2″ squares.
  3. Starting with color 1, sew a short box rectangle to the right side of a background square, right sides together.  Then sew a long rectangle to the bottom. Repeat with colors 3, 5, and 7.
  4. Make the flying geese units by placing a Color 1 small square right sides together with a Color 9 rectangle on one end.  On the back of the top square, lightly draw a diagonal line and sew directly on the line.  Cut off the excess fabric to 1/4″ and pres the remainder toward the colored fabric.

    Repeat this with a Color 3 square on the other end of the rectangle.  Repeat this step to make geese units with Color 3/Color 5, one with Color 5/Color 7, and one with Color 7/Color 1.
  5. Arrange the block, then put it together.

    Sew the four center units together, then add the side units, and then add the top and bottom strips.




According to Marcia Hohn’s Quilter’s Cache website, this block made it’s debut as a mail order block sometime between 1920-1940.  I take it for granted that I can find any quilt block or inspiration imaginable online–for free–or in one of the scads of quilting books available in stores, at the library, or available to order online.  But not too long ago, there was no internet… I can’t even imagine it!  This block became available some time between World War I and II, when magazines were probably an invaluable link to new ideas for a woman in a rural location.

I couldn’t find anything more online about this specific block, but it can be hard to trace a block’s history because there can be many different names for the same block.  eHow’s page on the History of Quilting Patterns puts it well: “Patterns were no doubt passed from one generation to the next and one woman to the next. As families moved, their environment and circumstances changed, and the naming of quilt patterns reflects these social developments. That is why one quilt pattern can have so many names, and sometimes one name is applied to several different patterns.”

So, how did the transition from passing patterns by word of mouth to mail order blocks come about?  eHow had information about that, too: “The first pattern ever printed in a periodical was the Honeycomb or Hexagon pattern, printed in “Godey’s Lady’s Book” in 1835. At first these early printed patterns mostly had names descriptive of the quilt’s shape (i.e., “honeycomb”). The 1880s saw the beginning of regular publication of quilt patterns in women’s magazines. As quilt patterns were merchandised, more and more were sold with names attached. The magazines would also invite readers to send in their own family quilt patterns. By 1890, mail-order catalogs included quilt patterns. A woman could order not only fabric from Sears or Montgomery Ward, but for a dime could choose from hundreds of patterns.”

I love finding out the back-story for how this block came about!  This Box block actually reminds me of the Road to Tennessee block I’ve done before, and I’m sure there are several other names out there for this same block.  It certainly makes research tricky when you’re just casually looking around like I am, but that’s life–I think most women probably weren’t thinking in terms of making history, they were just making something useful in a beautiful way.



Block pattern: “Box Quilt”


Quilter’s Cache:

eHow History of Quilting Patterns:


4 thoughts on “Historical Sampler Quilt: Box Block

  1. I’m catching up on my blog reading, and I wanted to tell you I love the quilting posts you put up. That fabric is fantastic. Where do you find it?


    1. Thanks! I buy a lot of mixed lots of quilting fabric on eBay. Not quite as fun as foraging in a fabric store, but it’s always fun to get something in the mail! I buy a lot of charm packs too 🙂


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