BLOCK Friday: Tumbler Quilts – Fons & Porter

Tumbler quilts have made a reputation for themselves in the quilting world. Historically, quilts featuring Tumbler units were made with donated or shared fabrics, earning them the name “beggar quilts.” More commonly, however, Tumbler quilts have been referred to as “charm quilts” throughout history.

These old-fashioned quilts were made regularly in the 1870s and became popular again in the 1930s and 40s. Today, we’re equal opportunity quilters, and these quilts can be seen in children’s quilt patterns, charm pack quilt patterns (or quilts using other pre-cuts), patriotic quilt patterns and, of course, they’re popularity reigns as homemade quilts. They’re a little bit of everywhere.

Tumblers are easy to make and can create interesting designs depending on how they’re laid out. These are 1-patch units with the top being narrower than the base and the sides being of equal length. They’re simple and fun – you definitely know a Tumbler quilt when you see one! Tumbler quilts can be seen in basic quilt patterns, like Tumbling Tumblers by Jean Nolte – an adorable children’s quilt pattern, suited for graphic prints that little kids love to discover time and again.

Patriotic quilt patterns feature their fair share of Tumblers. You’re a Grand Old Flag by Natalie Earnheart makes great use out of the Tumbler shape. The “stars” and “stripes” of the American flag portrayed in this quilt are unmistakeable and were arranged in an innovative, yet respectful, way. To ensure accurate piecing, Natalie used the Fons & Porter Tumbler Template.

You're a Grand Old Flag
Patriotic Quilt Patterns

Not all Tumblers are found in quilts. Take these potholders by Jenny Doan, for example. They’re seen here in holiday prints, but Tumblers can be made with pre-cuts, yardage, or fabric from your stash. Because they’re a simple block to work with, they’re extremely versatile when it comes to project choices.

Potholders - Tumbler Quilt Block

You can make a Tumbler quilt with a twist if you’re looking to mix it up a bit – the same 1-patch unit, but different sizes. To differentiate this quilt even more, try using colorful prints, reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s. The fabrics chosen for the bed-size quilt, Summer Bazaar by Natalie Earnheart, give the impression of a crazy quilt pattern, when in fact, it’s not crazy at all!

Summer Bazaar Quilt
Not So Crazy Quilt Pattern

Finally, it’s the contemporary quilt patterns that bring old-fashioned quilts into modern day. Quilts like Sweet Day by Quilty & Co., show our familiarity with the Tumbler unit and our desire to bring it into today’s homes. This quilt combines yesteryear with contemporary times in more ways than one. Do you see the carousel horses dancing around this quilt? This feeling of nostalgia prompted the availability of a Sweet Day quilt kit.

Contemporary Quilt Patterns
Contemporary Quilt Patterns

What do you think of the Tumbler quilt? Do you look at it differently now that you know how diverse and interesting it can be? Not to mention it’s rich history. Tell me about it in the comments!

Carrie Sisk, Online Editor, Fons & Porter


Happy Quilting!
Carrie Sisk, Fons & Porter, Online Editor

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