Jack in the Blocks: A Visit with Colleen Hall-Patton | McCall’s Quilting Blog

Welcome guest blogger and quilt designer Colleen Hall-Patton! Colleen‘s quilt Jack in the Blocks is featured in the March/April 2017 issue of McCall’s Quilting. You can see more of Colleen’s work on her Facebook page. Read on, and don’t miss the giveaway at the bottom of the post!


About 1970, I discovered Ruby McKim’s 101 Patchwork Patterns in the library. The Dover reprint in the 1960s of the 1931 original inspired many women to begin quilting, including me.  This was a time between the quilt revivals of the 1930s and 1970s that is often considered a low point in quilt interest.  Thinking I knew how to quilt because I knew how to sew, and starting with leftover clothing scraps,  I used the Sunbeam pattern to make a turquoise, hot pink, and white quilt.  Remember, it was the 1970s!

McKim Jack in the Blocks: A Visit with Colleen Hall Patton

The Jack in the Blocks square from the book would wait for another time.  McKim’s book is still worthwhile, and a free version is available at www.101patchworkpatterns.com.

Most layout patterns for squares in McKim’s book, including the Jack in the Box square, suggest alternating quilt squares with plain squares.  I looked at that pattern for 40 years before I began to figure out what to do with it.  I like really scrappy quilts, so I gathered the red and white prints for this quilt over several years, eventually deciding to limit my choices to red on white and white on red.  Many of the eliminated fabrics with cream, pink, or black accents ended up on the back of the quilt. The background is a variety of white on white prints, which invites further examination, a particular delight for this scrap lover.  Once I started piecing, it was clear the red on white squares didn’t show off the Jack in the Blocks pattern as well, so the quilt is mostly white on red fabrics.  The Jack in the Blocks corners and the pinwheels were my traveling hand piecing for several years because I’m a turtle rather than a hare quilter.  The rest of the quilt was machine pieced from there, a common construction style for many late 19th and early 20th century quilts. I felt like I could have been a ‘30s quilter.

jackintheblocks flat 500 Jack in the Blocks: A Visit with Colleen Hall Patton

Jack in the Blocks finishes 88″ square, a nice queen size.

I can’t draw, nor do I use EQ7, but I do sketch out variations for quilts on paper.  I keep a notebook of these sketches which includes stapled-in scrap paper and design ideas from magazines and ads.  You can see some of my play sketches here:

jbox work sketches10001 178x300 Jack in the Blocks: A Visit with Colleen Hall Pattonjbox work sketches10002 190x300 Jack in the Blocks: A Visit with Colleen Hall Patton

I like patterns that create secondary patterns and invite different levels of observation from the overall design to the individual fabrics.  The layout I decided on ties the squares together while the pinwheels replicate the “hidden” pinwheels in the center of the Jack in the Blocks block.

I had my quilt professionally quilted by Kim McAllister, who owns Stitching it Up quilt shop in Cedar City, UT.  I wanted a curvilinear, nature based pattern for the quilting as a contrast to the stark geometry of the quilt top.  Kim suggested looking at Anne Bright quilt patterns and we agreed on the Gala border-to-border design.

Gala b2b design Jack in the Blocks: A Visit with Colleen Hall Patton

jbox label Jack in the Blocks: A Visit with Colleen Hall PattonWe rejected red thread as detracting from the top’s pattern.  Without Kim, I would have chosen white thread, but by experimenting with puddles of thread on the top, a more creamy white thread was clearly a much better choice.  I appreciate how the collaboration made the quilt so much better. For the label on the back, I included a couple of patches from Jack in the Box, where I worked in high school and college.

I am not only a quilter but also a quilt researcher and a quilt collector. My interest in quilting began with family quilts like my baby quilt made by my grandmother of leftover 1930s blocks.  Though no one in my family quilted by the time I was interested in quilting, my interest eventually led to doing academic research on quilters.  My PhD dissertation is called “Quilting Between the Revivals:  The Cultural Context of Quilting 1945-1970.”  That Ruby McKim book reprint had a very long term effect!  In my dissertation, I looked at quilts in the Nevada Heritage Quilt Project, interviewed quilters who began quilting during that time, and analyzed 200 magazine articles about quilting published from 1940 to the early 1970s.

uncoverings 20160002 202x300 Jack in the Blocks: A Visit with Colleen Hall PattonOut of that research came an article published in Uncoverings 2016, the journal of the American Quilt Study Group. It’s called “Protofeminist thought in mid-twentieth century magazine articles,” and is one of six articles on quilting in that journal.  In my article, I looked at ideas about changes in women’s lives after World War II, even though those ideas weren’t explicitly identified as feminist and tied to quilting until the 1970s.  This is the book I’m offering for a giveaway contest, and I hope you’ll be interested in reading more about the ways quilt scholars have used quilts to understand women, art, and society.


Thanks so much, Colleen. And thanks for providing this super prize! Leave a comment below before midnight March 5, 2017 and you’ll be entered into our random drawing. The winning name will be drawn on March 6 and notified by email with subject line beginning YOU WON.


jackintheblocks style 300 Jack in the Blocks: A Visit with Colleen Hall PattonIf you’d like to make your own version of the Jack in the Blocks quilt, a limited number of quilt kits are available in our online shop.

If you’d prefer to use your own fabrics and don’t yet have a copy of the March/April 2017 issue of McCall’s Quilting, you can order print and digital versions in our online shop. The Jack in the Blocks quilt pattern is also available separately as an instant digital download.  


Leave a Reply