Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The History of Plus Sign Quilts

I was excited to see a post on the C&T blog today highlighting our soon-to-be-released book (books will ship from C&T in two days!!). The post uses an except of the introduction section of the book which explains a little about the history of the plus sign as a design element in quilts.

Click here to hop over and read the post as well as see some of the additional plus sign quilt patterns that are included.

A little about the history of plus sign quilts...

Plus signs have been a universally appealing design in popular culture for over 100 years, forming some of the most recognizable logos in the world. There is no mistaking the logos of the American Red Cross and Swiss Army.

Drawn to this simple and strong geometric shape, quilters have used plus signs extensively throughout history. Some of the first popular plus sign quilt designs were signature quilts made in the early 1900s to support the Red Cross during World War I. Individuals and businesses would pay a small fee to have their name embroidered on such a quilt, and then the finished project would be raffled off to generate additional funds for the cause.

The following vintage Red Cross quilt was made in Lake County, Illinois in 1915, with each resident paying 10 cents to have his or her name embroidered on the quilt. Each of the blocks contained 1 red plus sign and about 40 embroidered names on the white background.

Red Cross signature quilt, circa 1915, from the collections of Lake County Discovery Museum; photo by Mark Widhalm

And here is our modern take on a signature plus sign quilt...
Photo by Stash Publications

I am enjoying being about to share more and more about the book and am counting down the days until I get my hands on the printed book :)


  1. I really enjoyed learning more about the history of plus sign quilts, Cheryl. We need a countdown clock (I'm so excited for you and Paige)!

  2. That's a lot of names on each block!!! Interesting to hear about the history of plus sign blocks. Thanks! Can't wait for the book!

  3. I love hearing quilt history! I would love to read some of the names on the first one! The second modern version is so bold with the red background! I'm getting excited for you two...

  4. So interesting the history goes back that far! It really is getting close now, eeek!

  5. I just BET you are excited...such an accomplishment. How cool to see a plus quilt from so long ago, and also that it was a fundraiser quilt. Funny when I designed the one that was in Modern by the Yard last Friday, I'd drawn it out with a red plus on a white background and named it Red Cross, with the rainbow of plus blocks dancing across, thinking of all the 'colours' of people the Red Cross helps around the world, and as a tribute to their work.

  6. thank you Cheryl for sharing this
    I did not know. How interesting and very special

  7. Hooray! Love the Red Cross quilt from 1915. If there are about 40 names per block (!) at 10 cents a name, I'm getting approximately $96 raised. A very neat piece of history.

  8. Thank you so much for the "plus" back story. I love plus blocks and am really looking forward to getting your book.

  9. Interesting! I love these bits of history - there is so much meaning behind the quilts we make. Love the modern version of the signature quilt. Very cool!

  10. Exciting times Cheryl! Congrats on the book!

  11. I've seen the red cross quilts before. Quilting has such a rich history. I'm looking forward to seeing the book when it comes out. Hopefully it's all excitement, without a lot of chores to go with it at this point.

  12. It was great to see a photo of the Red Cross signature quilt. Thanks for writing this post, I loved reading about it.



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