"Twirly Balls and Pinwheels" by Sue Garman

Circles in many forms have been popular quilting motifs in recent years. If you have walked through any quilt shows recently or thumbed through quilt magazines, you are sure to have seen a circle quilt or two. The simple, but eye catching design has entranced many a quilter. The late Sue Garman (Show 304), a highly regarded and legendary quilter, designed and made quilts for over forty years. Twirly Balls and Pinwheels is a masterful and intricate quilt featuring spinning balls and pinwheel sashing that spans the quilt and into the outside border. She was often heard saying that she was very much inspired by antique quilts and the motifs they used.

Always a stickler for details when it came to her own work, Sue machine quilted around each and every one of those 1" HST (Half Square Triangles). Count them...there are only 1,696! That, ladies and gentlemen is attention to detail by a masterful quilter.

And, if that weren't enough, Sue designed and made another variation of twirling balls, this time including Dresden plates in a quilt she called Happy Daze. The use of repeating an element she liked can be found in many of her quilts over the years. See more of Sue's work here.

                                                                                                   Happy Daze by Sue Garman

We can learn a great deal from and be inspired by antique quilts, including this lovely quilt from the clothing and textile collection at the Museum of Texas Tech University Textile Collections.

TTU 1976-122-002, Spinning Ball quilt made by the Great-Grandmother of Mrs. D. M. Wiggins. 
Photo courtesy of the Museum of Texas Tech University.

Spinning Ball Quilt
By Marian Ann J. Montgomery, Ph.D.,
Curator of Clothing and Textiles, the Museum of Texas Tech University

As with most quilting trends, this isn’t a new thing so I thought I would share a spectacular quilt from the Museum at Texas Tech University’s collection.

The Spinning Ball quilt came to the Museum in 1976 and was made circa 1880. The dramatic pattern is composed of hand pieced cheddar and green pieces, which form what appears to be a spinning ball. The blocks are sashed with green sashing with the cheddar at the intersections. The quilting is done in thread that matches the fabric and forms a beautiful diamond pattern in the white background of the blocks and straight lines in the sashing. The binding is a red and black printed calico.

The quilt came to the Museum from Dr. D. M. Wiggins, with a family tradition of having been made by the Great-Grandmother of Mrs. Wiggins in Arkansas. Dr. Wiggins was the President of Texas Tech University from 1948-1952, but not much is known about Mrs. Wiggins—yet. I look forward to further research on the maker so we can tell her story more fully. In the meantime, enjoy this beautiful quilt eye candy!

Learn more about the Museum of Texas Tech University Textile Collections.

Click here for related articles from the Museum of Texas Tech University Textile Collections.


Below is a sampling of two antique and two contemporary quilts (not from the Museum of Texas Tech University Textile Collections) featuring a variation of the block called by many names including Rising Sun, Wagon Wheel, Spinning Ball, Windblown Daisy, Rising Sun.

Windblown Daisy. Quilt by Julia Reagan Love, circa 1955. Rising Sun. Quilt by Rachel Alston Jones Russel; Rachel Louise Russell Gray, circa 1880. Images courtesy of The Quilt Index.

Vintage Wagon Wheels by Chris Boersma Smith.        Ezekiel's Wheel by Karen. Image courtesy of The Secret Life of Mrs. Meatloaf


#3 Alice 2018-10-17 14:06
Just beautiful. Such detail. Love them all
#2 BarbCA 2018-10-17 11:33
Wonderful to see!

Thank you.

#1 Tinilou 2018-10-17 09:20
Looking at these quilts is so inspiring it makes me want to clear off the table and start choosing colors and designs. Thank you for keeping us on our toes and honoring quilt history.
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