Hobo Quilts

Every now and then a book completely grabs you, unexpectedly. You aren't sure why you are drawn to it, or what holds the appeal when it seems to obviously not your taste. Regardless of whether you think you should like it or not, you do. And you can't stop thinking about it. So you buy it, even when you aren't supposed to be spending any money.

Hobo Quilts is the most recent addition to my personal library. It's a book filled with over 50 block patterns and 20 quilt patterns from those blocks. It's more than that though. It is also filled with stories from people who rode the rails, fed them, entertained them, policed them, and more. Part oral history, part quilt book.

The patterns are based on a symbol glossary common to people who rode the rails. And the stories are all from archived collections and the author's family.

Each of the block patterns is accompanied by a story. The patterns themselves are quite simple. A life-size line drawing of the block with cutting instructions. That's it. It's up to the reader to put the block together. Some other reviews do caution that the cutting instructions and finished block do not correlate. For an experienced quilter, however, none of the blocks are so difficult that you couldn't adapt it for your own taste and size. There is a pretty good split between applique and pieced blocks. Here are some of my favourites - for the design or simply the name.

On first glance, these blocks may not appeal to the modern quilter. The history attached and the fabric choices in the book are not likely to appeal to someone used to working with large scale brights. But the simplicity and graphic nature of many of the blocks should not be overlooked. Combined en masse many of these blocks would make a striking, modern quilt. Your fabric choice and scale of the block could radically change from what you see in the book. It just takes some imagination.

Debra G. Henninger
Krause Publications