Wednesday, April 28, 2021

I-Spy...and Imagination Quilts, Part 1


Linda is my oldest friend.  We raised our kids together and they are still as close as siblings.  A while back I called Linda to tell her some bad news:

"Our children were neglected." 

"Do tell,"  Linda is quite accustomed to my eccentric ramblings.

"We never taught them to play the I-Spy Game."

Linda paused for only a second, "I'll bet they're all in therapy about that now."

We loved that our kids invented their own games and we both agreed that our children would have found the traditional game of I-Spy boring.  

For decades, I lived outside the quilt community.  In the 1970s and early 80, I cut or embroidered blocks, Linda often pieced them, and Nana and I would tie the quilts.  I wish I had photos to show you but it was before the digital age and that quilt album is packed away in the back of the attic.  

For those of you who are interested, the British played the traditional game of "I-Spy" in the late 19th century.  But according to one turn of the century book printed in the United States, the game was quite different and resembled the game tag:
"All the company hide, except one; who is kept blinded, until she hears them call, 'whoop!'  She then takes the bandage from her eyes and begins to search for them.  If she catches a glimpse of anyone, and knows who it is, she calls her by name, 'I spy Harriet!' or 'I spy Mary!'  The one who is thus discovered must start and run for the place where the other was blinded.  If she does not reach the spot, without being touched by her pursuer, she must take her place."  

I vaguely knew of the I-Spy game but it wasn't until I joined my quilt guild that I heard it applied to quilts.  "Nice I-Spy quilt," someone said about my children's quilt.  "What?"  The kind guild member explained the concept to me.  I was too embarassed at the time to tell her that for years I had made up my own name for my kids' quilts.

I called them "Story Block quilts" and I didn't apply the I-spy game to them at all.  I told each child that I had sewn 4 million stories into each quilt and asked if they could see any of the stories.  Each child could at one glance.

By the late 1980s, I went back to quilting when some friends at the college began to teach me the new and easier methods of quiltmaking.  

A new generation of children was also being born in my family.  One day, my niece phoned me to tell me she had just gotten a Jenny such-and-such purse.  "Is that a cartoon character?" I asked her.  She laughed and told me it was a designer and the purses usually sold for over $100.  My niece was 4 years old.  It was clearly time to make Story Block quilts for the new youngsters.

In the early 1990s, a friend opened a stall at a craft mall.  She asked me to make some Story Block quilts for her stand.  As you can see from the photo above, they aren't anything really remarkable as far as piecing.  The real magic was what the kids imagined.

Tomorrow I'll talk more about that.  I need to get working in the garden before it gets too warm!

Have a safe and happy day!


  1. My 3 year old grandson loves "I-spy"!

  2. I made I Spy quilts for both of my grandsons and my grand nephew. They have all been a great hit and a source of fun games. I am pleased!

  3. I think Story Book Quilts is a better idea, because when they come to a picture, they can either ask for a story to go with it, or tell you one they have come up with!