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dove-in-the-window / bear’s tracks

Nine-patch pattern variations composed of squares and triangles.

A very simple mathematical design, which in Louisiana bears the pretty but wholly arbitrary name of “rosebud,” in Illinois is called “bear’s paw.” Quilt-makers in Massachusetts call the same pattern “duck’s foot,” while slightly modified in eastern New York it is called “the duck’s foot in the mud.” To a by no means unique pattern from northern Ohio, made up of squares, is attached the jingling name of “Johnny around the corner.” Elsewhere it is known simply as “the wheel.” A very popular pattern in all parts of the country, frequently known, and with reason, as “screw-plate,” is so rich in names that I cannot refrain from giving the whole varied list: “Dove in the window,” “hole in the barn-floor,” “puss in the corner,” “shoo-fly,” “Lincoln’s platform,” and “love-knot,” are all names for this same design. And in southern Indiana it was very popular after the war as “Sherman’s march.” -Fanny D. Bergen, “Tapestry of the New World” in Scribner’s Magazine (September 1894), 369.

There was an interesting Little-House-related item in the Spring 2005 issue of Interweave Knits; find it online HERE. It’s a Bear Claw Blanket designed by Veronik Avery, and yes, it’s knitted. I like the idea of knitting a quilt pattern; it’s something I haven’t done before. This would make a great baby blanket, as the pattern is for a two-color nine block blanket joined with white or cream, 40 inches square. I knitted one square and went back to patchwork; there were way too many ends to weave in for my taste.

The image shown here isn’t knitted; it’s a backed Bear’s Track block I bought at Ingalls Homestead in De Smet. I have it on the mantle in my office, with a set of Little House books sitting on top.

Laura Ingalls Wilder supposedly pieced a Bear’s Track (also called Bear Claw or Bear Track) quilt as a child: Mary was still sewing nine-patch blocks. Now Laura started a bear’s-track quilt. It was harder than a nine-patch because there were bias seams, very hard to make exactly right before Ma would let her make another, and often Laura worked several days on one short seam. (On the Banks of Plum Creek, Chapter 36, “Prairie Winter”) But when Laura is packing her trunk before marrying Almanzo and moving to the tree claim, it’s a Dove-in-the-Window quilt that’s packed: Laura brought her Dove-in-the-Window quilt that she had pieced as a little girl while Mary pieced a nine-patch. It had been kept carefully all the years since then. (These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 32, “Haste to the Wedding”)

It’s not known what happened to Laura’s quilt, but the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri, has a nine-patch quilt made by Mary Ingalls in their collection.

The Bear’s Track square and the Dove-in-the-Window square are quite similar. Basically, if you turn the four dark triangles so that the “other” short side of the triangle is against the large square – and change the small red square to the neutral color – you’ve got a dove, not a claw.

I think it was Joanna Wilson who first published the idea – in her Bear Tracks in the Berry Patch: Doll and Quilt Patterns Inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder published by Plum Creek Patchwork in 1993 – that Laura Ingalls probably only made one quilt, as the two patterns are similar. You can also “see” a dove in the bear claw design if you want to.

The drawing below shows how Bear’s Track (left) and Dove-in-the-window (right) blocks may be pieced using only two colors per block.


bear’s-track quilt (BPC 36)
     Dove-in-the-Window (THGY 32-33)