Domino Quilt (81" x 97") by Eugenia Mitchell. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden, Colorado.
I’ve written before about my fascination with the origins of traditional quilt pattern names. Our quilting forebears found seemingly endless sources of inspiration for translation into quilt patterns. Apparently, nothing was too mundane to get their creative juices flowing. One such “muse” was the domino game piece.
According to the website, www.domino-games.com, “Dominoes, like playing cards and dice, are something of a generic gaming device. They are simple building blocks that can be assembled in innumerable ways to create a large variety of games, ranging from the simple to the complex, from games in which the gameplay is almost mechanical, to games that require great skill and strategy.
“Dominoes evolved from dice and are believed to have originated in China in the 12th century, though Egyptian or Arabian origins are also theorized. Dominoes appeared in Italy in the early 18th century, and spread to the rest of Europe throughout the remainder of the 1700's, becoming one of the most popular games in both family parlors and pubs alike. The word ‘domino’ appears to have derived from the traditional appearance of the tiles—black dots on a white background—, which is reminiscent of a "domino" (a kind of hood) worn by Christian priests. Today, dominoes are played all over the world.”
Dominoes are particularly popular in the southern United States. The World Championship Domino Tournament has been held annually in Andalusia, Alabama for decades, and the domino game known as “42” was officially proclaimed by the 82nd Legislature of the State of Texas as the official State Domino Game of Texas.
If I were a betting woman, I’d wager that the quilter who came up with the traditional Domino and Square(s) pattern hailed from the South. Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns dates Domino and Square(s) back to the Ladies Art Company Catalog, #278, published in 1897.
Nancy Cabot came out with a version of the pattern in 1934. The pattern is similar to a log cabin type of design and the blocks can be rotated to create different variations.
And then there is Eugenia Mitchell’s wonderful Domino Quilt that was her own original design. Made in 1980 in Golden, Colorado, it was one of 101 quilts donated by Eugenia Mitchell to start the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.
Mitchell lived to be 103, and her story is remarkable. She was born in Brazil to Lutheran missionary parents, the oldest of 12 children. Her mother taught her to quilt when she was ten, and she continued to quilt well into her 90s.
Her life was one of hard work and making do with little, and it would seem that she would have had little time for playing games. However, she, like the anonymous designer of the traditional Domino and Square(s) pattern, nevertheless found inspiration in the simple rectangular gaming piece, and gave us yet another reason to marvel at the bottomless well of creativity frequented by quilters.
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