BiIRD OF PARADISE
Repro Fabric & Nine-Patch Piecing Grid
Quilt Notes: Traditionally the "bird of paradise" is a peacock — in Chinese style (chinoiserie) fabric designs, an immortal among the birds, as is demonstrated in the paradisal reproduction fabric illustrated left — the bird is uncaged without limit to its life, and Chinese red-orange (non-desire) and gold (eternity) are colors in the genre symbolic also of spirituality and immortality. The JANE AUSTEN QUILT at this site utilizes the same peacock fabric, with its open-door cage as the centerpiece to celebrate her immortal greatness as an author.
Certainly unintended, but the exceedingly engaging and unusual (as mentioned by Cabot) tiling pattern here (see below) might be interpreted as two birds facing one another, with outstretched wings, and rising above a checkerboard symbolic of a net or cage.
Maggie Malone's 5,500 QUILT BLOCK DESIGNS has about a dozen variations on this pattern with different names (p.28). As BLUE METEORS, the block dates back to Nancy Cabot's Chicago Tribune Column, February 8, 1936. According to Barbara Brackman's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PIECED QUILT PATTERNS, (#1627c), the block, as BIRD OF PARADISE, makes its debut in Quilt World in 1976. Interestingly in her comments, Cabot seems to struggle with making sense of the name she had for the block, and perhaps is even suggesting it be renamed, as indeed it was:
"'Blue Meteors' is a quilt block pieced without apparent rhyme or reason, yet it is one which has turned out to be most popular and attractive. The piecing of this square is not difficult and the block seems to set itself together, since there are only two patterns used in one block — the square and triangle. The antiquity of the design is evidenced by the simplicity of the patches and the old fashioned color combination of blue, blue print and white. The entire quilt is composed of pieced blocks which create the effect of an unusual and continuous design."
(Since Jane Austen was mentioned above), for a selection of quilt designs at this site celebrating historical women in the arts, have a look at GIRL'S JOY, with Berthe Morisot (1884).