Quilt Notes: DOVES IN THE WINDOW is illustrated in Jinny Beyer's QUILTER'S ALBUM (#278-3), where it resides next-door to POLARIS STAR, in the compendium's "8-Pointed Star Category."
The pattern is also called FOUR BIRDS, however there is, interestingly, a fifth entity here, and that's the pinwheel star hovering in the center, achieved not as something in itself, but via the empty space outlined by the beaks of the bird forms. In Chinese Taoism, Zen and ancient Japanese spirituality, there is a famous saying: "Form is emptiness and emptiness is form." And the idea is often explained in this same manner, where an empty space between objects takes on a shape. The black triangles work the same magic in the illustration upper right, manifesting themselves both as empty, background darkness and as actual, geometric shapes. For more examples, see FOUR-POINTED STAR at this site, or the incised designs and flamboyant, open spaces, for instance, in ancient Japanese JOMON POTTERY (thought to have been created by women in the home in prehistoric times).
In Western literature, ancient and modern, doves are symbolic of love and gentleness. "Doves in the window" suggests spontaneous joy and great presence. Every detail of this 8-point star is constructed from the same diamond, simply changing perspective with flips and rotations (as in the diagram left). Especially for that reason, it is marvelously challenging and rewarding to work with, whether in drafting or piecing or work done with computer graphics. See also DIAMOND NET and A THOUSAND PYRAMIDS.
The block illustrated left by Nancy Cabot, from her column in the Chicago Tribune (July 8, 1933), is unique, because the wings of the doves are longer, having an extra diamond unlike all other variations of the block. In addition the 8-point star is visible, distinct from the background, which Cabot seems to emphasize also in her notes, where she refers to the block not just as "four birds," but as a "bird and star" combination. The block name also requires some sort of frame for the window setting, she says:
"DOVES IN THE WINDOW, some times called FOUR BIRDS, is a quilt block in a combination bird and star design. It is a colonial pattern, dating back to the early eighties and is a product of the New England states."
Compare at this site with:
ARRANGEMENT OF SMALL PIECES
OLD FASHIONED PIECED BLOCK