Quilt Notes: SHIFTING CUBES (grid above = 18 x 18), also known in Geometry as "NECKER'S CUBE," is an optical illusion, which seems to "shift" in and out. If you stare at the seam of the connecting parallelograms, and follow that seam to where it intersects the corner of the diamond below, the cube appears to reverse its inward or outward projection. (Notice also how the quilt fabrics seem to be drafted on a slant, which they are not.) For more on quilt designs and optical illusions, see among recommended books at this site, OPTICAL ILLUSIONS FOR QUILTERS, by Karen Combs.
According to Barbara Brackman's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PIECED QUILT PATTERNS (#142b), there are no fewer than 19 different block titles for this design, the earliest, which was actually unnamed, appeared in Godey's in 1851, while the same design as BLOCK PATTERN and BOX PATTERN appeared in 1882. As BOX BLOCKS, it was included in the late 19th century Ladies Art Company Catalogue, #64. Other interesting names are DISAPPEARING BLOCKS, and STAIRS OF ILLUSION, TUMBLING BLOCKS, as well as BABY'S BLOCKS and CUBEWORK.
Nancy Cabot illustrated the design under the name BUILDING BLOCKS (see left) in her Chicago Tribune column on May 1, 1933. Compare with DANCING CUBES.
For more blocks utilizing multiple fabric scraps, see BIRDS IN THE AIR, also OLD MAID'S RAMBLER. More quilt designs with "geometric" titles illustrated at this site include:
ARRANGEMENT OF SMALL PIECES
SYMMETRY IN MOTION