The Century of Progress block really intrigued me, both because of it’s name and also because it looks so different from the other blocks in this sampler quilt.  So I did a little checking — gotta love the internet! — and found out some very interesting things.

The theme for the 1933 World’s Fair, held in Chicago, IL, was “Century of Progress.”  The Sears Roebuck Company had a HUGE display there and, as you can imagine, it covered many different areas of interest, from farm implements to quilts and all points in between.  Sears placed a small 2×3″ ad for a Century of Progress Quilting Competition in their January catalog.  The winning quilt was to receive $1000, plus an additional $200 if it used the Century of Progress theme.  In addition to the monetary prize, the winning quilt was to be given to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt!  The response to this challenge was overwhelming.  The deadline was May 15, and nearly 25,000 entries were received!!!  The winning quilt won not becausWorld's Faire of the fabric or pattern used — both were considered somewhat plain — but because of the intricate stitching.  It was called the “Unknown Star” and later renamed the “Bluegrass Star” and was presented by Miss Margaret Rogers Caden.  It was, indeed, given to “The First Lady of all the Land” and went to the White House.  No one knows what happened to it after that.  The winning quilt also didn’t seem to embody the Century of Progress theme.  Our quilt block, however, does.  Especially when you compare it to the advertisements for the Sears Roebuck illustrations.

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This is the trickiest block I’ve tackled so far, and the absolute key to making this one work is to lay it all out and then work on it in sections.  I’m a big fan of chain stitching, but I knew if I did that with this block, I would screw it up.  Since I do that easily enough on the simpler blocks, I wasn’t going to test my luck.


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All the pieces are wedge-shaped triangles, and I chose to use red, cream, and green.  I worked my way around the block, sewing the red and green pieces to the cream pieces.  By the time I was done, I had 8 triangle pieces: four pointing in and four pointing out.  So far, so good.


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Next step was to sew the triangle units together in pairs: one pointing out to one pointing in.  It’s critical at this point to make sure the seams match up.  I wasn’t as careful as I thought I was, but I didn’t notice it till I was all done.  By sewing the triangle units together, I ended up with four squares.  From here, it’s a simple matter of sewing them into pairs, then  sewed the pairs together to make the block complete.

I took this photo before I gave it a final pressing, and it wasn’t lying flat.  I was considering redoing the block, but the red is vintage 1920s and I had just enough for this block.  Once I pressed it, using some Best Press, it laid nice and flat.  Even flatter once I squared it up.  I wasn’t too sure about this block in the beginning, but having learned more about it’s origins, I find it’s growing on me.

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