Modern Sunbonnet Sue's Musings

Musings from the mind of a modern day Sue:
Godey's Lady's Book Block

I am preparing instructions for a mystery quilt. The block that attracted my attention was from Carrie Hall's quilt block collection titled Godey's Lady's Book Block. The pattern is found in Bettina Havig's book Carrie Hall Blocks which has over 800 historical patterns from the collection at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. I knew that Godey's Lady's Book was a magazine back in the 19th century and was edited by Sarah Josepha Hale. Ruth Finley writes about her influence on women and women's arts in her book The Lady of Godey's: Sarah Josepha Hale. I decided to do a little bit of research about Godey's Lady's Book and here is what I found.

Godey's Lady's Book was the most popular periodical of its time. Published in Philadelphia prior to the Civil War, the editor, Louis Godey, marketed the magazine to women of the day. Pulication began in July 1830 and continued until 1877, when Louis Godey sold it. It was considered the most popular periodical of it's day, boasting 150,000 subscriptions at it's peak. An annual subscription was $3, which was considered expensive, especially since Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post sold for only $2 annually. Although Louis Godey was the noted editor, author and poet, Sarah Josepha Hale, was the real person behind the magazine.

Sarah Josepha Hale, 1831, by James Reid Lambdin from

Born: October 24, 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire

Died April 30, 1879 at the age of 90.

What many of you may not know is that Sarah J. Hale is the author of the beloved poem and oft sung nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb. Godey's Lady's Book wrote about fashion, etiquette in women's dress, composition, and poetry. Many writers were first published in Godey's. As well, patterns were provided for many of women's arts, including quilting. Godey's was the first to publish a quilt pattern, which we take for granted today with the miriad of quilting and craft magazines to choose from on the newstand. The pattern was the honeycomb or hexagon quilt pattern.


Many of you are more likely to know this quilt pattern by the 1930's rendition called Grandmother's Flower Garden. Typically made with an English paper piecing technique, the small hexagons are hand-pieced. This is one of the first patterns that I saw in a quilt book back in the 1980's and I've always wanted to make one. I currently own two quilt tops that others have started. One is a circa 1930's Grandmother's Flower Garden from an antique shop, while the other is a pieced section and a tin filled with hundreds of cut hexagons that I picked up at a flea market for $5. The tin itself was likely worth the five bucks I paid. They both remain on my UFO project list that I will someday complete.

When I started this blog post, I indicated that I was putting together a mystery quilt and chose the Godey's Lady's Book Block for the pattern. Some of you probably have forgotten about that, but some are wondering when I'm going to get back to the blog topic. Well, the block in Bettina Havig's book has a two color block stitched in blue & white. I played around with the block layout and came up with a three-color plan that gives a secondary contrast when four blocks are put together side by side without sashing. However, I found a picture of a block on a quilt barn that has the block in five solid colors. 


This block is striking in the solid colors. Now, I'm debating about how to proceed with preparing the instructions for my mystery quilt. I really like the look of this barn quilt. Tell me what you think!


Published Thu, Dec 8 2011 7:24 PM by Pamela


# re: Godey's Lady's Book Block@ Friday, December 9, 2011 8:38 AM

I have an original Godey's Book. I am also a history buff of the Civil War and former re-enactor. So my vote is if you are going to do a mystery quilt of the era, do it authentically. I would use reproduction prints. Bright bold colors would not have been used in the 1860's.