The History of Plus Sign Quilts

Posted by Cheryl Brickey and Paige Alexander on Jan 23rd 2018

Excerpt from Modern Plus Sign Quilts: 16 Dynamic Projects, A Variety of Techniques by Cheryl Brickey and Paige Alexander.

Plus signs have been a universally appealing design in popular culture for over 100 years, forming some of the most recognizable logos in the world. There is no mistaking the logos of the American Red Cross and Swiss Army.

Drawn to this simple and strong geometric shape, quilters have used plus signs extensively throughout history. Some of the first popular plus sign quilt designs were signature quilts made in the early 1900s to support the Red Cross during World War I. Individuals and businesses would pay a small fee to have their name embroidered on such a quilt, and then the finished project would be raffled off to generate additional funds for the cause.

The following vintage Red Cross quilt was made in Lake County, Illinois in 1915, with each resident paying 10 cents to have his or her name embroidered on the quilt. Each of the blocks contained 1 red plus sign and about 40 embroidered names on the white background.

Red Cross signature quilt, circa 1915, from the collections of Lake County Discovery Museum; photo by Mark Widhalm

Detail of Red Cross signature quilt; photo by Mark Widhalm

You can make your own modern version of the Red Cross signature quilt using the instructions for the Signature Plus project. Our version was made with the help of 122 quilters, each making and signing a signature block. It is the perfect pattern for a modern quilting bee.

Signature Plus

This book contains 16 different quilt patterns made with a variety of techniques, including traditional piecing, paper piecing, and appliqué. Quilt sizes range from baby through queen. A difficulty rating from “+” (most beginner friendly) to “+++” (more time consuming and challenging) is noted for each pattern.

We hope that you enjoy and are inspired by this collection of new and modern twists on the classic plus sign. We can’t wait to see what you make!

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Plus Surround, designed, pieced, and quilted by Paige Alexander

Pinwheel Plus, designed and pieced by Cheryl Brickey and quilted by Johellen George

Kaleidoscope Plus, designed, pieced, and quilted by Cheryl Brickey

Intertwined, designed by Cheryl Brickey and pieced and quilted by Paige Alexander

Petal Plus, designed by Cheryl Brickey, appliquéd and pieced by Paige Alexander, and quilted by Johellen George

Transparency Chains, designed, pieced, and quilted by Cheryl Brickey

Celestial, designed and pieced by Cheryl Brickey and quilted by Johellen George

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