Letha’s Electric Fan Quilt – WIP

These are the little quilt pieces I just purchased from an Etsy shop — 211 small arcs with 5 pieces each — for $15. It’s not unusual to see a lot like this — probably the quilter was attempting a more difficult pattern and ran into trouble with the piecing. There are several reasons this can happen — maybe the templates were inaccurate, or the pieces were not carefully drawn or cut, or she just got discouraged.


I would not have been able to guess the pattern this quilter was using just by looking at these little arcs, but fortunately she made one block. It’s pretty easy to see what happened here — she pieced the middle circle, which would be difficult for even the most accomplished quilter. You’ll notice that she stitched the blocks with arcs containing the same fabrics (although strangely, not all in the same order). She quickly gave that up, however, because I could find no two alike in the additional 211 arcs.



The pattern for Letha’s Electric Fan appeared in the Kansas City Star in 1938, which is probably about the age of these fabrics. I’ve always loved this pattern with it’s funny name (who was Letha?), and am so happy to have found these old pieces. The KC patterns are rather notorious for having inaccurate templates, although this one is actually pretty good. Because they rarely included instructions, you can see why a novice quilter might think the whole pattern should be pieced.


After drafting a new pattern, I was able to salvage most of her arcs intact (with just a little trimming and swapping out a few inappropriate pieces). Usually I take the blocks completely apart, so this quilt will go much faster. I changed the shape of the interior white template and simply appliqued the center circle on top. To me, her yellow center suggested a flower, and I didn’t want to use blue (as indicated in the pattern) since I already made a quilt with blue circles. Finally, I selected a pretty vintage green percale from my stash. This is my first block, which will finish at 9 1/2″. I’ll redo the original block with the same arcs as a tribute to her.


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