Figure 1: Block construction
Figure 1: Block construction

This block was named after Dolley Payne Todd Madison. For half a century she was the most important woman in the social circles of America. To this day she remains one of the best known and best loved ladies of the White House. She always called herself Dolley, although I have found references to Dorothy and Dorothea as well. Dolley Madison was a granddaughter of John Payne, an English gentleman who migrated to Virginia early in the 18th century. After her first husband, Philadelphia lawyer John Todd, died in the yellow-fever epidemic of 1793, she was introduced to and eventually married, James Madison who was then Secretary of State.

Dolly served as unofficial first lady to President Thomas Jefferson, who was a widower, before she became the official First Lady as the wife of President Madison. Her enormous popularity as a hostess is credited with Madisons re-election to a second term. Raised as a Quaker, Dolly did not acquire such graceful and ornamental accomplishments such as music, dancing, painting and foreign languages, considered then as the most important parts of female education. But Dolleys social graces made her famous. Her political acumen prized by her husband, is less renowned, though her gracious tact smoothed many a quarrel.

Forced to flee from the White House by the British army during the War of 1812, she is credited with saving many documents and items of value including the portrait of George Washington. She returned to find the mansion in ruins. After retiring to Philadelphia she returned to the capital following the death of her husband in the autumn of 1837 and remained in Washington until her death in 1849, honoured and loved by all. The delightful personality of this unusual woman is a cherished part of Americas history

Figure 2: Square layout gives large area for quilting motif
Figure 2: Square layout gives large area for quilting motif

Making the block

This block is effective in just two colours. There are two versions shown, one is a simpler option in case the thought of all those bias seams gets you down.

This block is based on a nine patch grid. It is best made in sizes divisible by 3 which makes the measurements easier although you can make it any size. The templates shown are for a 12in block.

The two colour block

Follow the piecing diagram in Figure 1.

Rotary cutting measurements are as follows but you will need to calculate how many of each piece to cut.

  • 1 7⁄8in small squares
  • 4 1⁄2in large squares
  • 3 1⁄4in squares cut into four diagonally for the small triangles
  • 5 1⁄4in square cut into four diagonally for the large triangles
Figure 3: Simplified block
Figure 3: Simplified block

TIP! If you are making a large quilt, you could speed piece the centre nine patches. There is no need for speed piecing for just one block.

Figure 2 shows this two colour block in a square edge to edge layout. Notice how the large corner squares meet to give a large area for quilting. If you dont want a lot of quilting you could use a large print for this area because the pattern will disguise simpler quilting patterns.

The simplified version shown in Figure 3 uses quarter square triangles instead of the small triangles. Changing the colour of the inner triangles surrounding the nine patch adds depth and interest to the block.

In Figure 4 the block is shown with sashing and corner squares. The sashing breaks up the large corner sections of the block. You could make each star block a different colour and use the sashing to tie it all together - scrappy blues with terracotta sashing would be fun.

There is also another block named after Dolley - Dolley Madison's Workbox.

Figure 4: Block with sashing and corner squares
Figure 4: Block with sashing and corner squares