Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cracker Quilt

Quilting has a long tradition on Ocracoke. The Needle and Thread Club continues to meet on the island, often making quilts to raise funds for local non-profit organizations.

My Aunt Tressie Quilting in Her Home, ca. 1955

One of the most popular quilts on the island was (and still is) the Ocracoke Cracker Quilt. The Ocracoke Cracker Quilt is a variation of a traditional design -- three rectangles forming a square, surrounded by four triangles. By proper use of color the traditional (non-Ocracoke) pattern stands out, as you can see in the photo below:

Cracker Quilt Pattern

You can see another image of a traditional Cracker Quilt here:

Some have speculated that the name, Cracker Quilt, was adopted because the pattern resembled the popular British "Christmas Cracker," a cardboard tube wrapped in festive paper and containing a small prize. When pulled in opposite directions by two people, usually at the Christmas dinner table, the tube split open with a snap, or "crack."

 Ocracokers, in their typically unconventional manner, adapted the Cracker Quilt in several ways. Instead of three rectangles, they used four, all of different colors. According to island tradition, one rectangle is always red. Also, the four triangles are often the same color. As a result, the design no longer looks like a Christmas Cracker, though the name persists.

The pattern is unique -- the Ocracoke Island Cracker Quilt:

Ocracoke Cracker Quilt by Amy Howard

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a seven minute video of Philip Howard relating the story of the April, 1861 wreck of the Black Squall on Ocracoke Island. You can listen to it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news032113.htm


  1. Vickie Pavlik7:07 AM

    Other than tradition, is there a reason for one red rectangle?

    1. Tradition is the only reason I know of for the red rectangle.

  2. They look really nice and comfortable!

  3. Anonymous9:49 AM

    Is that the quilt pattern in your picture? Your picture, if one clicks on your name to the right in the list of contributors? Does the NC Historical Society know any of this background? Perhaps an essay is in order to be published in that journal

    1. The quilt in my profile photo is the same quilt pictured above, on my bed. The Ocracoke Preservation Society museum sells a small packet of Ocracoke cracker quilt pieces that can be sewn together. At times they have cracker quilt pot holders for sale also. The origin of the pattern may not be documented in any other publication, but OPS officers and many members follow my blog.