There are a number of different designs tilted BROKEN DISHES. The rendering illustrated here begins in print with Nancy Cabot (1937), although she in turn dates it back to some of the first records of quilt making. See Barbara Brackman's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PIECED QUILT PATTERNS (#2004), also Jinny Beyer's QUILTER'S ALBUM OF PATCHWORK PATTERNS (p. 203-1). Beyer's compendium includes a complete alphabetical list of Nancy Cabot designs (amazingly helpful because Cabot's selections are outstanding), and along with the exact date of their publication in the Chicago Tribune. In her notes, Cabot states:
"Perhaps one of the first quilt patterns ever pieced is the block illustrated today, 'Broken Dishes.' The first records of quilt making after the demise of the crazy quilt are found in this simple pieced pattern."
The question might be asked how do we have a name like this for a quilt design, intended for use as a warm and comforting coverlet? Like ODDS AND ENDS or TOAD IN A PUDDLE and
CATCH AS YOU CAN, the quilt name is reflective of our more disorganized and less controlled activities, and yet just as classic to our experience. In addition, there is an exquisite lineage to the idea — broken pieces of pottery, called potsherds, have been uncovered in ancient archaeological sites all over the world, and they often provide fascinating clues to the art history of a culture. For instance in ancient Crete, numerous fragments of clay pots have been recovered, inscribed with fascinating geometric patterns, which themselves have been collected and illustrated in various publications.
Again on the positive side, there is an irony as regards broken clay pots when used for plants, the broken pieces can then be tucked into the bottom of an unbroken pot, providing excellent help for drainage. In terms of design and as regards the tiling pattern, BROKEN DISHES, with its jagged edges and rectangular breaks, would seem very aptly named.