Quilt Notes: It is staggering the number of different quilt designs that have been illustrated with variations on this name. Barbara Brackman's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PIECED QUILT PATTERNS has 12 of them (this one #4141 & #4142). The basic idea is a continuous dark and light swap of octagonal lozenges, like borrowing money from one person to pay back someone else, the debt remaining the same. Online sources say that the expression itself dates back to the 14th century, and is derived from the belief that St. Peter and St. Paul enjoyed equal sainthood. |
On fabric choices: Nancy Cabot published this version of ROB(BING) PETER TO PAY PAUL in the Chicago Tribune, August 5, 1936. The double diamonds in her imagined fabric pattern (illustrated left) also imitate the basic S-shaped, Yin-Yang light and dark duality, or some say non-duality (advaita), motif.
There are many other ways to express or symbolize yin and yang. Colors all have their complements, that is, the hue directly opposite on the color wheel. Yellow-green and red-violet are complements, and thus enhance each other in any fabric pattern (see above). Also duality can be complementary without being in opposition. The two black and white fabrics chosen for this design (above right), in one case show a floral spiral (like a rose with leaves), and in the other a grid of connected dots. One is more pictorial, the other entirely abstract, considered the two fundamentally different ways of working with design imagery.
For more comments on Mysticism or Yin-Yang in quilt design, see PATIENCE CORNERS, RAIL FENCE, and MYSTIC STAR.