One Wedding Ring – A Quilt Story

Wedding rings have been on my mind the past few days, with an abundant arc of images ranging from the simplest of bands to the most glamorous and sophisticated rings passing through my mind. Why wedding rings? Am I getting married? Not at all.

Rather, I’ve been remembering my research for a quilt design to reflect the contents of Chapter 3 in my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life. The chapter tells the story of my parents’ meeting when they worked for 20th Century Fox in Manhattan in the early 1940s and their subsequent marriage. When I found two patterns I liked, the “Single Wedding Ring,” and the “Double Wedding Ring,” I became curious about the origin of wedding rings. How long had humans worn rings as a symbol of marriage?

Research revealed that historians believe the ancient Egyptians started the ring-giving tradition more than 3,000 years ago. Interestingly, those earliest-known rings were usually braided of hemp or reeds. The circular shape represented endless love between a man and woman. The third finger of the left hand was chosen as the ring finger because of the belief that particular finger held a special vein connected directly to the heart. This idea passed on to other cultures, and centuries later, became known by the Latin term vena amoris or “vein of love.”

I wondered next when and why men started to wear wedding bands and found that a small minority of bridegrooms began wearing them toward the latter part of the last century. I also found a suggestion that World War II had, in part, occasioned a shift to men wearing wedding rings, particularly soldiers, who wore them as a comforting reminder of wives, children, and family back home.

I liked both wedding ring patterns, and my choice of which to use was easy. I’d make the Single Wedding Ring because my father had never worn a wedding band. Then I became curious to know when and where the design originated, and turned to a great quilt research site I’ve found during my present quilt journey, The Quilt Index. There, in an essay by Wilene Smith on June 30, 2011, “Wedding Ring? or Single Wedding Ring?”  I learned the earliest known Wedding Ring design was published as an engraving on October 1, 1887 in a Springfield, MA magazine named “Farm and Home.”

Later, in 1930 , Wedding Ring was renamed Single Wedding Ring, and although, as with many patterns, it acquired other names–for example, Saw Tooth, in 1890-1894, and Odd Scraps Patchwork in 1895-1897–it continued to be known as Wedding Ring in most publications for the next 41 years.

Smith’s essay also answered the question: When did the Wedding Ring pattern become the Single Wedding Ring? She found “…it was April 12, 1930, in the Kansas City Star newspaper illustrated by Eveline Foland and has been generally known by this name ever since.” She explores why the name changed and if the popularity of the new Double Wedding Ring pattern influenced the change. That, and a multitude of information about single and double wedding ring patterns is included in the essay at the above link.

Here is my own version:

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One Wedding Ring, May, 2016

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About Mary Jo Doig

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I grew there in so many ways and today I'm a long-time editor for the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal, as well as a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site, another unique place in cyberspace. Then, next year, I’ll again be honored to be program chair for our Stories from the Heart national conference in Austin, TX. I have so many loves: first, my three children: my son, Chip and daughter, Polly, both in Virginia; and my youngest daughter, Susan, in Florida, and also dear family and friends. I must also include my cats Hilary (20) and Button (5). Sometimes I foster cats and kittens for the Humane Society, but Button prefers me not to. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. Now, all these years later, I believe I've sliced through the layers to reach the heart of my story, and am presently working on the final revision of my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life.
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9 Responses to One Wedding Ring – A Quilt Story

  1. Thanks for teaching me something this morning, Mary Jo. I enjoyed this and love your quilt square!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      Thanks, Len. That’s been a interesting pattern to research. I do research with each pattern/chapter because I’m compiling a brief addendum that tells a little about each one. Glad it gave you some new info.

      Like

  2. gwynnrogers says:

    I loved your One Wedding Ring – A Quilt Story. Where I knew a bit of the history, I didn’t know all of it. It is fascinating, particularly the part about men wearing a wedding ring.

    Now, I’m fascinated. Since I’m a West Coast person, I immediately think of Manhattan as Manhattan Beach, California as there were studios in Hollywood. My dad sold furniture to the studios here on the West Coast, but it was in the 60s. Were you referring to the East Coast Manhattan? Otherwise, I wonder if our parents knew one another.

    Thank you for your lovely and loving story.

    Like

    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      It was Manhattan, New York, Gwynn, the only Manhattan I know. What a great place! I’ve never been to California and don’t think my parents were either. I think I told you my daughter, Susan, moved to CA several months ago – Eureka CA. She loves CA!

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  3. I share your interest in quilting but haven’t tackled a project for several years. Somehow I can’t seem to find the time to fit it in with everything else so I sold my frame. I like how you tied the history into your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      Ouch, I say, when I read you sold your frame! Honestly, I don’t have time for this quilt, except that several months ago I said to my Work in Progress WIP group not to call me crazy, but I was thinking about naming each memoir chapter with a quilt square pattern name that reflected the content of the chapter. I was thinking it was silly in a way, but I was given so much encouragement, that’s what I’ve done. Then, of course, I decided I had to make the quilt with all those squares because I want it to be my memoir cover. Something had to give and I hate that it’s been reading. I do listen to a lot of books on tape which has been a saving grace, but I also have to say this new quilt square idea has added a depth and dimension to the story I could not have imagined. So, here I am, making a story quilt as well as trying to get my memoir off my desk and off to a publisher. Back to my original thought: call me crazy!

      Like

  4. That is so interesting about men’s wearing of a wedding ring becoming more prevalent during WW2. My parents had been married six weeks when he got overseas orders. I know now, from his letters, that my mom purchased and mailed him a “simple” wedding band at his request (or perhaps acquiescence) sometime after he arrived in Europe.

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    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      That’s wonderful to know, Gretchen! Your parents are the first couple I know of, in my tiny world, who entered into the new tradition. I’m happy to know that and thank you. Thinking of you and your mom often about her century birthday.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fascinating history lesson! Thank you.
    Jazz

    Liked by 1 person

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