Something in Common

Grandma's Surprise, both by Joyce Gieszler

Aren’t these two quilts striking? They were both made by local designer and teacher Joyce Gieszler, whose book Then and Now Quilts was published last year by Kansas City Star Quilts. These quilts have something else in common: they are made from the very same block!

Now look at this third version, also made by Joyce:

Grandma's Surprise, Joyce Gieszler, 3 of 3
Made with Cotton and Steel fabrics, this quilt is as contemporary as the the upper left quilt, made of Civil War reproduction fabrics, is traditional. I first saw this third version in January at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop’s Open House. Joyce was there introducing herself, her new book (which includes this design), and an upcoming class. I signed up for her class on the spot.

The block in these quilts is called Grandma’s Surprise.  Deconstructed, it’s a kaleidoscope block. Well, you know how I love kaleido quilts. Is it any wonder I wanted to make one of my own?

When Joyce showed me a photo of the three-color quilt (upper right), I knew immediately that I wanted to make this version. I’m intrigued by the way color, value, and fabric placement completely change the look of a quilt. Joyce’s three versions illustrate this beautifully.

A basic kaleidoscope block is made of eight 45° triangles, forming an octagon, and finishes with four corner triangles to make a square:

basic kaleidoscope block
The Grandma’s Surprise block takes that concept to the next level:

grandma's puzzle block

Do you see how four triangles fill the same space as one triangle in the basic version? It’s still a kaleidoscope block — but a more complex and sophisticated one.

The quilts are made of nine blocks in a 3 x 3 grid. In the two quilts at the top of the page, Joyce made 12″ blocks so the quilts finish at 36″ square. The Cotton and Steel version is made of 16″ blocks with a 3″ border, finishing at 54″ square.

For my three-color version of Grandma’s Surprise, I chose red, black, and a very pale grey. Here is my center block:

center block, grandma's puzzle

It measures 16½” unfinished. The black print is from the Black, White & Currant 5 line by Color Principle for Henry Glass & Co. At a recent Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting, guildmate AnnMarie Cowley surprised me with several large pieces from this line left over from a quilt project of her own. (Thanks so much, AnnMarie!) I’m delighted to find a project that puts her gift to good use.




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9 Responses to Something in Common

  1. kc says:

    It’s AMAZING what colors can do! Unless you were looking hard, you’d never know the first 2 quilts were the same! Thankfully, hubby likes the same one I do, and his reaction to the other one is exactly the same as mine. Won’t tell you which one, but one of ’em just makes us crazy, and we LOVE the other one (in different colors). 🙂

    Your block turned out really, really nice too! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sandy says:

    Dawn, your block is beautiful! I have enjoyed reading your blog. It’s fun to see the differences between all of the blocks.

  3. Glenda DeMoss says:

    These are beautiful! And I love your choice of colors!

  4. Fascinating to see how the same block can produce very different visual effects depending on fabric/colour placement. I love Joyce’s last version.

  5. DreiPunkteWerk says:

    I love the kaleidoscope block! But the Grandmother’s Surprise is even better! I have to try this with my cool kaleidoRuler 🙂
    Best regards,

  6. Karee says:

    You inspired me! I have finished the center medallion and am tackling the outer rings. You can see my version on

  7. Geraldean Tankersley says:

    How do I purchase these patterns?

    • Dawn says:

      Hi, Geraldean. You can find directions for Grandma’s Surprise in Joyce Gieszler’s book Then and Now Quilts, published in 2014 by Kansas City Star Quilts.

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