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By Edie McGinnis
They don’t look like much to the casual observer. Just a bunch of old, yellowed clippings from years gone by that had been carefully saved and placed in a green loose-leaf notebook. And not just saved but cherished and used, as well.
It was just a little over a week ago that I spoke to the Prairie Quilt Guild in Wichita, Kan. My topic was Kansas City Star Quilt Patterns and Scrap Quilts. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart.
On Sept. 18, 1928, The Star ran its first quilt pattern, called the Pine Tree. The pattern was complete and ready to use. It included templates and instructions and even recommended color choices. Ruby Short McKim supplied the pattern.
From day one, quilters collected The Kansas City Star quilt patterns. They saved them, used them and passed them around to their friends, neighbors and family members. They put them in boxes and bags and notebooks. I even saw one collection in which the patterns had been pasted on the back of the pages of a wallpaper sample book.
A few people managed to collect every single pattern. Some say more than 1,000 patterns were published, but it is hard to prove exactly how many were printed throughout the 33 years the feature ran. No matter the number, the timeless patterns have never lost their charm for quilters.
I have accrued quite a collection of the original patterns. Friends have contributed to my collection. A few here, a lot there, but all prized by me. Years ago, my landlady stopped by one day and handed me a grocery bag full of clippings and fabric scraps. She had been to an auction, and the bag had been set out by the curb to be picked up by the trashmen.
And while I was in Wichita, Lois Stewart told me about a green notebook she had that was filled with Kansas City Star patterns. Then she took my breath when she smiled and gave it to me, saying she was glad to know it was in good hands.
I went to my hotel room that night, and I turned the pages of the notebook. The patterns were filed so carefully. Patterns that were exactly alike but had been printed under different names were together. The Fish pattern printed in 1929 became Goldfish in 1931. That wasn’t too big of a leap from one name to another, but then in 1947, it was printed as Airplane Motif.
In the back of Lois’ notebook are a few patterns tucked into baggies. Included with each pattern are templates cut from cardboard. Each template has been labeled with the number of pieces needed for each block. They are sturdy templates and must have been difficult to cut so precisely from such heavy card stock.
I look at the pages again and again. One of the beautiful things about the notebook is that I can read snippets of yesterday’s news. The back of one pattern published in 1930 had an article that said good seed corn would be scarce because of the drought. Little did the farmers know what hard times were in store for them in the coming years or how history would be affected.
I found a pattern in the notebook that I have never seen. It is the pattern for a quilted sun hat called “hard times” sun hat by Mrs. E. M. Baker, a member of the L.T.L. Club near Enid, Okla. She had had many requests for the pattern, but she was too busy to answer all the letters she had received, so she sent the pattern to The Star.
A notebook filled with yellowed clippings, brittle to the touch, a little bit of nothing to some but a treasure to me. And I will never look at it without thinking of Lois and her sweet smile, nor will I be able to thank her enough.
Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.
Mrs. Bobbins loves quilts and projects that are comforting and inviting, and this week she has found a book sure to warm your heart.
She is always one to find a good deal out there in the quilt world. Now she brings her amazing talents to you … with her weekly Bobbins’ Bargains!
Every Thursday, Mrs. Bobbins will select one of our books and offer it to you at a very special price … 75% off the current listed price!
Better yet, your shipping is FREE in the continental U.S.
Better, better yet, “Five Gets You a Freebie!” If you order a Bobbins’ Bargain just five times, you get a free copy of any of our books! Take your pick. We’ll contact you by email once you’ve qualified for a free book and take your order. Plus your shipping on that one is free as well. Easy as pie!
This week’s Bobbins’ Bargain is Cotton and Wool: Miss Jump’s Farewell, by Linda Brannock.
Beloved primitive artist Linda Brannock is saying farewell to Miss Jump in this book full of gorgeous designs for cotton and wool projects. Besides the new designs, Linda also shares instructions for some of her all-time favorite quilts.
After you’ve admired all the quilts, table runners, rugs and placemats, curl up in a comfortable chair and enjoy Linda’s musings about growing flowers, her quilting tips and lore, and her childhood memories that feature her somewhat mysterious neighbor Miss Jump.
Click here to see a YouTube video about this book.
The book is on sale for $19.95. Your price using our Bobbins’ Bargains promotion code is just $4.99, plus your shipping on this book is free in the continental U.S.!
Be sure to use this promotion code before checkout:
Please make sure to click the “Apply Promotion Code Now” button after entering the code. The discount won’t apply unless you do so. Please verify that you’ve received the discount before checking out.
Click here to order. And remember … your shipping of this book is free in the continental U.S.!
By Donna di Natale
This installment of our look at summer coverlets takes on the full-size version, the perfect seasonal replacement for the thick quilts of winter.
Coverlets are quilts without batting or filler. Sometimes referred to as counterpanes, they were made using a variety of needlework techniques. In the early 1800s, when cotton fabrics became more available and more affordable, whole-cloth counterpanes embroidered with wool yarn or cotton thread became quite popular. Flower-filled urns and curving vines were the most common designs stitched on these lightweight bed covers.
Floral designs carried over into appliquéd coverlets with solid or printed cotton used for the pieces. This method of stitching summer coverlets continued well into the 1940s. Companies began manufacturing kits for making coverlets using appliqué or a combination of appliqué and embroidery. The kits included fabric stamped with appliqué designs to be cut out and stitched to the cloth top, which was stamped to show the placement of the pieces.
Here is an excellent example of a top intended as a summer coverlet. The blue floral pieces are made of standard cotton, while the cream background fabric is a slightly heavier muslin – sturdy enough to stand on its own without a backing. You can clearly see the appliqué placement marks on the back. The blue flowers and leaves were appliquéd using a buttonhole stitch. The rest of the design was stitched using French knots.
The edges were finished by attaching a wide strip of blue, folding it to the front, mitering the corners and stitching along the inside edge. It makes a very neat edge on both the front and the back of the top.
The embroidery on this coverlet is called candlewick, a form of raised embroidery brought to America by the colonists. The thread used in this technique is a thicker cotton thread, supposedly originally used for making candlewicks.
The main stitch used in candlewick is a knot stitch, either the French knot or the Colonial knot. These knots are similar. In a French knot, the thread is simply wrapped around the needle in a circular manner. In a Colonial knot, the thread is wrapped around the needle in a figure eight. The Colonial knot is a little prettier and stands up better.
Another version of candlewicking uses a running stitch. These are sewn using an even heavier cotton thread. About 1/8 inch of fabric is left between stitches that are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long. The lines of stitches are sewn and snipped. The fabric is placed in warm water and laid flat to dry. This shrinks the fabric and thread and untwists the snipped threads. This resembles, and was probably a predecessor to, chenille.
Another example of a top intended as a summer coverlet is one I think was originally a kit for a quilt top. The appliqué pieces were again stamped for cutting and stitching to the background. The background was marked for placement of the appliqué pieces and for quilting.
However, instead of the layering the top with batting and back and quilting it, the maker used candlewicking. A French knot was stitched on every dot of the quilting lines. Hundreds of French knots. This is why I think it was designed as a quilt top but made as a summer coverlet that was never finished. One of these days, I intend to finish it by simply adding a backing to preserve the pretty scalloped edge.
Candlewicking, like other forms of needlework, has gone through ups and downs in popularity through the years without ever disappearing completely. Embroidery is very popular right now, so perhaps candlewicking will return to popularity also. What do you think? Should we bring back candlewicking?
Donna di Natale is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Wednesday.
For more quilty laughter from Mrs. Bobbins, get The Big Book of Bobbins by clicking here! Just $16.95!
By Edie McGinnis
I did a little shopping on eBay last week. I bought a quilt that had been made from a Kansas City Star quilt pattern published Dec. 13, 1939, called Rosalia Flower Garden. The pattern was also published in 1975 as Jack’s Chain in Primarily Patchwork by Marjorie Puckett and Gail Giberson.
It is a difficult pattern to piece. It is continuous and has set-in seams. Just the set-in seams are enough to make many quilters back away from making this quilt, even though the result is extremely striking.
I pulled the quilt out of the box and the plastic trash bag it had been shipped in and was met with the most horrendous odor. I can’t tell you what it smelled like, because I have never encountered that aroma before. The quilt was dirty, as well, and I didn’t even like touching it.
I carted it downstairs and put it in the washing machine. It took two washings before the smell was gone.
The washing machine. Yes, I put it in the washing machine. That’s probably the biggest no-no when it comes to caring for a quilt. It is a move that is sure to bring the quilt police to your doorstep, and they will bang on your door until they have had their say. At the very least, it will earn you a scolding like you’ve seldom seen. I think it’s probably worse than touching a quilt at a quilt show.
It is acceptable to put a child’s drag-about “blankie” quilt in the washing machine. We all know what kind of nasty things get on them, and we want our children to live in a clean, healthy environment.
But when it comes to an antique, heirloom quilt, we want to be kind and gentle to the old fabrics and thread. No washing machine for those pretty old ladies. Instead, airing them on a balmy, overcast day after vacuuming the dust and dirt out of them will work just fine.
There are times when only washing them will suffice, though. You will want to check the fabric for color-fastness before you get it wet. Test it by wetting a white cloth and rubbing it over a piece of the fabric. Choose a corner and a color such as red for testing. If the red dye doesn’t come off onto the wet cloth, you are probably safe to get it wet. However, you would not be amiss to include a color-catcher, just to be on the safe side.
The washing machine and laundry detergent are not your best option when it comes to washing an heirloom quilt. Instead, submersing the quilt in the bathtub and swishing it around after adding Orvus soap is recommended. Be prepared to spend a lot of time rinsing the quilt until the water runs clear and free of soap. Press the water out of the quilt, and wrap it in a sheet to lift it out of the tub.
Lay a fresh, clean sheet on the ground and gently spread your quilt out on the sheet. Cover the quilt with another sheet, and let it dry. Turn it every so often so it will dry thoroughly.
So why go to all this trouble instead of using your washing machine? Old threads are fragile, as is old fabric. A washing machine agitates, and that action is very hard on thread and tends to make them pop or break. Hanging a wet quilt on a clothesline also puts a great deal of stress on the threads and may cause them to break.
You are probably wondering what possessed me to toss the quilt I had just gotten into the washing machine. Obviously, the smell and the fact that it was very dirty had a great deal to do with my decision. But there were other factors that played into it.
The quilt is vintage and was made with a poly-cotton blend fabric rather than cotton, so I knew it was not likely I would run into a problem with fading. It needs to be repaired, and I couldn’t stand to touch the quilt as dirty as it was. While the quilt is pretty from a distance, it is a far cry from being heirloom quality. There is very little quilting on it, barely enough to hold the layers together.
I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar that this quilt was made to be used – and used it was. It wasn’t a quilt that was put away until company came to call. It wasn’t made to be displayed at a show, and it wasn’t made to be saved as a quiltmaker’s best quilt for future generations.
Does that mean it shouldn’t be treated well? Of course not, but it is in my home, and I have to be able to live with it. I can do that now that it is clean and pleasant-smelling. Who knows, I might even wrap it around me while watching TV. In any case, I can now appreciate the quilt and enjoy having it.
Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.