Yesterday was a hard day for me. I lost the custody battle for Gloria Nixon’s Red-E-Kut quilt kits. Well, it wasn’t actually a battle. And they were never mine to keep. Gloria was gracious enough to lend them to me to photograph for my book, A Bag of Scraps.
It’s probably been about seven or eight months since the postman brought me the package Gloria sent. I unwrapped it and inside the carefully packed box was a tattered candy box. I opened the lid and inside lay little glassine packets. Each packet held 19 pieces that, when put together, would make one Dresden Plate quilt block.
A few of the blocks had already been pieced together. Some lacked the center circle. But most were still in the little packets. The address on each of the packets reads 210 W. 8th. Kansas City, Mo. They were packaged under the name of the Red-E-Kut Quilt Patch Co.
I’ve not been able to find much information about the Red-E-Kut Quilt Patch Co. beyond their address. The address tells me they were in the Garment District in Kansas City. The address also tells me that they were in the same building as the Mary Dean Frock Company.
Mary Dean made inexpensive house dresses and aprons and used an assembly-line method of manufacturing. Some people cut the pieces, some sewed shoulder seams, some sewed sleeves, and some hemmed. Each person had their own special part of a garment they were responsible for stitching.
As I took out the pieces from the glassine packets, I noticed that the same print would appear again and again but it would be a different color. Manufactured dresses would have been made using the same print but different colors as well.
I can’t help but wonder if the Red-E-Kut Quilt Patch Co. was an off-shoot of the Mary Dean Frock Co. or if it was a separate entity.
I discovered that garment factories often sold their scraps to a person called a “jobber.” The jobber would come by every day or two and purchase the scraps from the factory, then sell them to someone else. Often the fabric would end up as a different product. For example, the jobber that bought wool scraps from the Styline Company sold them to a factory that made roofing material.
Perhaps the people who made the Red-E-Kut quilt patches were jobbers. It’s a good possibility that they could have purchased the scraps that were tossed into barrels by the cutters at the Mary Dean Frock Company. Red-E-Kut could have had its own cutting system in place for trimming out the Dresden Plate pieces.
Maybe the company made other kits as well. Grandmother’s Flower was very popular at that time. Although the pieces wouldn’t have had to be very large, one would have needed many of them.
It’s times like this I would like to have a time machine. Just think, I could just zip right back to 210 W. 8th and talk to the workers. I could see how it was all done and how many kits they really made. I could also find out why and when they went out of business.
Who knows, this is a puzzle I may never solve but perhaps someone else will find the answers. If and when they do, I sure hope they drop me a line.
Yesterday after doing a trunk show in Topeka, Kansas, I had lunch with Gloria and reluctantly returned the candy box holding the Red-E-Kut Quilt patches. She’s a good friend and she told me I could come and visit them anytime. Not quite the same as having them live here in my house, but it’s as close as it’s going to get.