Thursday, July 1, 2021

Quilt Patterns in the Newspapers

 2021 is half gone, hard to believe.  In 2020 I posted a Kansas City Star block every day on my Facebook page.  This year I chose quilt blocks from Nancy Cabot of the Chicago Tribune and the block #182 for 1st July was Indian Charm. 183 patterns to go til 2022.

There was a superstition among the ancient quiltmakers that black, included in a coverlet, was not to be taken as a good omen, and no one ever dared consider it in combination with other colors. When "Indian Charm" was adapted from an old Indian pattern the original designer defied the fates and incorporated yellow, black, and blue against a white ground with highly successful results. The popularity of the applique block has lasted through a century and seems to be gaining more favor as its age increases.  The 14 inch applique blocks are set together to form an all-over design and finished with a 10 inch border consisting of bands of blue, yellow, black, and white.

 Chicago Tribune July 1, 1938


Both the Kansas City Star and the Chicago Tribune had regular quilt pattern columns but the two newspapers did them very differently.

The first post for the Kansas City Star was  September 19, 1928 with the Pine Tree.  The National Quilt Museum has an informative blog post Kansas City Star Quilts.

The pine tree blocks make a very handsome quilt.  It takes sixteen pieced blocks to make a quilt about eighty-four inches square, aside from its border.  These blocks must set together diagonally with alternating blocks of white, cut the exact size of the pieced block.  The above patterns are the exact size in which the pieces should be cut.  The size of one block when put together is about fifteen inches.  Seams must be allowed in addition, for quiltmakers differ in opinion as to seam width.  

The best way is to trace the patterns on cardboard, mark and cut to complete your pattern.  Lay the cardboard patterns on the material.  The pattern is drawn with pencil carefully.  Cut a seam larger, sewing on the pencil line.  The two white pieces of irregular shape have to be fitted in as marked on the edges, otherwise the "Pine Tree" is largely a business of sewing small triangles into squares and adding them together.


The Chicago Tribune printed their first pattern five years later on January 22, 1933.  Interestingly they chose the same pattern as the Kansas City Star, the Pine Tree.


Grandmother’s patchwork quilts … the memories they recall!  The early dawns when you snuggled your small self beneath those gay and colorful spreads and listened to the farmyard chatter; the regular breakfasts that you could sniff in the making; the sunshine, the calm and peace and quiet that somehow always settled around you when you lived with that busy and master quilter, “grandma”!

There is nothing misty about your memories of grandmother’s patchwork quilts; you must remember them in all their gay and sprightly glory, every incredibly small stitch, sewed by hand, every beautiful pattern that had been treasured and handed down from generation to generation.  Do you remember the thin summer quilts with small patches cleverly assembled in one grand, quilt-big pattern, of vivid patched green leaves with scarlet blossoms made from the greatly cherished and rare turkey red calicoes or the sentimental tea rose patterns adroitly sewed into place against the tender green leaves of carefully hoarded pieces of a pale green gingham gown or what was left of it?

How sentimental!

The Kansas City Star published a pattern once a week in the regional version of the newspaper.  The Chicago Tribune printed Nancy Cabot's column every day seven days a week.  Nancy Cabot lasted for a bit over five years, the Kansas City Star went on for 34 years.

The Kansas City Star patterns were free in the newspaper, there was no more instructions available apart from what was printed.  The Nancy Cabot patterns were 5 cents each and you sent an envelope with 5 cents in stamps or coin to the newspaper office to buy a pattern.  The Kansas City Star patterns were sent in by the readership and were always acknowledged in the paper; all the Chicago Tribune patterns were accredited to the Nancy Cabot, the pen name of  Elizabeth Leitner Rising.

Would you like to find out more about the 1930s quilt pattern phenomena?  I have put together a collection of patterns and fascinating facts from the 1930s sources.





Listed this on Etsy, the link is here

Let me know if you find it interesting, the next one is in the think tank.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2021 - More 1930s Patterns

 Here at Two Bits Patches, 2020 was the year of the quilt blocks printed in the Kansas City Star newspaper in the 1930s and 1940s. (2020 was the year of many things but let's accentuate the positive.)

Here are a few of the 1930s blocks that came from the Kansas City Star.  I could have cropped out my work table but that's my style - organised chaos.

12 months ago Block #1 was posted on the Two Bits Patches Facebook page, and today will see block #366. It was a very successful New Year's resolution.  So, what is in store for 2021?




This year it is the turn of the Chicago Tribune and Nancy Cabot.  Nancy Cabot was the pen name of Loretta Rising, the Needlework Editor and Columnist  of the Chicago Tribune. The first Nancy Cabot quilt block appeared in 1933, and continued every day through the remainder of the decade.  Unlike the Kansas City Star, the Tribune offered patterns for sale, 5¢ each.  

You will find the first block from the Chicago Tribune on January 1, 2021 on Facebook - just click 'Like' to keep them appearing in your feed.


Are you ready to say farewell to 2020? I certainly am!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

This Week's 1930s Block - Straight to Your Inbox

If you follow me on Facebook  you already know about the daily 1930s block.  Block #250 Little Boy's Britches was shared today - hurray! - and there are more to come.


Day 246 - Dresden Plate Quilt - This dainty block, the Dresden Plate, is pieced of twenty different prints and appliqued on a plain block fourteen inches square. A pillow top in this design may be made any size desired, or it may be used for chair pads. A silk design may be applied upon woolen blocks if one cares to use these fabrics. The many uses of this block is one of tests of the homemakers' ingenuity. In small motifs it may be the corner decoration of bedroom curtains or a single block may be the front of a child's scrapbook with the name in the center.

Kansas City Star, September 2, 1931.


Now it's time for something new! 


My new project is This Week's 1930s Block and it arrives as an email link to any email address.  There will be photos of the block with  background information.  Also included is a six-inch pattern of the block so you can recreate it is you like.  No cost and you can cancel when you like. The signup form is below:

Yes please! Add me to the list!


Don't delay - the first block Little Beech Tree is waiting for you!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Serendipitous Contrary Wife

This signature quilt top has been christened the Sugar Creek Township quilt, after one of the block maker's home address.  As a top it has never been used or washed, so the colours are very bright.

from 'Time for a Fresh Quilt Saga'

It comes from Armstrong County, Pennsylvania and was made about 1942 - 1945.  I have researched a number of the names and made quite a few family connections. I haven't yet been able to get a good overall network for the quilt. The name on the central block - often the recipient of the quilt - is simply labeled 'Mother'. Another block, centre top row is another mystery - it just says, 'Mine'. Not enough information.

Today's block of interest is the following.  The pattern is Contrary Wife.

The name on the block is Maude Hollenbaugh.  I thought it might be interesting to see if Maude has a reason to choose Contrary Wife to represent herself.

Maude married farmer Frank when she was 19.  Maude and Frank had a large family of eight daughters and one son.  In the 1920 census all nine children were still living at home, from 20 year old Verna through to Margaret, age 1 year 6 months.  I imagine Maude was occasionally contrary.

Maude's sister Minnie also had the married surname of Hollenbaugh and I guessed that Maude and Minnie may have married brothers, not uncommon in a farming community with large families.  So I had a closer look at the census pages.  I was right, Minnie and John Hollenbaugh had the next door farm to Maude and Frank.  Minnie had three boys and a daughter, slightly older than Maude's brood but still all single at living at home.

Just on a chance, I went back a page in the census form.  Guess who was the neighbour on the other side?  Mrs. Fannie Brumbaugh, the maker of the remarkable Sailboat Oklahoma!

Quite exciting!  And back another page I found more names from the quilt.  The fascinating part of this discovery is that this was the 1920 census, twenty plus years before the quilt was made.  These women were building friendships while they were young wives and mothers and these same friendships endured for the rest of their lives.  I didn't find the connections in the 1940 census because the community had changed and the women had relocated as their circumstances changed.

Time to make my own Contrary Wife.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

More Quilt Stories from the 1930s

I have a new title on Amazon this month.

Malaga 1937 

Quilt Stories from the Heart of Washington


I been working on this e-book for a long time.  I purchased this friendship quilt way back in 2013. It has often been the centre of attention:

A New Quilt for the Collection

It was featured in an article in Down Under Quilts. And it was the source of inspiration for a mystery quilt project which became the Etsy pattern Heart of Washington.

Heart of Washington Etsy pattern

And now it is a collection of stories about the women behind the quilt and domestic life in the year 1937.  The women were mothers and immigrants and teachers and farmer's wives and pioneers.  There are stories about sewing machines and kitchen appliances; feedsacks and cotton batting; newspaper patterns and baby names.  A nice hodge-podge of quilt stories and pictures, just right for a sit down and a hot drink.

Why the Heart of Washington?  It comes from an apple box label that I found online.

Malaga 1937 ~ Quilts Stories from the Heart of Washington is ready to download now to your tablet or phone or laptop.  Please join me and enjoy these stories of women just like us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Godey's Design for Patchwork - with Instructions

I came across this picture from the 1861 Godey's Ladies' Book.  I saved it a number of years ago but I don't think I have ever shared it.  The instructions are the interesting part.  We are so used to having scanners and photocopiers and laser printers that we forget that our great-grandmothers had to draft their own patterns.

"Our page compels us to reduce the size of the pattern; but, by a little attention, sections may easily be cut of any dimensions desired.  Take a piece of clean stout white paper, and fold it in all the parallel sloping lines seen in our engraving.  These may be at any distance from each other; only regular and equal.

"It will be seen that a line drawn exactly between every pair of parallels will take in the points.  Draw these lines with a pencil, to distinguish them from those caused by the folding, and the proper forms can be readily obtained.  Cut them out, and from them others in card-board, if for a large piece of work and you have all your sections ready, without the possibility of a misfit.  The two eight-pointed figures are differently arranged.  A may be filled up in eight pieces, while B should be composed of nine - a star of eight points to the center, and eight diamonds round it.  Or, if on a sufficiently large scale, the inner star may be of eight pieces.  Two very distinct shades of the same color will look better for A than many different tints.  B may have a dark centre and bright points, or vice versa. The intermediate figure, C, should be of such neutral tints or dark shades as may throw up the brilliant hues of which the star should be composed.

"We have said that this design may be applied to another purpose.  Worked on canvas, in wools, the outlines done in black, it would be both rich looking and easily worked.  Elderly people and children can often do a piece where they can count threads, where a painted pattern would puzzle them.  No. 14 or 16 canvas, and eight-thread wool should be used.  Orange, claret, blue (if good), and brilliant greens look well in such a pattern."

So its a good pattern for elderly puzzled people?  I better keep it close at hand.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

1st Trimester

The pattern-a-day from the Kansas City Star collection is going strong, we're up to Day 84 The Old Fashioned Goblet. You can see the patterns on my Facebook page.

I have been asked by a few followers if I am making every block.  Wish I could but as I think, I'd like to make this one, I go ahead and do it.

Here are my blocks from January, February and March.

From top to bottom, left to right:

Silver and Gold   January 7, 1931
Spider Web   January 23, 1929
The Rambler   January 2, 1929

Squares and Triangles   January 5, 1955
Amethyst   February 11, 1931  

Coffee Cups   January 6, 1935
Water Glass   March 14, 1934
The Spool Quilt   March 17, 1937 

The "T" Quilt Pattern   February 1, 1939
The Cat's Cradle   February 28, 1934
Rising Sun   February 6, 1929

I haven't actually made all of these in the last months, some blocks I already had in my Sample Block box.  For example, I made Rising Sun on my holidays twelve months ago.  I was at Narooma, New South Wales and looking at the block reminds of that time.  I am supposed to be back in Narooma right now for holidays, but since the world turned upside down that didn't happen.

These are not all the blocks I have made in the last months.  I have more that are going into a different setting but they are not quite ready for release yet.  I'll get on to them next.

Stay safe everyone.

Friday, February 28, 2020

59 Not Out

Tomorrow is the first day of March.  New Year resolutions are now a dim memory.

                     But ....

                                     .... I have a New Year Resolution still going!

My Block of the Day is still going on Facebook, the Cat's Cradle is day 59.

I've made some of the blocks.  I don't have to make them all, I just make the ones that take my fancy.

Rambler 2 January

Squares and Triangles 5 January

Coffee Cups 6 January

Winged Four Patch 9 January

Steps to the Altar 17 January

Spider Web 23 January

Ladies' Aid 2 February

I can see a new quilt coming up, I have some ideas for a quilt-a-long later in the year.

But in the meantime I have a dilemma.

Today is the 29th February, Leap Year Day.  I don't have any record of a Kansas City Star block published on this date, so I have to choose one from another day.  What will I choose?

You will have to check the result on Facebook.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The "T" Quilt at 44%

The following is a 1939 pattern from the Kansas City Star.

The "T" quilt block is simple enough in composition, but its chief attraction is in carefully matching all the corners.

It's an odd looking block, it's not symmetrical. It is simple, one half squares triangle, one solid square and two pairs of Flying Geese. And why are the corners so difficult to match? I double checked the name on Block Base.

Yes, same block.  I tried some layouts for this interesting block.

The layouts look good. There are a lot of corners to match.  The "T" block would make quite an interesting quilt.

Next day, I am looking through some boxes of old quilt blocks (as you do) and came across this block:

... and also this one:


Do you see what I see?! Let me give you a clue - I'll just turn the picture like this:

And then crop it like this:

Eureka! There is the Kansas City Star pattern.  The published pattern was pretty misleading.  You had to know that the diagram was just part of the block.  I wonder how it came to be published like it did; there was certainly some misunderstanding between the block designer and the newspaper printer.

Carefully matching the corners is the least of your worries.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

A Block a Day for 2020

I have a New Year's Resolution going on my Two Bits Patches Facebook page.  I'm sharing a patchwork pattern from the Kansas City Star newspaper that was published on that day. So far I haven't missed a day but I do not know how long this will last.  If you to share in the marathon just 'Like' my Two Bits Patches page, or like a post or two.  If you have a picture of one of the blocks in your own collection please post it as a comment so we all can enjoy it.  The story so far -

January 1 1936 - The Kansas Dust Storm

January 2 1929 - Rambler

January 3 1940 - The Airplane

January 4 1933 - Star of Hope

January 5 1955 - Squares and Triangles

January 6 1935 - Coffee Cups

January 7 1931 - Silver and Gold

January 8 1930 - The Churn Dash Quilt

January 9 1952 - The Winged Four Patch

I better go and see what block is scheduled for today's post.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Ship Quilt and Mrs. Danner

Sailing ships blocks were popular in friendship quilts.  I have two quilts in my collection with sailboats; the Banner Progressive Club quilt and the newly named Sugar Creek Township quilt.

According to Block Base the earliest pattern for a ship block was in Mrs. Danner's quilt books. I found them easily online. Mrs. Danner's Fourth Quilt book has the Ship Quilt on the cover.  There are no instructions, you had to send 50c for the pattern. I considered making the scalloped edge but thought better of it.  Maybe next time.

Mrs. Danner's Quilt Books


Unlike Aunt Martha or Nancy Page, Mrs. Danner was a real person.  Scioto Imhoff Danner (1891-1974) was a quiltmaker who began her career by selling quilts and demonstrating techniques in department stores.  She started selling her patterns in the 1930s and her business model was extremely successful; in 1934 during the depression Danner had 24 women worked for her.

The quilt books were catalogues for the patterns with advice on choosing a colour scheme and sewing tips.  The first three books were printed in the 1930s, then books 4 and 5 were added in the 1950s.

As a resource for pattern names, the catalogues are not the most reliable source.  Mrs. Danner would see a neighbour's quilt, copy it, then christen it without reference to already established names:

I shall call this Mrs. Anderson's Quilt.  It has always been called that because our neighbor, Mrs. Anderson, made it when I was a little girl.
Mrs. Steiger kept after me about the name for this quilt and continually referred to it as "that very pretty new one that ought to have a pretty name," so I called it Alice's Quilt for her.
 An Easy Applique Hickory Leaf - I am naming this quilt just that.  It is easy and would be improved by having all blocks appliqued instead of half of them plain.  And it should have more applique on the border.  It has a historical name but that is too involved for my space.  I suggest you make it in two different shades of one color or two contrasting colors.  Pattern 35 cents.

Some of her historical narrative also seems a little imaginative:

The Mayflower Quilt - The first four quilts in this catalog are each over 100 years old.  This is one of the prettiest quilts I ever saw and Mrs. Ericson whose hobby is historical quilts, found a picture just like it listed as a pattern that came over on the Mayflower in 1620.

But I can't go past Myrtle's Diamond Honeycomb.  It was made by a correspondent in Australia, and Mrs. Danner was most impressed with the Australia quiltmakers:

My Australian friend Myrtle Smith of Melborne (sp.) made this quilt ... The Australians are marvelous needle women.  They take sewing seriously.  Needle-workers have clubrooms, publish a monthly bulletin, and have teachers who give lessons on different kinds of embroidery, quilting, etc. certain days - afternoon or morning.  There is a schedule that they follow.  My friend, Mrs. Smith lends them her lovely home each year for a quilt show and they make money for charity on that, besides the pleasure they have.

You can find out more about Mrs. Danner at the following websites:

Friday, December 13, 2019

Twin Darts ~ a 1940s Quilt Block

This week's block is Twin Darts.

The block's maker is Cora Stewart.  I haven't found out too much about her; she lived in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania like the other block makers, her maiden name was Snyder and her husband John worked on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Cora was one of eleven children but she had no children of her own; I imagine she made a fuss of her nieces and nephews.

This quilt from Armstrong County is not revealing any great secrets.  I have however discovered it was made later than I thought. One of the women on the quilt didn't get married until 1943 so it is one of the younger quilts in my collection.  I have found that one of the makers lived in Sugar Creek Township, which I think has a nicer sound than Armstrong County.  The women are the usual mix of mother and daughters, married sisters, friends and neighbours.  The recipient is possibly "Mother" of the centre block but I don't yet know who Mother is.

Anyway, back to Cora's block.  Twin Darts pattern was published in the Farm Journal magazines which includes The Farmer's Wife. There is a nice example in The Quilt Index, made in Nebraska in 1940.

Achziger, Marie Zeiler. Twin Darts. 1940. From University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Nebraska Quilt Project (Lincoln Quilters Guild). Published in The Quilt Index, Accessed: 12/14/2019

Most of the images I have seen are with two colours only, Cora used three so I did as well. I drafted the pattern with EQ7.

Some of the Farm Journal patterns were reprinted in a 1970s book called 'Modern Quilting' by Rachel Martens. I might have to get hold of a copy; but I still have trouble accepting that 1970 was almost fifty years ago.

That can't be right!

Can it?