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.


  1. When I lived in a larger populated area and had access to a quilt guild I used the Pine Tree for the center of a Round Robin quilt that would be passed to other participating members then come back to me. I still want to put a border on that top to make it bed sized. This was when I was still a beginner in quilt-making and had yet so much yet to learn. Perhaps now I can find just the right fabric to do that! I love the old patterns, and prefer reproduction fabrics.

  2. QuiltGranma, a Pine Tree was an ambitious block for a beginner! I have a Pine Tree quilt from about 1890, the fabrics are all shirting prints and each block used different materials.


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