Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ruby McKim in the Denver Post

Sunbeam

And while we are on the topic of sampler blocks...

The Denver Post is posting a vintage quilt pattern regularly for a few weeks on their Archive Blog. The  blocks are from a sampler from Ruby Short McKim's column, originally published in 1931.


Check it here:
http://blogs.denverpost.com/library/tag/quilt-patterns/

McKim was a trailblazer in 20th-century quilt pattern design and publishing. She syndicated patterns to newspapers from the teens into the thirties. I'm most familiar with her designs for the Kansas City Star. I got interested in quilt patterns when I found a package of old Star patterns at a thrift store when I was about 20.

Skyrocket from a McKim pattern, about 1935
Collection of Carmel Reitman

McKim was very influential on the look of mid-20th-century quilts. Her patterns also appeared in the Denver Post and I think that this sampler view is something that was never in the Star. Various block patterns may have been, but the sampler format seems new to me.

Here's the Sunbeam block from the Star with no mention of a series.

Rising Sun

I keep a file on blocks I find in online auctions and I was looking for a few of these designs to add to this story. Here's a set of blocks by a woman who didn't get the project finished but she embroidered the name of the block on each, and they are the same names Ruby McKim gave them.

Strawberry
So if you bought that set of blocks now you know what you have.

Skyrocket

A Ruby McKim sampler.
UPDATE
Susan had a good question in the comments so I am putting it here:

This is truly inspiring. I went to the site and saw the vintage sampler but no matter how hard I try I cannot find the actual templates or instructions for these blocks. Are they in your block base software? The clippings don't really give you accurate dimensions for reproducing the blocks and they are just wonderful. It's fun to see the clippings though. So for someone who likes to draft their own.... hmm maybe I should just do that! LOL

Answer
I have to tell you---that's all you got in 1930. No instructions, just the templates and instructions to "Cut 4 turquoise" etc. Notice they don't even tell you how big the block should be. It was always a surprise.

Actually, McKim was an innovator in giving you templates. A lot of early 20th-century pattern sources just gave you a photo or sketch of the block with instructions like, "Any competent seamstress should be able to draw her own pattern from our picture." 

I do believe every competent seamstress should be able to draft her own---at least to understand the geometric structures of patterns and how to add seam allowances, etc. But once you learn the basics of drafting you don't have to draft them any more. You can always go to BlockBase and look them up by name.
Another problem with those old newspaper patterns: Newspapers were printed wet and then dried by heat, which distorted the lines in unpredictable fashion. The templates aren't that accurate. Newsprint isn't printed that way anymore but the old templates are often a little bit off. I'd redraw them or use a computer program.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE
Check Lynn's blogpost on this sampler which was in the Kansas City Kansan---not the Star.
http://quilts-vintageandantique.blogspot.com/2010/01/ruby-mckim-1930-patchwork-quilt.html

And after reading her blogpost I see I have a photo from eBay of one she missed!

17 comments:

WoolenSails said...

I saw that on another blog, nice that they are offering them again. I just ordered your books from the library again. I have an idea and had scanned in the design and didn't have the actual directions, so need to look at it again. Thinking of doing the birds in the air block for my bed.

Debbie

susan said...

This is truly inspiring. I went to the site and saw the vintage sampler but no matter how hard I try I cannot find the actual templates or instructions for these blocks. Are they in your block base software? The clippings don't really give you accurate dimensions for reproducing the blocks and they are just wonderful. It's fun to see the clippings though. So for someone who likes to draft their own.... hmm maybe I should just do that! LOL

jan said...

I have two Rising sun blocks from an estate auction and did not know they were McKim designs! I am glad to find out.

klk said...

Thank you for sharing these patterns. How wonderful.

Gypsy Quilter said...

What a wonderful idea. However, after looking at the site, what is the best way to access and apply the patterns to make them.

Barbara Brackman said...

Gypsy---see the answer to Susan's question that I added to the blog. Many of them are not beginner patterns.

Jean Belle said...

Thanks for sharing this Barbara! These patterns can all be found true to size for a 12 inch block in "101 Patchwork Patterns" by Ruby McKim 1962. I have been able to find a copy at our library in the past.

abelian said...

Thanks, Jean Belle! "101 Patchwork Patterns" is still in print, and is available from Dover Publications.

Dot

Marti said...

Thank you! With this post you have given me a hint into one of my great grandmother's quilts. An appraiser thought it was a variation of the Wheel of Fortune quilt block, and it may be. But it also looks a lot like the Sunrise block you posted, but without the curves inside the circle.

susan said...

Thanks Barbara, I appreciate the thought that I might be a "competent seamstress". Where did I put that graph paper?

abelian said...

I checked my copy of "101 Patchwork Patterns", and found that Pond Lily isn't in the book. The rest of the first nine patterns are there.

Lynn said...

I have a love for all things Ruby McKim. I have several examples of the sampler quilt and wrote about them on my blog several years ago.
http://quilts-vintageandantique.blogspot.com/2010/01/ruby-mckim-1930-patchwork-quilt.html
I was able to find all the patterns on EQ.

Sarah said...

The Ruby McKim book is invaluable — I notice it's selling in used book stores like alibris.com for only 99 cents!!

Rosa said...

Those blocks are just fabulous.Thanks for the links.

Bonnie said...

The 20's to early 40's were such a creative time for block designers and yet so many people make wedding ring and grandmother's flower garden. I feel these designs have been long underappreciated. I have been working with C. Benberry's emphera and have become "besotted" with those early 20th century designs.

Starwood Quilter said...

My mother began embroidering the 25 blocks of Ruby McKim's Flower Garden Quilt when she was in college in the late 1940's. She finished the blocks before her 3 daughters were born but then packed the blocks away in her hope chest. I recently completed her quilt. You can see it here: http://starwoodquilter.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-ruby-mckim-pattern-my-mothers-flower.html

Greta said...

Hello, I have been trying to find out the name of a quilt block pieced around 1900. It was machine pieced by a 12 year old and given to me in 1983 by the now 80+ year old woman. I finally got it hand quilted but need a name for it. Is there somewhere I can send a picture for anyone's opinion?