Monday, October 4, 2010

More Unknown Patterns

Leota sent this photo, telling me she couldn't find the pattern in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.
I couldn't find it in there either.
It looks like a simple fan from the 1930s or 1940s but the ends of the spokes are curved inward rather than curved outward.

Look at the corners where the blocks meet. The curved white shapes make a complex secondary pattern.

And Mary L. sent this one.
Should be on page 469: "8-Pointed Stars with points oriented up and down."
But it's not.

And here's the worst of all. I can't believe I can't find the design below.

Jessica sent this one. I couldn't find it in either my Encyclopedia of Pieced Patterns or Encyclopedia of Applique. It seems so common...but...

On Tuesday the 5th, Tim writes to say that the pattern above IS in the Encyclopedia of Pieced Patterns. #3629.

It's drawn with the pointed blades a little short but that is it. Here's the BlockBase sketch. It was published by Hubert VerMerhren's pattern company (sometimes referred to as the Home Art pattern company)under the name Friendship Circle and also in Successful Farming magazine as Dresden Plate. Both were 1930s pattern sources. Thanks to Tim for looking in the right spot.

I am guessing that the top two designs came from the Laura Wheeler/Alice Brooks syndicated pattern column. The clues are the sophisticated geometrics that result in secondary patterning where the blocks meet. These look like the work of professional designers rather than quilters recording the folk art patterns they grew up with. That style is very typical of the Wheeler/Brooks columns in the 1930s. The column was so popular that I know I haven't indexed all their designs.

A few years ago I wrote a book called Women of Design: Quilts in the Newspaper. Here's some of what I wrote about this pattern source:

About 1933, a new quilt pattern feature began to appear in the Kansas City Star. Readers found smaller columns advertising patterns that could be ordered through the mail. A drawing of a patchwork quilt and a paragraph of description were followed by a last line reading “Send 10 cents for the pattern to The Kansas City Star, Needlecraft Dept., Kansas City, Mo.”

The Star forwarded orders to a pattern source in New York City that went by a number of official names. Quilt pattern collectors know little about this company, which was formed as Needlecraft Service in 1932. The name was changed to Reader Mail in 1944. Over the years, they’ve offered patterns for all kinds of needlework including crochet and clothing. Reader Mail is now located in Michigan and continues to offer syndicated advertisements in newspapers around the country. [It may be gone now.]

In some newspapers (their patterns appeared in hundreds of papers in the 1930s) the column ran under the names Laura Wheeler or Alice Brooks, fictional columnists who gave a personal touch to the feature. The Star patterns printed before World War II used no byline, so pattern collectors have learned to recognize the Needlecraft Service designs by their distinctive drawing style, which featured detailed calicoes in blocks drawn side by side to emphasize complex secondary designs.

Many readers were attracted enough by the lovely drawings and the innovative designs to invest their dime in “stamps or coin, coin preferred.” The pattern that arrived a week or so later included a detailed schematic drawing with suggested yardage on a sheet of tissue or newsprint about 15 by 20 inches.

These patterns were neither feature nor advertisement, but something called a “reader service feature.” Newspapers subscribed to the feature, knowing that readers, especially rural readers, enjoyed the opportunity to order fashion and crafts by mail. The paper and the pattern company shared those many dimes.

See more about this newspaper column in an August, 2009 post on this blog by clicking here:

I learned most of what I know about the Wheeler/Brooks syndicate from quilt historian Wilene Smith, who has started a new quilt history webpage called Quilt History Tidbits. Click here to see her page on Laura Wheeler and Alice Brooks.
And bookmark the site. Fans of quilt history will love her detective work.
For more information about Women of Design: Quilts in the Newspaper, click here:

You can buy the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns from the EQ website which sells BlockBase, the digital version. The book version has OVER 4,000 PATTERNS. Just none of the above.


  1. Darn - I just sent you a long comment and when I tried to post it - poof, it was gone.

    I'll keep this short. Last week at a quilt retreat we were trying to identify a star block (someone brought along your Encyclopedia) and we had to search and search to find it (late at night after some wine). We finally found it called "Unknown" and "Evening Star" - we liked Evening Star and decided that was the name. We talked about the seemingly endless possibilities of quilt blocks!

  2. I always wanted that Women of Design book but never got it..That first block is awesome.. I love how it makes another total design

  3. While I have seen Jessica's block listed severalplaces as "Fancy Dresden Plate", I have not seen the first 2 blocks anywhere! And I love them all. Isn't this what makes quilting so fascinating? Always blocks, layouts and fabrics you have not seen before.
    THANKS Barbara

    Julie in TN

  4. Oh, Goodness!!!!! About four years ago I was driving from Washington state to Minnesota and found the Friendship Circle pictured on a Pinterest entry. Could not find name or source. Finally found it online and bought the download of the "Encyclopedia" Got to Minnesota and my daughter brought out some quilts she'd been given. Guess What?? There it was! A very old but well-kept Friendship Circle quilt. It was gorgeous! I have one cut out now ready to piece! Beautiful!