Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Alice Brooks, Darn Her

Me and the people at Electric Quilt have been working on re-issuing my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns and the digital version BlockBase in new editions later this year so I've recently been adding patterns I missed in the first indexes.

I wrote a bit about the Laura Wheeler/Alice Brooks designs of the 1930s  in the Kansas City Star Quilts Sampler book that came out last year and I thought I'd seen them all.

Link to a preview:

Colonial contradiction so prevalent in the 1930s:
Inaccurate period dress, colonial kitchen green and modern patterns.

Merikay Waldvogel conducted a study center on an important newspaper pattern group for the AQSG meeting last October. She has been telling me I missed a lot of Alice Brooks/Laura Wheeler designs. I was aghast to find she is right.

Like the one in the lower center in her graphic for the study center.

I spent hours on that Friendship Chain and a post here:

The patterns I missed were mostly under the Alice Brooks byline.
Darn that Alice Brooks.

The problem is that patterns under the Alice Brooks byline were syndicated to fewer papers than the Laura Wheeler designs. I didn't see them in indexing nearby newspapers; I didn't find any in scrapbooks I came across; they were probably printed in fewer numbers and thus fewer survive.

I missed some Laura Wheeler designs like this one too.

Leota sent a scrappy version, telling me she couldn't find it in the Encyclopedia.
It will be in the next edition.

Setting Sun, Leota 

Alice Brooks was just one name used by a New York needlework syndicate from King Features known by many names:
Reader Mail
Needlecraft Service
Household Arts
Old Chelsea Station (this is what the pattern collectors of the 1960s & '70s called it because their office was across the street from this post office branch in Manhattan)

By Lines:
Alice Brooks
Laura Wheeler
Anne Adams
Carol Curtis
Marian Martin (more clothing than quilts)
Mary Cullen

Lily Album 1933

Merikay told me to subscribe to Newspapers.com to find more Brooks designs so I did and have spent too many leisure hours scrolling through papers looking at "Alice Brooks Quilt Pattern" hits. I have come up with many that were not indexed.

Fortune's Fancy 1933

Pine Cone 1934

Sally's Favorite 1933

It may have been Sally's Favorite, but I haven't ever seen a quilt in the pattern. Some of the Brooks patterns are a bit quirky.

Flower Wreath 1935

Friendship Rings, quirky though it may have been, was relatively popular. I've been looking for the source for all these wedding ring chain quilts for a while.

The block

Read more about the syndicate here at Wilene Smith's webpage:


  1. Looking forward to publication of the new Encyclopedia and Blockbase. Thanks for your hard work and sharing you vast knowledge. I also enjoy your blogs very much.

  2. The good part about missing those originally is that people will feel it's worthwhile to pay for an updated edition, knowing there is a lot that's new in it. Some really fascinating patterns pictured.

  3. This is fascinating. The missed patterns are quite exceptional and I especially like the wedding ring chain. I already have your current book but will take a look at the updated edition with these new finds.

    Thank you

  4. I may be remembering wrong but it seems Alice Brooks/Laura Wheeler were the weekly feature patterns in the Des Moines Register and or Tribune in the 1960s-1970s. They were not always quilt patterns, often dresses.

  5. So many pseudonyms would make these patterns difficult to find. That is one of the benefits of having the internet and archived sources like newspapers that obscure clippings can now be found. Not everything is archived of course but a syndicate column is bound to be easier to find.

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  7. Ethel White
    I first saw the wedding ring or friendship chain in a book called the communion of the spirit by Roland Freeman under the name of slave chain made by ms.Phoeba Johnson of Wilkinson County,Ms. I was able Th draft the pattern from the quilt because I loved it so much I completed the quilt in 2013.