History of Kit Quilts – Past and Present
The 1970’s restarted a large interest in quilts and quilt making. Antique and vintage quilts came out of the closets and modern women came to realize what treasures had been lurking in an everyday essential as a bed covering. However, as these beauties surfaced, it was also noted that many were not individual or original creations but some were made from KITS!
HORRORS! Thought some of the notable quilt authorities at that time (some still feel that way today). After all quilt kits according to them were not very creative in that they could be replicated by anyone and were more common to see, were easy to make (not by a long shot, especially the appliqué ones) and were rather mundane. Fortunately they have been proven very wrong on most accounts. Kit quilts encouraged women to quilt who felt that they didn’t have enough creativity to tackle a quilt all on their own.
Today the designers and manufacturers of the quilt kits of bygone years are viewed with delight and are proving to be quite valuable. eBay of the 1990’s certainly brought them into the public’s eye and helped make them very costly.
The Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, PA, started the Arts and Crafts movement in both architecture and home décor changing from the elaborate designs of the Victorian age to simpler styles of an earlier time. Think about the fussy and time consuming examples of the crazy quilts, which were seldom ever practical or used, to the beauty of the pieced block quilts. Hence the start of the Colonial Revival Quilts which were not a particular style but a change in wanting life to be less ostentatious and more useful.
Quilt kits came into popularity and vogue in the 1920’s and 30’s although some date back to the late 1800’s. Some are still being produced by companies today. The kits were aided in production due to increase in printing of periodicals and mass advertising.
The kits of the 1920’s and 30’s came in various fashions; prestamped cloth pieces to be appliquéd onto stamped backgrounds, cross stitch or embroidery stamped patterns, sets of prestamped blocks to be assembled into a quilt, and precut pieces to assemble. Some of the earlier kits had perforated patterns that came with a powder or paste to use for stamping. Eventually the prestamped blue lines were used almost exclusively for not only the patterns but for the quilting lines too.
The most notable individual designers, companies and stores/catalogs who sold them are briefly described below with notations of websites to peruse. Many may not be shown due to the lack of information available on some and the lack of knowledge on the part of this author.
KIT QUILTS by INDIVIDUALS
A brief discussion about Anne Orr, Hurbert Ver Mehren and Marie Webster as individuals follows. Others of note are Marion Cheever Whiteside Newton who did Story Book Quilts, Carlie Sexton, Ruby Short McKim and Mary A. McElwain. Uncoverings from AQSG have more info on these 4 women.
Anne Orr – 1869-1946
Picture is of the Garland quilt, owned by Florence McConnell.
The Garland Quilt was featured in Good Housekeeping (Jan 1934). It was offered as a hot-iron transfer and as kit #123 for $8.75.
More details can be seen at http://www.intatters.com/content.php?98-History-Anne-Orr
Hubert Ver Mehren – 1892-1971
Hubert was a talented male designer (in a world dominated by women designers) of pre-stamped designs which were sold thru catalogs when he was involved in his family’s business the Ideal Button and Pleating Co. in Omaha, NE. When he married Mary Jacobs, he was making embroidery items for the People’s Popular Monthly magazine in IA.
In 1930, he and Mary formed their own home business called the Home Arts Studio with two catalogs under Mary’s name only. These two catalogs were Colonial Quilts and Hope Winslow’s Quilts. (Note: Hope Winslow was not a real person and the picture of her on the catalog is still a mystery as to who she was.) His name hardly appeared on anything and only in later years would he identify his design with his initials H.V.M. They made ready cut quilts with patterns/pieces stamped on the fabric as well as appliqué and embroidery. He used perorated quilting designs and sold stamping wax, stamping powder and yellow carbon paper to mark the patterns.
Hubert was noted for his large medallion quilts with a center motif: i.e., Lone Star, Giant Dahlia, etc. He also did some rather complicated border designs that were too difficult for even the most experienced quilt makers. His Iowa Button and Pleating business continued doing embroidered pieces and monograms, pennants and flags. He died in 1972 overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning in his apartment above his business.
More details at: http://mysewinginfo.com/hubert-ver-mehren-medallion-man
Marie Webster -1859-1956
Picture is the French Basket Quilt owned by Florence McConnell.
More details at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Webster
KIT QUILTS by COMPANIES
Aunt Martha/Colonial Patterns, Inc.
There are numerous websites for Aunt Martha and Colonial Patterns, Inc. on Google and too many to notate here.
Picture is the USA Blocks
More details can be found at: http://www.plaidonline.com/the-history-of-bucilla/542/article.htm
Picture is the Musical Clowns.
F.A. Herrschner Company
Frederick A. Herrschner started his company in 1899 by selling embroidery patterns and sewing items from a pushcart in Chicago. His products were popular (floss, embroidered items, sewing notions, baby items, ladies lingerie, etc.) and when his customers moved away they asked him to mail items to them. He then started a mail order catalog company selling his patterns and DMC floss from France.
Stamped and perforated patterns were the only items in his 1923 catalog. Since he did the patterns as they were ordered, he encouraged his customers to do their own stamping using the perforated patterns. His first quilt kits were shown in 1927 catalogs but half of his inventory was clothing. Some kits were in the catalogs in the 1930’s but most of his kits were sold by others: i.e. Bucilla, Paragon, Progress, etc.
Frederick Sr. died in 1932 and then his son (Jr.) took over. The company sold about 400 different quilt products from 1920 – 1970’s but also branched out to kits for leather, beading, jewelry, textile painting, doll kits, etc. They are still in business in Stevens Point, WI and put out a 100 year anniversary catalog in 1999.
More details at http://www.herrschners.com/AboutUs.aspx
Fairway Needlecraft Co.
Fairway Needlecraft co. is a family owned business that was started in 1918 by grand father Frank and his brother Otto Ulrich. They manufacturer many items for embroidery: quilt blocks, quilt crib tops, pillowcases, table cloths, queen size quilt tops, etc. Anything that can be embroidered for crafts they manufacture. They started in the family house, graduated to buildings on the farm and then moved in a bigger building away from the farm. Norman, Frank’s son and his sons, Jim and Ron run Ulrich and Associates which also includes Hillcrest Farm. Today they are still in business in St Claire, Mo. with several generations working and running the business. Norman is in charge of sales and the chief designer. Although he started designing the patterns by hand with just a light table he now uses a computer. A latex jelly in color is used to transfer the design on to the fabric. Fairway is strictly a wholesaler. Their products are sold through the distributer NOJAE of Fairway in stores such as: Jo-Ann, Ben Franklin, True Value, VNS variety stores, etc. You may find the word NOJAE in the selvage on some items.
More details at http://fairwayneedlecraft.com/zencart
More details at http://www.jdneedleart.com/about-our-company.html
Picture is the Two Sisters Crib Quilt
Picture is the KiddieKar Crib Quilt.
“Media Arts International, based in Phoenix, Arizona, was one of the first companies to produce infomercials in 1984. In November 1986 Media Arts International was acquired by National Media Corporation, then known as National Paragon Corporation, for $4 million, as part of National Paragon’s approved reorganization plan. Prior to entering the infomercial business, National Paragon Corporation was engaged in the needlecraft business for more than 60 years. In 1984 it formed National Syndication, Inc., a subsidiary that managed a variety of specialty catalogs and mail-order businesses. In October 1985 National Paragon filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Reform Act. A year later it emerged from Chapter 11 and in November 1986 acquired Media Arts International as part of its approved reorganization plan.”
Picture is the 1940’s kit called “The Cherry Tree”.
Picture is The Daffodil quilt.
Rainbow Quilt Block Company (RQBC)
William B, Pinch started the company in the 1920’s in Cleveland, OH. He was a professional photographer who loved art and design and created more than 1000 designs. His products were sold in department stores and magazines in the 1930’s and 40’s and now are sold online thru their website.
The products included single quilt blocks to total kits with appliqué and embroidery done on fabrics that were hand stamped with the designs. Their unique designs were done in color which was very unusual then and even today. The company is still in business.
More details at http://www.rainbowquiltdesigns.com/history/
Royal Society/H.E. Verran Co.
Picture is the charming Baby Coverlet and matching Pillow.
Vogart, Vogue Needlecraft Co., Kugel-Vogart and Vogart Crafts
Their products were prestamped items for embroidery on almost everything imaginable. But eventually they branched out to hoops, transfer patterns, paint books and tubes and kids kits. The stamped items were sold in large department stores and were individually designed for each store: i.e. F.W. Woolworth, G. C. Murphy, W. T. Grant, etc. In 1943, the Vogart Co. advertised that it ran inserts in 50 different newspapers and magazines for its embroidery patterns.
Crib covers and matching pillow set kits started in 1935 and were shown in Herrschners and Woolworth’s catalogs. One of the most interesting is the Teddy with Bubbles set advertised in a Woolworth catalog in 1935 and marked as a N.R.A. (National Recovery Act) product. It is rare today to see any quilt with this marking and very seldom on just a crib set.
More details at http://www.yellowzeppelin.net/vogart history.html
Picture is the Teddy with Bubbles/NRA
Wonder Art (Fixler Bros)
Fixler Bros, Inc. was founded in 1916 in Chicago and their trademark products were named Wonder Art. The prestamped goods were sold in department stores along with a free Book of Instructions which gave all the instructions and information for all their products. (Interesting concept so they didn’t have to do a separate set for each item.) An early Wonder Art kit consisted of a package with 6 designs printed on the package – 3 for appliqué and 3 for embroidery. However, each package only contained one 18 inch block so the consumer was required to buy multiple packages to make a quilt for a total of 20 packages for a quilt. The good news is they did sell for only 10 cents a package at that time but that might have been expensive then too. They also recommended using Perlene floss as opposed to DMC that most other companies used. The items were sold thru S.S. Kresge, J.J. Newberry, Scott Stores, G.C. Murphy. F.W. Woolworth, etc stores. There is not a date as to when Fixler Bros lost ownership of Wonder Art but it is now owned by Caron International, Inc in Washington, D.C.
Rose Werner’s Quilt Identification website. Contact at http://www.quiltkitid.com
Sue Wildemuth on various websites by looking her up on Google
AQSG site – Their Uncoverings books and membership is so worthwhilte. http://www.americanquiltstudygroup.org