This time on Quilty Pleasures, I’m super-excited to share sneak peeks of the latest exhibition from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. We all know how popular kits and patterns are in the world of quilting today, but did you know that quilters have been making quilt kits and patterns to sell since the early 1900s?
The exhibit Modern Marvels: Quilts Made From Kits, 1915-1950 shows off some of the beautiful kit quilts in the James Collection, and a few unique surprises. Let’s take a look:
This one is the super star of the exhibit … and it’s got a cool story to tell if you look closely.
This is one quilter’s re-creation of a Hubert ver Mehren design called The Royal Aster.
Hubert Ver Mehren was not a quilter. His primary business was the Iowa Button and Pleating Company, based in Des Moines, Iowa, but by the mid-1920s, he started selling stamped embroidery designs on textiles under the name Home Art Studios. He built on that success and started selling patchwork patterns, and eventually, he created full-size quilt kits.
Here’s an image of his original design (bottom) , paired with an image of a similar kit, for a Lone Star quilt (top).
Compare it to the quilt made by Julia Maude Marsh Smith in about 1935
Take a look at the difference in the border. But check out the border design for another of Ver Mehren’s quilts, a Lone Star.
It’s clear that the quiltmaker was familiar with the style of Ver Mehren’s designs, and she painstakingly re-created the kit, with a few modifications. Many quilters of this era combined and re-mixed kits and patterns, which was possible because of the low cost to purchase.
Also included in the exhibit is this kit made by Robert Frank Needlework Co., circa 1930-1940 (it sold for less than $4.00):
Inside you’d find all the pieces to make a Lone Star quilt, precut and arranged by color, plus an instruction sheet and an order form for your next quilt kit.
You can see all the quilts in the online exhibition, starting June 5.
If you’d like to know more about the history of quilt kits in the United States, please check out the new web project from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, World Quilts: The American Story at the links below.
Jennifer Graham is the Exhibitions Assistant and Photographer for the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, which houses the largest publicly owned collection of quilts in the world. Jennifer’s monthly column, Quilty Pleasures, will highlight what’s happening at the museum, and in the world of quilts.