The basket of ancient fabric scraps sat tucked away beside the box of quilt patterns torn decades ago from the pages of a newspaper. I do make quilts, so I politely accepted both from non-quilters who were clearing space. I had no clue what to do with either.
I mentioned the age brittle patterns at a meeting of quilters. “I know what they are: Kansas City Star Quilt Patterns,” one quilter declared.
At home I found the Kansas City Star logo on several of the crumbling pages.
Googling “Kansas City Star quilt patterns” yielded hundreds of pictures, including matches to patterns in the box and their 33 year history.
In 1928 the editors of the Kansas City Star, a newspaper published and sent across the Midwest, tapped into women’s interest in quilting and began publishing a free weekly quilt pattern. Quilters clipped and saved the patterns. Some were traditional. Some readers had designed. Sometimes the name made sense: a couple inches of fabric around tiny blocks represented the Jericho Wall. Sometimes the name made no sense: the Dionne Quintuplets pattern featured quartets of smaller squares. During WWII, the KCS published fewer patterns and increased the patriotic themes. By the time the KCS ceased the feature in 1961, it had published over 1,000 patterns which now are found in books and on the Internet.
With my increased appreciation of the ragged scraps of newspaper, I tidied up the collection and decided to make a few blocks with the old scraps; it was not the easiest project I ever assigned myself. Some scraps were barely large enough to make one block. Also, the KCS patterns have few instructions. Most advise, “allow for a seam” with no designation of the size of the seam. A disproportionate number of blocks have tiny little triangles and squares that challenge my “all thumbs” skill level. Beyond my skill level I found curved blocks which require hand piecing.
The vintage scraps included a stack of pre-cut fabric triangles. I had nearly enough to duplicate the “broken china” pattern of light and dark triangles. I cut a couple more triangles and began machine stitching together dark and light fabrics. My finished block looked like a trash bin of broken crockery, not a precise pattern of light and dark fabrics.
My ice cream cone block had a split scoop of ice cream made from two pre-sewn quarter circles from the scrap basket and stuck on a cone of flowered fabric.
The little doll with a black gingham dress looks quite cheerful in the center of the Missouri Star block. I chose a matching gingham for the border blocks and created a dizzying tilt and whirl of gingham that renewed my dislike of gingham.
Modern fabric makes crisp, square blocks. The thin stuff in the scrap basket stretched and warped. I starched and ironed the assembled fabric flat and declared it “good enough.”
I made about dozen ‘good enough’ blocks; quitting a few blocks shy of a sampler quilt. I wished I had found more of the easy KCS patterns like the “Contrary Wife” block. That was fun to make.
I bought a CD with a 1,000 KCS quilt blocks and scrolled through the patterns. I stopped when I found the Fence Row pattern It looked exactly like a block included with the scraps. I decided that completed my research and assembling of sample blocks to eventually join together into a new “antique” quilt.
I have had enough already with quilting history; now it’s time to meet the future and make a new baby a quilt using fun, modern fabrics.