Sunday, July 20, 2008

State Flower Embroidery Quilt Blocks Mystery Solved

Perhaps the title for this blog should be Synchronicity at My Workshop. I define a synchronistic event as when two independent events occur close together in time and together form a bigger whole that is unexpected AND answers a question or need. (This often happens when I am doing research. I see it as a reward for my hard work and also as an indicator from above that I am exactly where I should be at this moment in time.)

This past week synchronicity happened. It began the day I gave an evening lecture. The quilt guild was selling bundles of old quilt magazines and I bought a dozen Quilter's Newsletter Magazines spanning the 1980s.

The next day was my workshop "Creating Antique Inspired Quilts" I love teaching this class because of the blocks and tops women bring to share for study and discussion. Cheryl couldn't be there and sent some blocks with her friends after hearing my lecture "From Folks to Folksky: Wild & Wacky Quilts & Quotes , 1840-1940" the night before.

As you can see from the pictures they are embroidered blocks of state flowers and the state's abbreviated initials are in a small circle formation next to the flowers. The blocks are rectangular, approximately 8" across by 6" high. Wow I immediately thought- they were beautiful, well done, and sophisticated compared to some other state flower blocks. The colors are subdued in earth tones on a background fabric in natural or beige cotton, and the flower patterns were quite detailed.

I saw Arts and Crafts period all over these blocks- but who designed them?? There was no provenance with the blocks. They were a mystery to be solved. I didn't even know where to look. I suggested I put them on my blog to ask what my expert readers had to offer. With permission, I took the photos you see here for just that.

The next day I was looking through the Quilter's Newsletter Magazines I had bought there and half way through I came to my favorite cover of the bunch. It shows an appliqué quilt with four waving flags on poles with their cantons meeting in the middle. An eagleappliqued in the BAQ style, has a shield in its mouth and arrows and laurel leaves are placedin- between each of the flags. The stars form a circle in the canton; two have 29 stars and 2 have 31 stars. QNM states it is c. 1847-1858 and quilted in 1940. They suggest it was made near Baltimore MD. BUT keep in mind, this issue of QNM dates to 1985, July/August, and more about this quilt may be known now.

QNM's "QNM Readers' Quilt show" brought the synchronistic moment to the forefront- there on page 25 is a full page picture of a quilt with the same blocks! Forty-eight in total, set in a medium blue plain sashing and border with plain red cornerstones and white stars on the sashing strips and corners. The blocks are embroidered in various colors of floss.

Henrietta Bradely Ringhoffer (1902-1964) made her quilt for the Century of Progress National Quilt contest. Of course Sears sponsored this contest. She entered it in 1933 from her home in Texas. She was a perpetual quilt contest enterer the magazine says. She won many ribbons and this one was recognized by other contests, but not CofP. Unfortunately it is not shown in the "Patchwork Souvenirs" book.

Thanks to Henrietta, QNM, Cheryl, her friend and synchronicity completing the circle, I found out that the state flower blocks were designed by Ruby McKim and sold as patterns in the early 1930s. The quilt setting was Henrietta's design, QNM states. If you have any updated information about this pattern series, please comment, or better, if you have a quilt, please email a photo to me at and I will put it here for all to see if you like.

This was rewarding enough but as it turns out, another synchronistic event happened at the same workshop! I will share this with you in the next blog.



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Anonymous said...

Just to let you know, I have 45 embroidered quilt blocks of this pattern done by my cousin in Memphis TN. I am in the process of trying to figure out how to put them together for a wall hanging.

Kimberly Wulfert, PhD said...

To anonymous- Henrietta's setting was very simple- she used plain fabric not a print, and had somewhat wide sashing strips and a slightly wider border all the way around. That's it! The photo is black and white, so I can't tell the color, but after seeing the blocks, I think a greyed shade of yellow, or moss green, or tan/brown would be a nice compliment. A bright or clear color would not blend well. Hope this helps, Kim

mysistersusan said...

This pattern is now available from as pattern number QS 205. I have most of the original clippings (mine from the Portland, Oregon News-Telgram) which were published in 1931-32. The drawing which introduced the series shows the blocks set in alphabetical order is a simple narrow sashing with corner blocks and a slightly wider outer border. My last clipping (from January 1932) says that "A drawing of the whole quilt will follow, showing how they may be set together, but a woman's quilt is always an individual project, nothing else exactly like it, so you may have an individual way of setting together your blocks."
Hope this helps, Susan

Lisa said...

My great grandmother made this quilt and it hangs in my parents' bedroom.

I've wantd to know about the history of how it came to be ... the stories have been garbled.

Thanks for sharing the information! Let me know if you want a partial picture of the completed quilt as it hangs now.

Kimberly Wulfert, PhD said...

Hi Lisa, a resounding yes to your offer to send a partial picture of the completed quilt your grandma made. I'll post it here, thank you!

Anonymous said...

We are making this quilt pictured above and we lost the color directions for the state of Illinois. Do you know what color the wild rose should be? Thanks!

Kimberly Wulfert, PhD said...

Dear Anonymous, Why are you being anonymous??

I will be posting pictures that Lisa sent of a finished quilt in her will be a ew post and in a week or two. Perhaps Illinois' will be there. Or check out the comment above from myssistersusan for a source.

It's amazing to me that there is so much feedback about this fabulous pattern of blocks. I had no idea that it existed before i saw it last year. I'm very happy that others find it as stunning as I do.

kelltrek said...

The comments for the "Illinois' Flower for State Quilt" as is appeared in the Omaha World Herald is as follows:

There is no special color of rose designated as the state flower of Illinois. Two shades of deep rose red may be used with yellow stamens. Bright green leaves and stems.

I have a complete set of the State Flowers by Ruby McKim from the Omaha World Herald that were saved by my grandmother. She also made the quilt, I do not have a picture of it. I also have a complete set of state flower and bird blocks that were published in the late 30's, early 40's by the same newspaper. I just received them from my mother who found them when she was sorting through 'stuff' preparing for a move. My mother made the flower and bird quilt and it is currently on her bed.

Looking at these blocks is really a history lesson, as the news of the day is on the back of the blocks. Pictures of Mazi parades, fashions from the era, news about the war in China are all on the back of the patterns. I also have a partial set of blocks for a nursery rhymes quilt from a different designer. I suspect that I will need to make a trip to a library that has the World Herald on microfilm one of these days to see if I can find the rest of the blocks

Kimberly Wulfert, PhD said...

Thank you kelltrek for your quote as an answer for anonymous. Doesn't get better than that!
The newspaper on the other quilt's block's backs sound as interesting as the fronts. Have you made copies of the backs? Which state flower pattern is it- there are many different ones. If you send a photo, I'll post it in a new blog.

Anonymous said...

My sister-in-law's mother made this quilt and wanted to know how to include the missing states...Hawaii and Alaska. I suggested pillow shams, but she still needs patterns for the state flowers. Any help with this?

Kimberly Wulfert, PhD said...

To the last anonymous questions- I think your pillow sham, or just toss pillows, is a great idea. See the comments above for places where she can find the patterns. good luck!

Anonymous said...

I have a full set of these from the 30's, already embroidered, and many of them seem to be "colored-in" rather than stitched in full. I will likely ask my quilting sis-in-law to do something with them. Are they valuable?

Juanita Moore said... This site has the McKim 48 patterns available.

Ruby Short McKim was from Illinois and lived in Independence, Missouri most of her life after training at the New York City Parson School of Fine Arts.

McKim became known for her pieced quilt art-deco like designs, which she had prepared in simple lines for machine sewing, according to the History for the Heart Quilt Paths Across Illinois record of the Illinois Quilt Research Project, a book written by E. Duane Elbert and Rachel Kamm Elbert, and published in 1993 by Land of Lincoln Quilters Association.

The embroidered state flower designs were first published by the Illinois State Journal in Springfield, and released Sunday by Sunday to prepare for a contest at the end. There was both a local and a national contest. What a great way to sell newspapers!

Ruby also did newspaper columns on quilts, and ran a studio from which women ordered her patterns. You could get just a pattern for 20 cents and the whole Oriental Poppy pattern with cut-out fabric to piece for $4.50

God Bless!

Anonymous said...

I'm making the State Flowers Quilt from the old McKim patterns, which I purchased on line (don't remember where). Since my quilt is 7 squares by 7 squares and I wanted it to be authentically 30's style, I'm making the 49th square half-hibiscus (Hawaii) and half forget-me-not (Alaska) to show they were territories then. It shouldn't be too hard to get on line or even draw these two flowers. It made me so happy so see "my" squares embroidered by someone else here!

Julie said...

Does anyone know if these State Flower patterns were copyrighted and if so, was there a renewal?
Thought I would check before investigating through the Library of Congress. said...

I have a complete set of these blocks and my sister who can embrodery beautifully dis Hawaii and Alaska, now I am trying to decide how to set it together, this is when I really miss Mom she could make the most wonderful quilt tops.
I hope everyone else who has these examples enjoy them as much as I do. Valdonna L (

Kimberly Wulfert said...

Hi Julie- Would love to know what you have found out. My guess is that many are copyrighted and others aren't. Due diligence is called for with a copyright hunt to be assuring.

Valdonna, thanks for sending your story. Sounds like you miss your mom and have a great sister.Might you think about a narrow sashing set for these particular blocks as they are smaller and more delicate than some of those state flower blocks with larger sashing between them. A wider border, of the same material could hold it all together without drawing too much attention. Enjoy your project!

Anonymous said...

I embroided this quilt when I was a 12yr old boy in Oklahoma (1946). My mom got the pattern from the Kansas City Star. I used a crayron to color in the flowers and she used a flat iron to set the color. She pieced together the blocks, but it was quilted until the 1970's. I can't believe how good a job I did, couldn't do it today.

Anonymous said...

I am looking for the machine embroidery designs for the US state flowers and birds. Enjoying all the comments on quilting as I am a novice and learning the beautiful art of quilting & machine embroidery from members of our local Quilting Club. Nova Scotia, Canada

Anonymous said...

I am looking for the color suggestions sheet/instructions for embrodidery of a state bird quilt. I purchased some blocks that are about 1/2 complete at a thrift store. All I have is one sheet with some of the states on it. At the top is 626 State Bird Quilt. (these birds fit a 9" block)

Anonymous said...

I did an appraisal on a quilt like this today, and the client mentioned she'd heard some of the state flowers may have changed since the printing of the original patterns. anyone know?

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