Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Story Time Stitches: Jessie Willcox Smith


In March of this year, I wrote about how Marie Webster's quilt designs were published in the Ladies Home Journal (see here).  The magazine was the most popular ladies magazine in the country and one of the first in the world to have over a million subscribers.  This was due to the leadership of the Edward Bok who was not only the editor but a strong supporter of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  Bok believed that there should be affordable housing for the middle class and even supported changing the main room of the home from parlor or drawing room to living room.  

Bok must have been absolutely delighted when Webster submitted her quilts for review by the magazine.  In 1905, he had published a number of articles of quilt designs that he requested some of the best known illustrators to create: 

January: Ernest Thompson Seton

March:  Maxfield Parrish (1)

May 1905: Gazo Foudji

August 1905: Peter Newell

November 1905:  Jessie Willcox Smith

By the 20th century Jessie Willcox Smith was already a well known illustrator and a darling of the Ladies Home Journal  as well as other magazines.  She had established herself as a book illustrator in the 19th century and her illustrations were regularly featured in the LHJ magazine:

Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Jessie studied at what is now the Moore College of Art and Design.  She also studied extensively with Howard Pyle.  In my opinion, she is unrivaled in tender illustrations of children.  Her design of "A Child's Good-Night Bedquilt" is exceptional but I've never seen one done.  Here's a close-up:

 It is very humorous to me that all the quilt design articles published in LHJ in 1905 included a disclaimer:

"It is impossible for us to supply Patterns for this quilt.  All that can be told about it is told here."

But Jessie's contributions to quilts did not stop here.  In 1914, her book, The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose was published.  It's 107 years since the book was released--and it's still in print:

In the 1920s, Butterick patterns published iron-on transfers from her book:

What a wonderful present for a new baby--a copy of Jessie Willcox Smith's book and a coordinating quilt!


If you are wondering how I was able to embroider the above block, well--just as Jessie's Mother Goose book remains in print, the transfers that were made of her book are still being published:

Only now do I occasionally find that these transfers credit the images were designed by Jessie Willcox Smith.  

But wait there's more!  The designs have also been printed this century on panels by Amy Barickman:

If all that isn't enough, I still find an occasional transfer with an image I recognize as Jessie Willcox Smith's:

Enjoy yourself today and stay cool or do some reading...

I'm taking tomorrow off from the blog so I can do some sewing.  If you have flower images you want to share for Flower Friday, please email me at!

(1) An interesting blog post on this quilt can be found here at Martha Dellasega Gray's excellent blog, Q is For Quilter.

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