Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Designs Still Worth Doing: The Final Chapter


Ruby McKim was such a creative designer, one never knew what she would do next.  But some clues as to the next chapter in her life could be found in her catalog and also her work in Child Life magazine.

1931-32 DWD Catalog

April 1936 Child Life magazine

In 1933, the whole McKim family took an extensive trip to Europe.  The fact that the family could take this kind of trip during the height of the Depression possibly illustrates the kind of wealth the family had acquired.  During the trip, Ruby and Arthur McKim became interested in importing dolls, a business which eventually became the sole focus of the couple.

Kimport Dolls (name after their son, Kim), was introduced in 1935 and featured dolls from around the world, character dolls (like presidents and first ladies).  The also offered a publication called Doll Talk for Collectors; many doll collectors have told me they know of the newsletter.  

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt dolls.

Kimport Dolls continued after Arthur's death in 1967 and Ruby's passing in 1976.  The business finally closed in 1985.

Why the switch to dolls?  Well on the McKim Studios' website, it states that "McKim Studios had grown so large that it was necessary to 'job out' different aspects of it.  They couldn't ensure quality control, and Granddaddy refused to put out an inferior product."

For 20 some years, Ruby McKim had been focused on the quilting and needlework design business:

From 1922 into the 1930s, she had worked for Child Life Magazine as the Children's Art Editor.

From 1928 until 1938, she submitted articles to Better Homes and Garden magazine.

She had been chosen to design patterns for 3 years by the Kansas City Star.

She and Arthur offered a variety of sewing catalogs including Designs Worth Doing, the most popular publication.

She had published one book, 101 Patchwork Patterns, and also 23 quilt series, a patchwork sampler, and a variety of other designs.

All the while, she was raising her children.

Every time I did this program for guilds, women would yell out, "she was burned-out!"  I also wonder if perhaps she also needed a different artistic outlet.

In 2002, McKim became the 33rd inductee into the Quilters' Hall of Fame.

Her work was so diverse and prolific that I couldn't even post each pattern.  Still I hope you enjoyed  hearing more of her amazing work and the contributions she made to our quilting traditions.  So many of her designs are still worth doing.  I hope you think so too!

Have a safe and happy day!



  1. Oh what a wonderful post! When I was 15 my mother bought me 101 Patchwork Patterns for Christmas. I had made a few quilts as a child, but this book set the wheels in motion and I they have never stopped turning. On another note, my mother had a friend named Ruby and one day she gave me her childhood thimble which was engraved with her name. I cherish that gift. I owe my passion for quilting to the two Ruby's! Thanks for this great post.

  2. Thank you for this series of posts, it's been absolutely fascinating!

  3. very interesting to know more about ruby...a successful businesswoman, quilter, designer...oh my!

  4. Enjoyed this series of posts immensely.

  5. This is just fascinating reading to me. What remarkable and creative people! Back stories are always so interesting. Thanks again for sharing this Michele.