By: Virginia Gunn
The McCall Publishing Company, one of the pioneers in the nineteenth-century paper pattern industry, started business by offering sewing patterns for ladies’ and children’s fashions. Needlework designs and related publications gradually became an important component of its pattern business, and the company played a little-known but significant role in the American quilt revival of the 1920s and 1930s. The company attracted and retained leaders and editors who responded quickly and in positive ways to new technology to fashion trends, and to customers’ changing interests, allowing it to thrive and survive even during challenging times. This study traces the history of the McCall Company for a century, from the 1870s to the 1970s, with special emphasis on its activities related to quilts and quiltmaking and on the leadership of Elisabeth May Blondel, who edited the company’s needlework magazine from 1920 to 1952. An appended list of McCall’s published patchwork and quilting designs provided assistance toward further documentation of the company’s influence on American quiltmaking throughout the twentieth century.