Sunday, December 13, 2009

20th Century cottons

My recent poll showed a strong interest in cotton prints from the time period, 1900-1950. So tonight I would like to talk about Shaker Grays--1890-1940.

Their popularity began with the advent of a good synthetic black fabric dye. (The search had been on since the discovery of the first aniline dye, mauveine, in 1856) These prints, fine black lines and figures on a white ground--the black and white mixture appeared to be gray-- were known as Shaker Grays, a name derived from the practical dress goods of the Shaker community (woolens woven from their sheep--assorted shades of white and black), as well as Mourning and Half Mourning prints.

These were a serviceable type of print that did not show the soil. You could readily find them in the Sears catalog up until 1924/25. After that date there was a 'sea change' in the color palette of the cotton prints. In the 1926 catalog, the pastel prints, a small 'flutter' had been available in previous catalogs, were suddenly very popular. The selection of Shaker Gray style prints had been drastically reduced. They continued to sell through the 1930s.

These Shaker Grays are from a 1938 fabric sample book.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Double Pinks

Double Pinks usually refer to designs with two or more shades of pink, rose and red. I checked two references for dates. Textile Design gives 1860-1920 while Dating Fabrics,A Color Guide has 1850 to early 1900. I think I would extend those dates from the early 1800s to the 1950's. They have also been a favored reproduction designs of the late 20th century.

This is a page from my c. 1830 Dargate book with early double pinks.

This Double blue is from the Dargate book. Note the engraved background and then the overprinted leaf/vine. This is from the Dargate Prussian Blue line, 2006.
This Double Violet, also from the Dargate book, has the engraved background with the deeper violet overprint. This design was used in the Dargate Violets and Chocolates, 2005

This Double Violet is the header for Cottonopia and is from an 1863 sample book.

I often hear experts speak of a classic Double pink having a white dot. This could be acheived with the dischage method: the cloth was 'padded' with mordant, then a 'covering' cylinder with a different strength mordant, dried and overprinted with an acid paste. Once the goods were processed in a madder dye bath you had a solid looking packground (from the pad) with a viney design ( from covering cylinder) and a scattering of white dots ( from the acid paste). This production method was popular in the later part of the 19th century for not only pinks but also double purples, blues and some browns. It could produce complex designs often referred to in dyeing manuals as "3 reds" or "5 purples".

A classic Ely and Walker style double pink from the last third of the 19th century.
These are 3 Double Pinks from the Ely and Walker "Quaker Chintz Prints" from their 1948 sample book.

Dating Double Pinks can be tricky. It is a acquired skill. When looking at a dated quilt  observe the double pinks, noting the method used ( engraved background vs padded ) and the styling of thse much loved prints.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pot Holder Quilts

Quilt blocks that were pieced and then layered, quilted and bound where often sewn by groups of mid-nineteenth century women into community service quilts. Today we refer to these quilts as 'pot holder quilts'.

Shortly after the beginning of the War, the attack on Fort Sumter April 12, 1861, President Lincoln signed the legislation for the United States Sanitary Commission. The Commission's initial purpose(based on a British model from the Crimean War) was to work for better field and hospital conditions for the soldiers. America's 'industrial war complex' of the time was primitive and unprepared for the rapid call up of fighting men (75,000 militia) by President Lincoln. In especially short supply were articles of clothing and bedding. A call for quilts or comforts was issued by the Commission. The size requested was '8 feet long, 4 feet wide'--a good size for hospital cots and soldiers' backpacks.  The quilts donated were usually stamped with an oval containing the words "Sanitary Commission".

It is estimated that Northern women made and donated more than 250,000 quilts. Many quilts were used as shrouds; others were burned when a field hospital was moved.

There are only 6 known survivors.  Three are pot holder style: Rally Round the Flag, the Hingham, Mass quilt and the 6th which was seen in 1998 in Texas and is called the 'Long quilt').

Don Beld has developed patterns for 4 of these quilts. His latest pattern is a 4 block wallhanging done in the Pot Holder technique.  In January, 2010, he will have a new pattern with all 13 different blocks (including the block featured above) of the 5th Sanitary Commission quilt from Hingham, MA.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fabrics for Fur Trade Era shirts

Calico Trade Shirts on the Journey of Discovery with Lewis and Clark, a paper I wrote for the Costume Society of America required some fascinating primary document research. I spent many hours reading 1803 issues of a Philadelphia newspaper, Poulson's American Daily Advertiser.

The announcements of ships arriving from England, France, Germany and Asia were of special interest. Dates, times and locations were given for the auctions of the cargo. There was a wide variety of textiles offered:

Trunks of printed Calicos and printed Muslins
An elegant assortment of Fine chintz and Calicoes
Bales of Indian muslins
Bandanas and flag handkerchiefs
Dark and light Indian Calicoes
Clouded and striped Nankeens
Germantown prints
  Quality Canton cloth shirts

On a fine Wednesday afternoon, at the corner of 3rd and Main St, one trunk superfine chintz and one trunk Furniture chintz was up for auction. How I would loved to have been there!  On second thought, maybe that would give me a different number at my upcoming January birthday?

Trade shirt pattern (above image), is  # WID-1 from the Smoke & Fire Company. Fabrics recommended by the company are bright cotton cloth in florals, checked or stripes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Furs on a Stick in Minneapolis

This picture was taken by Nettie Monroe at my "Furs on a Stick" lecture at the Textile Center in Minneapolis. I am holding a beaver pelt that I use for a visual aid in my lecture on Fur Trade Era textiles.

For the lecture, I had handed out fabric sample packets. They included the wonderful yellow print below that I thought was very appropriate for voyageur's shirts. To my delight, when I returned to my store, there was an online order from the costume shop at the Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, Canada that came in while I was lecturing -- they had ordered the same yellow print!

It will be sewn into a shirt this winter to be worn by a site interpreter next summer.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Additional Illuminations

These fabric samples are from my c. 1830 Dargate book and illustrate other illuminations.

The following two pictures are examples of  Two Blues with chrome yellow.

Below are examples of chrome orange on brown.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


In response to a very good question from a follower--what is an illumination?
Discharge style indigo printing begins with a length of cloth dyed indigo. The pattern is then 'discharged out' by printing on the dyed goods with a discharging agent, usually an oxalic acid paste. The result is a white pattern on a blue background. Indigos printed in the discharge style were seen in England as early as 1805. By mid century, this technique was commonly used in Europe and America.

Note the wonderful picotage detail on this print.

An illuminated print has a bright chrome yellow or orange element usually on a dark background. Think of the yellow as school bus yellow and the orange as a good aged cheddar.

Here everyother pin dot is white--bleached out in the discharge style. A discharge paste containing lead chromate will bleach out the pin dot circle and then drop in the chrome coloration for the illumination. Registration on illumination is always perfect--the chrome coloration being part of the 'bleaching' paste.

The underside of both indigo prints.

You can click on any of these image for a larger picture.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quilts on the Lawn + upcoming lecture in MN

Quilts on the Lawn is Bozeman's annual community quilt show held the fourth Saturday in August every year at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture in Bozeman, MT.
August 21, 2010--save the date!

We hung over 430 quilts this year for this one day event with antiques inside in the ballroom.

This lovely large block red/green applique was one of those hung inside. When the owner brought to my store for an 'interview', I took a moment for an overview--nice blocks, classic colors.

The workmanship and the condition were very good.

I loved the sharp chrome orange at the center of each applique block.

I then turned my attention to the border. The grapevine fabric seemed a little coarser than the other fabrics and a bit taupey in color. I was wondering if it had been home-dyed and the color had changed. I was examining the edges of the vine hoping for a missing stitch or two and a place where I could see underneath the vine. I was thinking that area of the fabric would be a slightly different color. When suddenly the grapes caught my eye. They were the underside of an indigo pin dot print--very cool.

The next cluster turned out to be the underside of an indigo circle print. Nice touch.

Then I saw the cluster near the corner and started to levitate! These grapes were not only the underside of an Indigo pin dot and circle print but also an Illuminated Indigo pin dot! WOW--what artistry.

I will be lecturing in MN on Nov 5th and Nov 7th. The Saturday lecture topic is INDIGOS. I will end the lecture with this story and these pictures. I hope to see you there.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Greek Key

Great printed Greek Key design given to me by a friend. Madder browns and red with a gold highlight from early 19th Century.

A Greek Key is a regular repeat of interlocking right angles and vertical lines usually as a border treatment in art, architecture and textiles. It was a common decorative motif in Greek and Roman art and architecture and was often used in American Neoclassical (beginning in the mid 18th century) design--furniture, architecture and fabrics. American Greek Revival architecture and decorative arts-1800-1855.

One of the quilts in the DAR display last fall at the Houston Quilt Market/Festival displayed just such a fabric in a border. It was wonderful!

My husband Ron, a 36 month pancreatic cancer survivor, just turned 65!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Highline

Last weekend, Ron and I traveled up to the Highline ( 88 miles from Malta to Havre, originally named for the railroad that traveled across northern Montana). It was a beautiful drive. I had been invited to speak at the Triangles Squares Quilt Guild. One hundred and fifty people attended from northern Montana and southern Alberta Guilds. I am the one with the white gloves! The ladies behind me are crowded around one of the antique fabric sample books I brought with me for my lecture "Concept to Cloth, How to Design a Reproduction Fabric Line".

Monday, October 5, 2009

Montana morning

It was too quiet when I awoke this morning at 5 am. A peak outside revealed deciduous shrubs and trees laden with fresh snow! A warm sweatshirt ( the cozy Vermont Quilt Festival one), wool socks and gloves, my hooded rain jacket and a broom. I dashed outside to save the plants.

By noon we had over 9" of the white stuff. Last week there were two days in the low 80s. Such is the weather in the northern Rockies.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

First Post

Cottonopia--word play on Cottonopolis. Nineteenth century Manchester, England, an important world cotton center surrounded by processing and printing mills, was known as Cottonopolis. It is one of two places remaining on my 'life list'.

In this blog, I will write about the history of cotton manufacturing (the printing and dyeing),the use of such cottons (quilts and garments) and the buying and selling of the fabric (cotton textiles as trade goods). I have 9 antique fabric sample books. All those samples should make good visuals for this blog.

Click on the pictures below for an expanded view.

The cover of one of my sample books. 'Divers' means assorted. 1863

The double violet print at the top of the page is the image behind the title, Cottonopia.