Sunday, December 26, 2010

La Femme en Allemagne

Christmas presents! My wonderful son in law found this for me in a second hand book store in D C.

The cover is as equally wonderful--a printed cotton. The book was published in 1887.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Also known as rainbow or fondu prints, these shaded grounds were originally done in the 1820s with wood blocks. The use of roller technology combined with steam printing led to evermore fanciful designs in the 1840s. Simple stripes were eclipsed by subtle to strong ombres under florals, geometrics, paisleys and plaids, medium to large.

I think many of us easily these delightful fabrics in Baltimore Album style quilts. Simple shaded fabrics provide dimension to vases and urns as well as baskets and buildings.

I love looking at how creative fabrics designers were with this element in several of my early/mid 19th century sample books. 

Their use as dressgoods was very popular in America from 1840-1860.  I do, however, find actual pictures of these dresses a bit startling!

See '1840s Day Dress from Bower' about 3/4 down the page.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Double pinks were a perennial favorite throughout the 19th century. Cloth printed with two strengths of an alum mordant, weak for pink and stronger for red, was processed in a madder dye bath, producing a print with two shades of pink.

My current line, Little Pink Stars, is based on an assortment of double pinks in the Little Pink Stars quilt. These fabrics were collected by my friend Bette Faries in the early 1970s. The earliest prints are c 1840; others from mid to late century. Bette hand pieced all the stars. When she started to put the quilt together in the late 1970s, it was too pink even for Bette. She went back to her pile of vintage fabrics and added in some beige/taupes, browns and a sprinkle of indigo stars. I did the same as I was developing the line.

This line is selling well and I am now picking possibilities for a second line. This sweet double pink shirting or light is on the short list.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Raised style

Prussian blue and iron buff furnishing fabric--a bright mid 19th century blue with dull tan--which was printed in the raised style. The first dye printed on the fabric was Prussian blue. The second step, a discharge of some of the Prussian blue, left the tan coloration.

This was a popular mid 19th century color for both clothing and furnishings. These fabrics are seen in quilts from 1840 until the end of the War.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tea grounds

 Furnishing chintz c. 1815--partridge and palm tree motifs. This fabric was block printed with pencil blue overdye of the yellow for the foliage. Originally this overdying probably produced some shade of green. The background is the popular tan blotch or tea ground. Think tea served with milk!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day Book

Of the 9 vintage fabric sample books, one is Turn of the 20th Century 'Day Book'. Examples of each day's mill production are pasted in the book with a style # and date written in pencil on the top of the page. Alas, there is no indicator of the mill's name or location.

Here is style #2149 from August 29,1899! There are 2 different prints in 4 color ways.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Early 20th century fabrics

In the past when I have lectured about late 19th century cotton textiles and mention the Economic Panic of 1893, I often would receive blank looks from the audience. No longer! Now everyone can relate to an economic downturn. The 1893 version was caused by a railroad overbuilding collapse coupled with shaky railroad financing which led to bank failures. This sounds so very familiar.

The effects on the textile industry in America were swift. Many mills went out of business; others lowered their costs by using less expensive greige goods, cheaper versions of synthetic dyes (many of which proved fugitive) and a pared down design staff. Cotton prints for clothing were often simple designs in two colors. The color palette shifted to cool blues, burgundy or claret and off white shirtings. We see these fabrics in many 1895-1925 quilts.

I am now seeing reproductions of some of the high end fabrics that were available in the early 20th century. The designs are sophisticated and the colors include oyster, shell pink, silver, taupe, brown, champagne and tobacco.

Sophisticated colors and design.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

180 Years for the Book, 4 Years for the Husband

Archival mounting of fabric samples in the c. 1830 Dargate book has helped to preserve the colors of the original printing.

The paper used for the pages of the book is rag paper. Paper made from tree bark mixed with fibers of hemp and flax was invented by the Chinese 2,000 years ago. This technology slowly made it way to Europe where rag paper was often made from discarded cotton and linen rags. This paper along with a glue made from either horse hooves or fish bones has been good for the stored fabric samples.

White rag paper was the highly desirable, poorer grades were often coffee colored or a light grey.

In 1844, a Canadian, Charles Fernerty and a German, F. G. Keller both invented the machinery and the process of making paper from wood pulp. This was followed in 1860 by the invention of  wood grinding machines. The manufacturing of cheap paper allowed for an explosion in newsprint. However, pulp paper is very acidic and not a good environment for storing textiles.  Most of my 19th century sample books are pre 1860s.

Last Tuesday Ron and I celebrated the 4 year anniversary of his pancreatic cancer diagonsis. He is alive and healthy today!  ps so is the fish, a 'catch and release' guy.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

More about Indigo

I had a great Study Session on Indigos at the AQSG meeting in Bloomington on Friday. We did discuss how to tell a resist from a discharge indigo from the top of the quilt. Kay Triplet, one of the class members, had some very good thoughts...a resist may show a little leaking of color into the design if the edge of the resist print is not as thick as the center portion. The discharge print may show the opposite--a little leaking of discharge (slightly lighter color) outward from the edge of the design--as the discharge paste may 'leak' beyond the edges of the design.

The other hot topic in the Indigo session was how to tell early from late Indigo prints. Sue Reich had a wonderful pieced quilt c. 1837 which was assorted indigos.  Generally I think of early Indigo patterns as being larger and fancier than those seen after the Economic Depression of 1893 when so many mills went out of business, used cheaper greige goods and went to smaller simpler designs.

Sue's quilt confirmed my theory.  Many of the Indigo printed patterns were large and complex although there were several patterns that were tight and neat--i.e. small rings. I did get some time after the Session to really look at the quilt and the Indigos ( Thank you Sue!)  and I also noticed that some of the larger designs were on more coarsely woven grounds.

So some possible clues to early (before the last decade of the 19th century) Indigo prints are resist printing ( discharge is after England), coarsely woven grounds and large complex patterns.

One of the excellent papers presented was "Prussian Blue: Its Development as a Colorant and Use in Textiles" by Anita Loscalzo. I have several sample books with wonderful Prussian Blue examples.

I am working on my daughter's computer today--no scanner and no samples books. The next post will be from home and filled with visuals!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


When you do a discharge indigo and use two different discharge pastes, one containing a chrome orange dye, you get an Illuminations. This style of printing is one of my favorites!

This is the back of the 3rd block. Note the areas of white and orange showing through.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Resist vs Discharge

There are 2 ways to 'print' indigo. The earliest approach is to print a resist on the undyed cloth. The resist can be mechanical--flour, starch, clay, resin, or wax--or chemical--salts of copper, alum or zinc. The length of fabric is then processed in an indigo dye bath. The pattern printed resists the indigo dye. A rinse of warm weak sulfuric acid removes the wax or zinc salts and you have an off white design on an indigo ground. Wonderful! 

Early in the 19th century a second approach was developed--the discharge method. The fabric is first dyed indigo blue and then a discharge paste is printed on that fabric. The oxalic acid 'bleaches' out the pattern design. The look on the printed indigos is similar. I have had people tell me they could tell the difference. Alas, I was not able until recently. In March I purchased some quilt blocks from a Senior Citizen's Center in eastern Ohio. There was one group of 8-pointed stars dated c. 1825 which had several indigo prints.  The back of one was different from the others. I think you can see how deep blue the back of this indigo piece is. 

There were pieces in other blocks whose backs look like this. You can see a 'shadow' of the design on the back. I think now if I can see the back, I might be able to detect Resist vs Discharge.
I thought you would want the see the fronts of these two blocks!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Musee de I'Impression sur Ettofes

This picture was taken during a tour at the Museum of Printed Textiles Mulhouse, France. Each cubbyhole contained the blocks need for one design. Some have as many as 8 different blocks, others only 5.

18th century wood blocks for textile printing could be as large as 13". These were known as '3 over' or 3 impressions across fabric that was 38/40" wide. Another common size for blocks was 9 1/2", '4 over' and 7 3/8th", '5 over'.

You could see 'pitch pins' in a corner. These metal pins were pounded in at the same height as the wood relief motif and were a placement guide for the printer.

I had a very fun customer on Saturday. She and her husband were visiting Montana from Guadeloupe. I have sent her fabric in the past. What I did not realize was the package traveled over to France and then back to this hemisphere to the French West Indies and Yolande. We had a lovely visit--mostly in English. I learned about the French West Indies and Marseille (husband's home town). I told them about local places of interest--they were driving from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. Yolande did manage to pick up a little fabric also!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Several years ago I took a Deb Roberts Textile Tour to the Museum of Printed Textiles of Mulhouse in France. Many on the tour had submitted queries to the curator several weeks before we arrived.

The first sample book I purchased had no information about its origins--not from the auction house nor on the cover or any interior pages. I have been curious about its origins.

The Dargate Book c. 1830

This is one of my favorite pages in the book! Love those pinks--and with yellow.

There are however, several samples with parts of words or names.

I submitted this image. I was hoping it might identify a local printer. I learned that  this was not the factory mark, chef de piece--at the beginning and end of each 'piece', but the stamp of the printer who did the 'green' on this particular print. These stamps were used to identify his work for payment or maybe to complain about the quality of the 'green' portions!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Scarlet grain

Cochineal, a crimson dye from female beetles that live on cacti native to Mexico and South America, had been used by the Aztec and Mayan peoples of Central America since 1000 B C.  The Spanish invaders were amazed at the brilliance of the red fabrics worn by the people of the region and soon were shipping the dried bodies of the female beetle to Europe. The dye was known as 'red grain' and took 17,000 dried beetles to make 1 ounce of dye stuff.

The Spanish kept the source of this very valuable product a secret through most of the 17th century.  Silver was the only commodity from New Spain that was more valuable.  Wool dyed red with cochineal was especially brilliant, more so than the fibers available in pre-Hispanic Central and South America; cotton, agave and yucca.

During America's Revolutionary War, the American troops engaged in guerrilla warfare were able to pick off the British officers and cause panic and confusion amongst the soldiers because the 'red coats' of the officers were dyed with cochineal and much brighter than the madder dyed coats of the soldiers.

After Mexican independence, some production ( cacti plants and beetles) was moved to the Canary Islands. Cochineal fell out of favor for most textile dyeing with the advent of aniline dyes but is seeing a resurgence today  as a natural food coloring.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I have been researching the paisley pattern this week. The motif we know today was inspired by the tear drop shaped designs on 17th century Kashmir shawls. These fine woven textiles were the shoulder mantles of high officials in the Mughal court of that era.

The large motifs woven in the borders were known as boteh.  A smaller motif, buti--small flower, was used as a filler pattern in the shawls. The introduction of the Jacquard loom enabled European weavers to copy the shawls. The ones woven in Paisley, Scotland were especially good. Textile designers also copied the patterns, including the serrated edges of the woven motifs on the shawls, onto printed yardage.

This sample is from my Dargate book, c. 1830.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Renaissance Fair

A  trip to the Minnesota Renaissance Fair this weekend. We were with our daughter and her family. The 'boys' were interested in the side show events, the food and of course the jousting. I was busy watching the costumes!

There were assorted grades of 'muslins' along with numerous brocades and velvets. When we are were reviewing our favorite parts (the little boys were all about the swords), my highpoint was watching the lady below gracefully mount her horse--side saddle!!

Side saddle

Interesting bodices

Hems at ground level

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lone Star Quilts

I will be doing a presentation on Star Quilts at the Museum of the Rockies next Friday evening in conjunction with the Quilts on the Lawn show in Bozeman, MT. I began my research with the basic 8 pointed star and ended up captivated with the Lone Stars, especially those made by the Native Americans.

The popularity of the Lone Star quilt pattern and statehood for Texas happened around the same time. (The Lone Star pattern was first seen around 1830, Texas joined the Union in 1845.) Early Lone Stars featured other smaller stars or Broderie Perse in the blank squares.

The star and the circle have long been important images for many Native American tribes. Once trade beads were introduced to the fur trade in the early 17th century, classic stars were beaded on moccasins and bags. By the late 1880s the buffalo herds, so important to the Plains Indians, were gone. The Sioux and Assiniboine tribes along with others adopted the Lone Star quilt as a replacement for traditional buffalo robes. Now these quilts are used not only as tipi doors but also to wrap the dead, express joy at a birth, honor friends and loved ones, as altar cloths in churches, hangings for graduation ceremonies and a focal point of a 'giveaway'.

I hope you can attend the presentation on Friday evening. I will have numerous slides of Star quilts and a very special story about a Native American Giveaway featuring quilts!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bau loxabigua

Crow for 'Laying Down Beads'. 

Friday I drove to White Sulphur Springs MT to listen to a presentation on Crow Traditional Women's Clothing by Mardell Plainfeather. She was fascinating--talking about growing up Crow, her mother's traditional dress and the clothing she has made for her family.

These are pictures of a dress she made for dancing when she was 15. The beading at the neckline and on the sleeves lays down flat on the tanned deer hide dress. I would refer to the technique as couching. The beads that edge of the scallops, Bau loeclougua (Crow meaning Making Beads Stand Up), are coiled back on themselves and then tacked at the base of the loop to the deer hide.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Billings Gazettte

Donna Healy, staff writer for Montana's largest newspaper, come to visit me in June. I was the 'feature' for Saturday's edition. Donna has done a very comprehensive article about me and how I got started selling reproduction fabrics to the movie industry. I thought my readers might enjoy the story and the pictures. This link is good through Friday, August 6,2010.

Margo :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lightning press

In 1847, The Philadelphia Public Ledger installed the new high speed rotary 'lightning' press. It made the all those slow flatbed presses outdated and opened up a new market--cheap paper!

By the 9th century, Arabs were making high quality paper from recycled rags with additional fibers of of linen and cotton. This rag paper was still the standard paper in the 19th century with mainly linen fibers being added to the broken down rags. It was relatively expensive.

In the 1840s producers in Germany began mechanically breaking down 'scraps' from the timber industry to create a paper product. It was this pulp paper that would supply the demand for newsprint.

The use of the 19th century rag paper ( archival, non acidic) in my fabric sample ledgers has helped to preserve the vibrant colors of the fabric samples!

Ahead by a nose--Abby paddling with Ron at Hyalite--south of Bozeman.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saved List

Under the "Dancing in Beauty" tab on the website for Identity by Design discussed last week, there is mention of 'saved list' wool used in the c. 1890 Kiowa headdress as well as a rainbow list on the sleeve of a beautiful comtemporary Kiowa dress.

I have always found this term intriguing.' List' refers to selvedge--the edge of the fabric which is more tightly woven than the body to prevent fraying. It was often of another fiber and could be coarser than the center of the cloth. 'Saved list' means the list or selvedge kept white during the wool dying process. It was encased by folding a piece of webbing lengthwise and whip stitching it securely in place. This prevented the coarser, more absorbant selvedge fibers from taking up the expensive the dye stuffs. 

The edge was usually discarded in European garments but was much admired by the North American Indians during the Fur Trade Era and even afterwards during the Reservation period.  It was often used decoratively at the side, bottom or on the sleeves.

The photo below is of two different pieces of saved list--one indigo the other scarlet, side by side.

This is a picture of me holding a beautiful beaver pelt given to me by my husband as a wedding present 43 years ago. He had trapped and prepared the pelt. I was delighted with the gift but did not have a clue I would be using it as part of my Furs on a Stick lecture! This picture was taken last fall in Minneapolis.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Washinton DC to Butte Montana

In 2007 I had the good fortune to visit the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. "Identity by Design" was on display.

It was wonderful! Here is the link to information about the display.There is a 'catalog' for the exhibit--"Identity by Design, tradition, change and celebration in native women's dresses", edited my Emil Her Many Horses.
This weekend we went to Butte for the National Folk Festival. This is the first time in 30+ years it has been held west of the Mississippi. Butte, America as it is known was the right venue for the western option. More than 100,000 attended. (Butte is unique. Many different nationalities arrive late in the 19th century to work in the mines and smelters. It was involved in the Labor Movement in America and has a very very colorful past!)

This was one of 6 simultaneous performances--Tony Ballog and Roma Nota. They were amazing!!
In the First Peoples' Marketplace I had the opportunity to see Mary Lou Big Day's traditional Crow
. I spoke with Mary Lou and she proudly told me she has received two national awards for her dolls. We also talked about the Crow Reservation (nearby  in Montana), the view from her home and how she goes about crafting her dolls.

If you can get the book/catalog of Identity by Design through Amazon or on inter library loan, I know you would enjoy it. And if you get a chance to see Mary Lou's dolls, she will be in Santa Fe soon, you will be enchanted!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Stifel Calicoworks

was established in Wheeling, WV ( my hometown) in 1835. Their principal production was indigo dyed prints and drills. The heavier weight drills were used mainly by clothing manufacturers.
The goods, know locally as West Virginia calico, were sold through the Sears, Roebuck and company catalog and internationally to Latin America, India, the Philippines, Canada and West Africa. Whenever I see old indigo blocks and tops, I am always turning them over looking for the Stifel logo on the back.

On July 4th we ran the zipline at Big Sky, MT for an adventure! Equipment check and then---just step off :) It was very much fun!!