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.