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.


  1. Margo: Thanks so much for your regular and very informative posts to this blog. Although I don't often comment, I do check it regularly and enjoy it immensely. I am so glad I enrolled in the monthly history programme last year and am sorry to see it coming to an end - fab fabric!!
    Thanks again - and best of health to you and your husband!
    Janet in cold and drizzly Nova Scotia

  2. I've just discovered this blog - it is truly extremely interesting and very useful. I am a volunteer at The Quilt Association in Mid Wales, UK, and we have a small but growing collection of antique quilts, mainly from our local area. We are always trying to find out more about the history of the printed fabrics. We had a workshop with Dr Philip Sykas of Manchester Metropolitan University last year as part of a small grant funded project. We are all volunteers, but love finding out more about the quilts. I look forward to reading the rest of your blog entries.
    The Quilt Association website is: if you have time to take a look.

  3. Hi Janet and Jackie :) I am delighted to hear from someone in Wales! I have 2 places remaining on my bucket list--one is Manchester England, with a side trip to Wales. My great,great grandfather emigrated from Swansea to Ohio mid 19th century.
    RE: Sykas I wished I had been in that audience!! His book will be my guidepost for a visit to England. Margo