Sunday, January 30, 2011

Polychrome Indigo prints

My Dargate book, c. 1830 Mulhouse, contains numerous polychrome (more than 1 color) Indigo prints. These were relatively complicated to print and thus costly. I did reproduce several with my Dargate Indigo line. Here is the technical information that I sent out with orders and below that is my favorite sample ( 8 1/2" X 12") in the entire book!! and probably the reason I purchased the book.

"These were the beginning steps to polychrome indigo prints. The original resist paste and indigo dye both produced white and light blue designs on a dark blue background. The old resists were then removed and new areas covered with another paste. The fabric was dyed yellow, giving three additional colors: yellow, green and black. Finally, a pink and red were overprinted. The final product was a dramatic polychrome indigo featuring white, light blue, dark blue, yellow, green, black, red, pink and brown. Wow!

Technical assistance with this historical process graciously provided by the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising, and Design, University of Rhode Island: Drs. Bide, Ordonez and Welters."

I love to imagine the dresses made with this fabric!
I will be out of the country for 2 weeks and probably not able to post.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


For centuries, blue textiles were the 'color of kings'. The Indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria for India/Africa and anil for the Americas) is native to a tropical/sub tropical band around the globe. Mayans mixed indigo with clay for the famous Mayan blue, African chiefs wore garments dyed blue along with the ruling classes in India and Japan.

The production of natural indigo dye first yields a liquid and with draining a paste. This works well for local/regional dyeing. If this paste is patiently dried into 'junks', than the dye can easily be transported great distances.

As European powers colonized parts of South America, Africa and Asia, they had easy access to the dried indigo. ( Europe had used woad to dye woolen textile blue. Processed woad has .5% dyestuffs while high quality Indigo is 80%) East Indiamen loaded with Indigo chests arrived in Europe. Blue became the new fashion color of the 17th century. Synthetic Indigo was first produced by von Baeyer in 1897. He won the Nobel prize for his discovery in 1905. Not only did the price drop for the dyestuffs but the supply became more reliable. Now it was blue collar workers and blue jeans.

Resist printed Indigo designs feature a white motif on a deep blue background. If you remove the resist and redye the fabric you have a 'two blue'...powder blue design on the deep blue background. With the advent of the chrome dyes in the 1810s, yellow and orange were more reliable textile dyes. When goods were printed with the discharge method--the entire length of fabric dyed blue and the printed with a discharge paste--and if a chrome yellow was added to the discharge paste, you have an illumination, a bright yellow design on a deep blue background.These are both examples of illuminated two blues from my Dargate book, c. 1830 Mulhouse France. I reproduced these in a line called Dargate Indigos.

Next week--Polychromes!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Amana Colonies

About 12 years ago, I had an opportunity to visit the Amana Colonies in southeastern Iowa. I was tracking invoices for Indigo dress goods printed in my hometown of Wheeling,WV by the Stifel Calico works and sold to the Amana Colonies in the 1920s.

I spent 3 days immersed in their archives, chatting with the museum staff and touring the remaining 'colonies'. It was fascinating.

Until 1932, Amana was a communal religious society. The group known as the Community of True Inspiration begin meeting in 1714 in Germany. They left Europe in 1843 and settled near Buffalo, NY. Needing more farmland, the community relocated to the Iowa River Valley in 1855.

In accordance with their practices, the woman wore indigo-printed high necked, long sleeved blouses with long Indigo print skirts. Being a communal society, everyone worked and depending on the work, woman also wore Indigo printed aprons. The colony had its own print mill and produced timeless indigo prints.

Here are some of their prints from 1917.

I expected the classic blue and white indigos and even these two blues/greens.

I found these illuminations charming.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spring 1939 sample book

When looking at quilts from the 1930s, I often see fabrics that look similar to these samples--in design and color. 

I usually think of the fabrics of the next decade, the 1940s, as darker versions of these colors and designs that are not as 'sweet'. That spring (1939), there were both the traditional Depression Era fabrics and some 'moving forward' offerings. See second scan.

Plus numerous bold plaids and stripes.