Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wood, brass and felt

Many 18th /early 19th century fabrics were printed with wood blocks. The wood surrounding the design was carefully gouged out leaving the design in relief. The raised area would be charged with dye or mordant and the block pressed down on the fabric. There were 'pitch pins' in the corners of most blocks. These subtle dots allowed the printer to correctly align the next impression.

Delicate parts of the design, such as a flower stem, were achieved with an inlaid brass strip. Small brass picots or pins could be pounded into the wood block to emphasis an element in the design or scattered throughout the block to give a speckled look to the background of the design.

To achieve a solid looking area of color in the design, a portion of the block was hollowed out and filled with a felt pad. This allowed the dye or mordant to be applied evenly.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bottle necks

Recently an in-store customer asked me about Eli Whitney's cotton gin (short for 'engine')  and its importance in the first English Industrial Revolution.  She was thinking it was the gin that fueled the growth of the  English textile industry. Yes....the gin had a dramatic effect on both the expansion of Southern raw cotton production, and thus the institution of slavery, and textile mills in America and Great Britain.

In 1793 Whitney's gin mechanically cleaned the seeds from raw cotton. Before his invention, a man could clean about 1#/day. The gin did 12 #s / hour! Grow more cotton!

The task of cleaning cotton seeds by hand was just one of the bottlenecks along the road to the Industrial Revolution. John Kay's invention of the flying shuttle in 1733 allowed hand weavers to move beyond the width they could 'throw a shuttle' to  'broadcloth' ( 63" or less). There was an immediate demand for more thread and yarn.

James Hargreaves designed a spinning jenny in 1764 which allowed one worker to manage 8 spindles at once. Now the bottleneck was supplying cotton to the spinners. It was almost 30 years before the cotton gin cleared this bottleneck.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wiener Werkstatte

Vienna Workshop

Two Austrian designers founded the Vienna Workshop in 1903. The designs, in the Arts and Crafts style, were used for furniture, wallpaper, china and beautiful fabrics. The workshop closed in 1932.

The majority of the fabrics were silks and linens with a few cottons. But those cottons, with flat unshaded florals, dots and geometric shapes influenced American cotton prints of the 1930s.


These prints and others in this style are available on my website. I was so excited when the sales person showed me these fabrics. I just couldn't stop talking about Wiener Werkstatte.

This link will show you some wonderful visuals of a variety of work from the Vienna Workshop.

They also put out about 1,000 postcards with wonderful designs.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Checking Frequent Flyer Miles

The American Folk Art Museum is sponsoring this exhibit March 25-30, 2001 at the Park Ave Armory, 643 Park Ave, New York City. There will be 650 red and white American quilts from the private collection of Joanna S Rose. Admission is free. Check those frequent flyer miles!