Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dye vs Pigment

Early textiles were dyed/printed with natural products. Dyes were extracted from roots and stems, leaves, berries and flowers as well as some insects and shellfish. Indigo has a natural affinity for cotton, most other natural dyes require a mordant for printing. ( A mordant is metal salt which binds with the coloring agent in the dye and also the cotton fiber. Some mordants are alum, iron, tin, copper and chrome). The mordant/dye combination forms a 'lake' of color which permeates the fiber.
The dyes are seen on the back of the a slightly different intensity.
Todays' fabric are usually printed with pigments. The colors are bonded to the fibers with resins. The result is a printed fabric whose color is resistant to fading on laundering but which does not show on the the back side of the fabric.

The dyed example is from the Dargate book, c. 1830. The pigmented sample is a reproduction of a Dargate Indigo.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011


The ancient Indian fabric technique of 'painting' colors onto fabric that has a block printed design (florals and paisleys being some of the most popular) is known as Kalamkari. A pen made from bamboo or a date palm branch is pointed at one end with a slit containing either fine hairs or cotton fibers.This pen is then dipped into 'colors' which are 'painted' onto the fabric.

Traditionally the 'colors' are all natural dyes from tree bark, leaves, flowers, fruits and roots. Several layers of color are applied. Natural mordants like iron and alum are also used to fix the colors. The fabric is then washed and dried numerous times to brighten the design colors and clear the background.


For centuries Kalamkari fabric was exported from India to Asia and the Middle East. It's introduction into Europe late in the 16th century was a huge success! The Portuguese called this fabric Pintado, the Dutch referred to it as Sitz while the British used the word most familiar to us today....Chintz.

The solution to the 'Color and Motif' crossword puzzle is shown at the bottom of this page. Thank you to those who participated.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Butterfly or Moth

The Chintz Center Panel...Tulips in Low Vase.. has a 'creature' in each corner. I asked my wildlife biologist husband... is this a butterfly or a moth?

Butterflies generally have slender antennae with a slight club shape at the end while moths have comb-like or feathery antennae. Ok..butterfly antennae.

Butterfly bodies are slender with smooth abdomens and moths have stout heavy bodies. The body is more moth like.

I think what we have is a lovely artistic Lepidoptera.

I am currently working on my second Chintz Center Panel quilt and trying to create 'an early 19th century sensiblity' with color placement and quilting style.  Many of the antique Chintz Center Panel quilts I have seen have subtle overall or double line quilting. This project is due at the McCall's Quilting office in Colorado on Wednesday....I have 3 more corners and a binding!  Watch for the quilt in the November '11 issue.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


My visit last week to Winterthur Museum in the lush, beautiful Brandywine Valley of Delaware was very special.

I was able to see 2 Hewson quilts (both with his classic urn as the center motif) and the coverlet (also with the urn) which Andover Fabrics is reproducing (urn, both borders, birds and bouquets) later this year. The personable young intern who was my guide, Heather Hansen, did her Master's Thesis on quercitron dye. We had a lively discussion of dyestuffs and the printing process! It was a privilege to be able to view these quilts. I also saw a miniature chintz center panel quilt plus early, mid and late 19th century textiles.

I did spend some time late afternoon enjoying the gardens...beautiful peonies. I loved the conservatory attached to the 50 room 'cottage' Mr. du Pont built for his living quarters when he turned the Mansion into the Museum.

On the second day, I was able to tour Henry Francis du Pont's the museum. I saw several Hudson Valley Resists plus many other wonderful textiles. I purchased Linda Eaton's book, Quilts in a material world, Selections from the Winterthur Collection. In Linda's introduction she has a great quote from Mr. du Pont...Winterthur " is really a textile museum". It truly is!

The remainder of the day was spent in the library with sample books. Winterthur is a teaching the attitude was very open to me seeing whatever I needed for my research. Study pictures were allowed and as fate usually works...I ran out of battery power for my camera (I had already changed batteries once) and with 20 minutes of library time remaining it was a choice of going back to the gift shop for a second purchase of batteries and probably only a few minutes with this last sample book......or relying on old fashion pencil sketches of what I might see. I decided to spend the available time with this last book..."Print sample book, 1795". It was a good choice There in this slim volume filled with 'croquis' I found the answer to my question!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Color and Motif

Terms and definitions in the textile industry....I have been collecting them for years and have several thousand in a database. It is a great resource for checking a date or finding just the right word for an article. About a year ago I started using all those terms and definitions to write textile history crossword puzzles.What fun!

So.... my first blog puzzle is listed on the puzzle link at the bottom of this page. Eight of the words I have taken from my blogs. Many of the others are from basic information sheets I hand out at presentations and put into mail orders.

Now the challenge. The answers to the puzzle will be posted on the blog June 19. I am offering a $20 gift certificate at my business,, to the first 5 people to email or fax (406-586-8847) me a correctly completed puzzle BEFORE I post the answers. Ladies and gentlemen...sharpen your pencils!!