Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ubiquitous Double Pinks

Small calico prints in 2 or 3 shades of pink or purple (double pinks/double purples) have been a perennial favorite of the textile industry for over 250 years. The early printing of such fabric was accomplished with mordants and a madder dye bath.

Before dyeing, the mordant, a colorless substance, was applied to the cloth by hand painting (the usual method for the calicos and chintzes produced in India in the 17th/18th century), woodblock printing or copper plate/roller technique. By altering the strength of the mordant, a lively 'double print' was achieved.

An alum mordant gave prints with shades of deep red through pale rose pink while prints from an iron mordant varied from almost black to lilac with all the shades in between. Once printed, the fabric was then processed in a madder dye bath to bring out the colors. A mixture of the mordants will give a brown print. Note double violets in the above block....seconds?

 These are 4 patches from another block.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Panic of 1893

In the past ( pre 2008) whenever I would mention the Panic of 1893....I often received blank stares...except in Seattle. (Seattle became a major US city because it was the supply point for those headed to the Gold Fields following the Panic of 1893). Now more people understand an economic panic and how things change.

Leading up to the Panic, there was a credit shortage here in the US, a growing depression in Europe and the tipping point...the failure of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroads. This lead to a depression here in the US. Banks failed, unemployment soared and 'things' changed. The response by the textile industry...the closing of some mills, a cut back on the design staff at others and a general shift in the style and coloration of the cotton prints on the market.

I have a series of blocks dated 1890-1910 that I am going to use to talk about the before, during and after fabrics.

I love the big stripe in this block...the size is similar to many of the samples in my antique books. What always amazes the drawing by the fabric stylist as she ( her name is Ro) reconstructs the whole pattern (scale and details) from the small sample. I am doubly amazed when the first sample yardage arrives. So what did this stripe really look like 'on the bolt'. 
This second block also contains the lovely stripe. Notice 3 of the blocks contain only 2 components and the forth is creatively pieced! These fabrics are most likely pre Panic.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Divers" 1863

I have a large ledger style fabric sample book with damaged corners, a cracked spine and an ornate label on the front. Carefully written in an elegant hand is the word ‘Divers 1863’, French for various.  Inside are numerous samples of printed cottons from various French printers in Mulhouse.  These are some of my favorites!

My newest line of be introduced by Newcastle Fabrics at Quilt Market in Houston.

Throughout the book the prints are mostly Madder style....plum, orange and deep browns.  Each page in the book is labeled  '1863'. These were printed in the Mulhouse region of France during the American Civil War.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


The first synthetic textile dye was discovered in 1856...the famous Perkin's Purple. Other colors soon followed but black was an ongoing technical challenge. Those 1860-1880 blacks were often 'rusty'.

In the early 1890s, finally a good deep black. The fabric designers got a little crazy...with overprints in harsh colors like purple, bright blue, pink and green. These prints were often referred to as 'Uglies' at the time. 'Neons' is a 20th century term for them.  The first modern use of neon lighting was at the Paris Motor Show in 1910.

The blocks are 'Homeward Bound with Sash and Block' 1880-1910

We are headed out to Yellowstone Park for the weekend for my husband's 67th birthday. We are staying at a B & B on a bluff just above the Yellowstone River. The forecast is for overcast and cool....perfect Montana fall weather!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Irregular wavy lines which look like worm tracks. (vermiculatus..Latin for 'worm like in shape')

These designs were often used as a filler pattern in palampores and Kashmir shawls.  Metal strips were embedded into wooden printing blocks to create this pattern in the 17th century.  The design continued in the 18th/19th century etched into copper plates and rollers.