Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 8: Indigo Blue

Becky Brown reproduction block

Vintage indigo print from early 19th century
The figure is slightly blue in this print with a background we might call navy blue.

Detail of a quilt date-inscribed 1833 by Elizabeth Kimbrough Neal Brockinton's mother.
Collection of the Briscoe Center.

Perhaps three indigo prints or one navy indigo and two lighter Prussian blues. There were other blues too.
See more here:

Indigo prints featuring white or pale blue figures on navy blue grounds are seen in our earliest 

Date-inscribed 1795, Jones, Art Institute of Chicago

The indigo figures in these early prints tend to be spotty and rather minimal in design.

An early-19th-century pocket  
 with an indigo blue on blue print in the star.
You wore a pocket under a slit in your skirts to
stash your hankie and your keys.

Stars in the Sashing, mid-19th century? from Stella Rubin

The classic two color quilt: It looks like a solid indigo here,
which is a possibility, but a detail photo probably would
reveal a minimal white on blue print.

Detail of a worn nine-patch quilt from about 1820-1850.

The scraps of indigo are more colorfast and the fabric is more durable than many of the other prints.
Indigo blues are often the best survivors in these early 19th-century scrap quilts.

I did not find many indigo prints featured in mid-century scrap quilts. More complex Prussian
blue prints were so popular in the 1840s and '50s that indigo must have looked hopelessly old-fashioned and primitive. Of course it was old-fashioned and primitive---part of the charm.

Date-inscribed 1843, from the Historic New England collection

The navy blue here could be a solid indigo but it is more likely a small print. Note the damage on the left lower corner---possibly an encounter with a strong bleaching agent. Indigo is usually colorfast.

Mid-19th century indigo staple print
Small x's for a figure, set in a half-drop repeat.

The figure has a touch of blue indicating the cloth may have been dyed light blue with indigo before the resist paste was printed. The cloth was then dyed to a darker blue and when the resist chemical was removed the pale blue remained.

Vintage quilt, date-inscribed 1843, Elanor A. Robinson
Double dots set in a half drop repeat.

We are beginning our time travel in the mid-19th century so we will begin with the simple indigo prints used then.

For William Dudley Blodget, date-inscribed 1867

Single dots set in a half drop repeat---this repeat results in a diagonal grid, a design idea quite fashionable during the 1840-1870 era.

Knitter about 1860
A half-drop repeat was THE look during
the sixties.

Date-inscribed 1845, M. Lasher
A dot: You get the picture about the repeat.

A dot repro

Here's a recent picture from eBay. How old?
Indigo stars---not much of a clue.
But it looks like the blue print is a single print throughout the quilt, and it's simple. I'm guessing
before 1880. 
The corded, stuffed quilting in the border is a better clue---probably before 1860.

Vintage indigo star print
The simple figure here is a five-pointed star, a flag print.

Vintage block from 1875-1900

These little stars in white on indigo blue were fashionable after the Civil War but you also
see them earlier. I saw them referred to as "flag prints" in an 1875 catalog from Montgomery Ward.

Vintage quilt date-inscribed 1846 A.B. Ruby

Vintage block from 1875-1900

Two reproduction star prints from Moda,
Left: Old Glory Gatherings from Primitive Gatherings:
 Right Lexington by Minick & Simpson

Cathy's vintage top pictured on Cyndi's blog

The stars are set with sashing of a flag print barely visible here at the bottom.
Hard top to date because the prints are such classics.

Vintage block about 1880-1900
Orange madder-style prints and complex indigos.
This woman loved pattern.

We'll return to indigo when we go towards the end of the 19th century, the heyday of indigo prints. The dating rule is: The more variety in the indigo prints the closer to 1900.

Reproduction star by Becky Brown with 
3 indigo prints and 1 shirting

Another style change towards the end of the century: quiltmakers liked to combine indigo ground prints with prints in other colors.

Vintage block about 1890-1920

These later indigos with a variety of figures are more fun to make so you might copy them now.

Vintage stars about 1890-1920

Gretchen's Reproduction Cheddar Block
The indigo  and chrome repros really capture the late-19th-century look.

Vintage block about 1890-1920

Older block, a single, simple print


Reproduction quilt by Julie Hendrickson, Blue and Brown quilt 
from History Repeated I.
The triple dot is the perfect mid-century indigo.

Two simple figures in half-drop, diagonal repeats by
Nancy Gere. Good for early indigo reproductions.

Indigo Revival from Minick and Simpson
who often do indigo reproduction prints.

Spinning Stars by Minick and Simpson using their Lexington line

Setting idea for your stack of star blocks: 
A Border of Stars Set on Point

Vintage Quilt dated 1822 by Fanny Hurlbutt.
Documented in the Connecticut Quilt Project. Photo from the Quilt Index. 
See the full strip quilt here:

Kathie Ratcliffe, detail of Leesburg, one of her miniature quilts
 in the Star of Bethlehem design.

Kathie Ratcliffe, Star of Bethlehem

Bettina Havig, Peace Haven
Match the setting triangles to the star backgrounds and
the stars float.

Connie Chunn, Mary's Harvest, 2006
A great finish to a tiny medallion.

Sue Garman, Ancient Stars

One More Thing About Indigo Blue

Indigo prints have been popular around the world because the dye process, while complicated, is reliable and produces beautiful, durable results. Indigo dyers created pattern on cotton in two primary ways. 

Samples from the IQSC's exhibit Indigo Gives America the Blues Timeline.

One method is to use a resist to produce a figure, what we might call a batik. A thick substance (wax or paste) is printed on the fabric which is then dyed in an indigo bath. When the paste is removed:  a blue ground with a white or pale blue figure. Resist Printing above.

The other is to dye the cloth blue and then apply a discharging chemical that bleaches out the figure. Discharge Printing above.

I am relieved to know most experts say it is very hard to see the difference between these two processes, especially with the industrial printing in the second half of the 19th-century. Sometimes it's obvious, but don't worry that you can't tell which is which in an old print. (If it's a new print it's screen printed---unless it's a true batik.)

See a great online exhibition on indigo dyeing at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum's website at Indigo Gives America the Blues.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rachel Littler Bodley and a Patchwork Mystery

Rachel Littler Bodley (1831-1888)

This carte-de-visite (CDV) photograph of a young woman has been described as a woman wearing a Balmoral skirt.

Peterson’s Magazine 1861
 Balmoral skirt:
a striped or plaid underskirt
revealed by a turned-up (retroussé) overskirt.

If you look closely she is holding or
wearing a patchwork item over that striped underskirt.

Who is she and what is that bound piece of patchwork?

From her hairdo and the her clothing we
can guess the photo is from about 1860.
The woman is identified as Rachel Littler Bodley of
Cincinnati, Ohio, who would have been about
30 years old in 1860.

The objects in the photo tell us something about her. Note the microscope and glass vial on the desk. Rachel was a chemist, the first woman professor of chemistry at a medical school when she became Chair of Chemistry and Toxicology at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1865. She may have posed for this portrait then, or perhaps it was a celebration of an earlier triumph in 1862 when she became a professor of natural sciences at the Cincinnati Female Seminary.

The objects on the floor and plant stand include books,
perhaps her science and medicine books plus 
a copy of a privately printed book she finished in 1865.

Rachel Bodley's Catalogue of Plants
Contained in the Herbarium of Joseph Clark.

The basket at her feet and the one on the plant stand may be full of plant specimens symbolizing her interest in botany.

But the piece of triangle patchwork? 
It certainly looks like an overskirt.

Bodley's papers are at Drexel University, but I can't find the source for the CDV. 

I think I'll go as Rachel Bodley if I ever go to a Civil War re-enactment.

Read her book here at Google Books:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Starsin a Time Warp 7: Madder-Style Prints

Reproduction star in madder-style prints by Becky Brown

Vintage quilt about 1870
Many madder stars set in chrome-yellow sashing. Quilt 
from the Holstein collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

Madder-dyed prints filled the scrapbag of the 19th-century quiltmaker. 

"Union Prints Warranted Madder Colors"
guarantees the label from the collection of the American Textile History Museum.

See a page of their bolt labels advertising madder colors at this link:

Vintage star quilt from about 1840-1890
The dyers called the process Madder-Style

Madder style prints were popular due to many factors. 
  • It was an inexpensive (if complicated) dye process that produced a range of color. 
  • The dyes were colorfast.
  • The colors were considered quite appropriate for women's clothing (as Turkey red or Chrome orange were not.) .
  • Madder calicoes were a mid-19th-century fashion fad for clothing  perhaps because these were the colors in the equally fashionable Kasmir (paisley) shawls of India.
A vintage madder-style cotton imitating a hand-woven
wool shawl print, about 1870. We call it
a paisley.

The paisley print above shows the variety of colors obtained from one dye by manipulating the various mordants or metal salts that fix the dye to the fabric. This process of mordant-printing allowed several characteristic shades, most tending towards red. (I'm not sure how that gray blue was printed.)

1. Chocolate Brown. Customers and dyers have long called the darkest brown Chocolate.

Here's S.F.'s first reproduction star, a lovely combination
of madder reproductions with chocolate.

Chocolates and shirtings, reproduction blocks by
Bettina Havig.

Reproduction star by Bettina  in a plum paisley from my Ladies' Album.

2. Plum. Madder also produced a dark purple-red brown called Plum in the early-19th-century and Puce later on.

Vintage star from about 1840-1890

3. Miscellaneous browns from medium to light---all on the warm side or red side of the color wheel.

The more greenish or yellow-browns in this vintage block were probably produced
by different dyes. The star points are definitely madder-style.

3 vintage blocks taken from an old top probably about

4. Orange. Shades from cinnamon to pumpkin to terra-cotta.
(Double pink is actually a madder-dye, but a different process
so the printers didn't classify it as madder-style)

Reproduction from Lisa at Ivan& Lucy blog

Reproduction Print: 
Nineteenth Century by Froncie Quinn, Hoopla

Vintage block, maybe 1830-1850

A variation on the orange is a pinkish-orange, not very bright, tending towards peachy.

Vintage block, perhaps 1840-1860.
Madders are hard to date because they were printed over
such a long period of time.

Victoria Carroll's repro block.

These peachy oranges are harder to find than the browns and the reds.

Reproduction Print: Paula Barnes

Oranges were featured in my Moda line
Civil War Crossings from several years ago.

Reproduction block, North Star by Sanguine Stitcher

5. Madder red. A brick red, warm, reddish-brown, robin's breast red... You do find it in solids as in the North Star above.

A recipe for a madder-style printed plaid from the circa 1830 George Haworth recipe book in the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society. See a post about the manuscript here:

Reproduction star block by Jeanne Zyck from madder reds in my
Civil War Jubilee collection

Reproduction Print: Savannah from Makower

Reproduction quilt: Cinnamon Stars by Jo Morton
Fabric and quilt by Jo, who often features 
madder reds in her excellent reproduction collections.

It's difficult for beginning stash collectors to distinguish between madder red and Turkey red.

I found a good example of vintage madder red on the left at Cyndi's Busy Thimble blog. On the right some vintage Turkey reds from my collection. It takes time to learn the differences. Madder reds tend to be duller; they tend to have different colors in the figures. To confound the issue, both red print styles are obtained from madder dye. Turkey red is more complicated and was more expensive.

Here's Amy's first repro block: It's red with yellow figures---
just like Turkey red, but I would classify this more as madder red.

Judie Rothermel reproduction print.
A little warm gold is good as an accent---which
of course confuses the issue with Turkey red.

Vintage print with madder red, orange, chocolate, white background showing through plus a yellow gold. It's madder style rather than Turkey red style.

And so is this vintage red block. Again, there is blue
in the points but you can't call it Turkey red style.

Vintage Turkey red solid---it's brighter, redder.
I realize the issue is like trying to decide if tomatoes are a vegetable or a fruit. 

Well what's the worst that can happen? You bought it for Turkey red and it's more madder-style. They are both mid-19th century fads and make a repro quilt look authentic. Quilters mixed them. Red was red.

Quilting Twin Keryn is working on this reproduction star in 2015.

What to Do With Your Stack of Star Blocks?
Alternate Simple Applique Blocks.

Froncie Quinn did a copy of the Sarah Johnson quilt at the Shelburne Museum
for her Hoopla Patterns Shelburne Repoductions. Here's the center as a miniquilt.

And a version of the center detail by Rosemary Youngs.

Sarah Johnson surrounded her center with a field of stars and alternate plain blocks. The  quilt is dated 1826. See the pattern here:

Here's a detail of a mid-19th century quilt that Fourth Corner Antiques
posted on their online shop inspiring me to trace around some 5" leaves.

One More Thing About Madder

Vintage quilt about 1870-1890
The vegetable dye madder must be combined with mordants of metal salts to create fast colors. The browns were mordanted with iron. Iron rusts. Madder prints rust too. The dark brown stripes above are oxidizing---reacting to the oxygen in the air and disintegrating.  

It looks like all the madder browns in this mid-century quilt are 
tendering (rotting).

The more iron mordant the darker the brown. The more iron mordant the more fragile
the old print. Dark brown figures and backgrounds are often the first to fall apart in an antique. We don't use madder dyes anymore so browns are much more stable.

A collection of  vintage books covered in madder-style cotton prints, Skinner Auctions

More evidence of how common and inexpensive madder prints were. I'm inspired to to cover all my books.