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
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
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
(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
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
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.