Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 15: Woven Plaids


Star of woven plaids and stripes by Becky Brown

Vintage block, perhaps 1850-1880
It's is hard to believe the woven green plaid is that old
but it is.

Here's a swatch from an 1851 British journal with similar design.
"Manufactured ...for the American market."
What was different about the "American market?"

Vintage star quilt with plaids and stripes,
about 1840-1860.

We've looked at the rage for printed plaids during the 1840s-1860s decades, See the post here:

End-of-the-19th-century block with a 
variety of checks and plaids

Plaids come and go in fashion but simple woven plaids are a classic.


Woven plaids are among the easiest patterns to create with yarns of different colors. The design is as old as the loom. Here the loom is strung with dark and medium brown yarns (the warp). The weaver crosses with dark and light yarns (the weft).

Vintage mid-19th-century star in the Helen Louise Allen Textile 
Collection at the University of Wisconsin.

The brown center pinwheel above looks to be woven, in contrast to the printed grid design in the background. 

Detail of a quilt from the Norfolk (Connecticut) Historical Society.

Woven plaids and checks are little help in dating a quilt.
That pink windowpane check could have been woven in
1790 or 2015. Fortunately for us the blocks are dated in the 1850s.

The rest of the cottons in this star look about 1870-1900---the
woven plaid, a classic.

Mid-19th-century doll quilt 
We know it's mid-19th-century because of the prints;
the plaids and checks tell us nothing.

We might call these fabrics ginghams.
In the past gingham meant any plain weave, yarn-dyed fabric,
so one could have solid ginghams too.

Five ginghams, two prints in a block from about 1835.
 I'm counting the pink as a gingham too.

Table of fabric prices from the Library of Congress, ca. 1870

"White Goods, Linens, Printed Cottons, Ginghams, etc."
Colored cottons were either Printed or Gingham

Woven plaids and checks---commonplace fabric---became fashionable again at the turn of the 20th century.

Checks are related...

 to stripes and chambrays---
woven pattern of colored yarns.

Woven plaids are a great way to get a ca. 1900 look.



Above and below: Vintage quilts, about 1900


Consider them a good contrast to fancier printed goods
in any of your 19th-century repro blocks.

Reproduction block by Bettina Havig
It's hard to tell from the photo whether the background
check is printed or woven. It really doesn't matter. She's captured
the look of the shirting fashion.

Could this blue check from about 1890 be printed?
Again it's the look that's important.

Reproductions
Two recent collections from French General
and Primitive Gatherings


Rosemary Youngs has been making
stars for a Japanese taupe project.

You can also find excellent plaids in places
like the rag bag, the back of the closet and the
thrift shop.

Use shirts,

Even if they seem a little strange---or too modern.

Vintage block about 1900

The bright plaids in this mid-19th-century star could have
been woven yesterday. 

What To Do With Your Stack of Star blocks?
Alternate checkerboard blocks.

Set the stars with a checkerboard of squares cut 2" (WAIT! That's 2-1/2") to make a 6" finished checkerboard.

The Lincoln Museum quilt by Deb Rowden

Deb and I made this plaid quilt for the Lincoln
log cabin at  the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

Plaid fabrics in a plaid set.

Scraps too small to save?
Never. 
Cut 16 squares 2" x 2",

Bobbi Finley, Hancy's Stars 

Bobbi pieced the small quilt from a reproduction fabric collection of mine called 1862: Battle Hymn.
It's a different star with checkerboard center and a 16-patch checkerboard for setting.

One More Thing About Woven Plaids

Mid-19th-century star quilt from the Pat Nickols
collection at the Mingei Museum

Add a green gingham to your mid-19th-century scrappy quilts.

Scrappy block from the 1860-1900 years.

Log cabin from the 1870-1890's

It's surprising how many green checks you see in mid-century scrap quilts. It may be that a woven green check, what they might have called an apron check, was common everyday clothing. Bright green calico prints were not really for clothing, but a subdued green check was just the thing for a work dress---and the scrapbag.
Union Cradle Quilt by Barbara Brackman.
Green checks and gold checks.
The pattern for this quilt is in my book Civil War Women

Read more about woven plaids in both my books on fabric dating: America's Printed Fabrics (pp 94-98) and Making History (pp 45-46).

11 comments:

Lori said...

Thanks again for another educational post!

Mary Says Sew! said...

Double-check the cutting measurements for the Alternate Checkerboard Blocks that finish at 6". Four squares cut 2" x 2" become 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" finished squares in your 4 x 4 checkerboard. Four 1-1/2" finished squares produce a 6" block.

(Four squares cut 2-1/2" yield an 8" finished block. So many quilts use fabric cut 2-1/2" and 8" finished blocks, it's hard not to plug in those measurements.)

Jeanne said...

Okay, off to find plaids and **green ginghams** in the scrap bag!

Rosa said...

Wow, thanks,great post!

Chantal said...

Just so interesting! Love to read your posts. I believe I do have some of that green "apron check". Thanks.

Louise said...

You have given us some great options. I especially like Bobbi's Hancy's Stars. I usually tend to avoid woven plaids but will definitely include them in this Time Warp study. Thank you for another great lesson!

Mary said...

I'm just starting on this Stars in a Time Warp Journey. My blocks will take a while to get caught up on. Thanks for permission to use thise recycled shirts for this one. Very interesting to learn about the fabrfabrics.

Cynthia@wabi-sabi-quilts said...

Another great post. Thank you! Woven plaids are among my favorites. Is what my grandma called "homespun" a subset of woven plaids? Or a synonym?

Barbara Brackman said...

Homespun is a synonym. My theory is that people called them homespun because they looked like the old homewoven linsey and wool checks and plaids. Also they tended to be produced in domestic fabric mills rather than be imported.

Cynthia@wabi-sabi-quilts said...

Interesting - thanks!

Chen Alan said...

So Great...
I love these.