Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 36: Lancaster blue and Greek Keys

A double blue print star in Becky Brown's reproduction block.

Vintage quilt top about 1870-1890

Blue with a touch of violet was popular about the same time as the bronze-shaded browns we've been discussing for the past few weeks.

Blue basket weave in a Centennial quilt from about 1876

We call this print style Lancaster blue today because we see
so much of it in vintage Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, quilts.

Pennsylvanians loved to mix it with primary colors.

Lancaster County quilters thought it the perfect background
for piecing and applique.

Pennsylvania star from the Flack collection,
end of the 19th century.

It's a variation on a shirting print---lines and small figures
printed in a rather electric blue-violet.
Like the double pink below, there's often white showing through
one or two shades of blue---a double blue?

Star from the Nickols collection at the Mingei Museum.
Notice the lace print at bottom. We'll talk about those next week.

Polka dot blue in a block dated 1875

Swatch dated 1896 from the New York Public Library Collection

Vintage quilt, last quarter of the 19th century.
The shade of blue is an excellent clue to a date of about
1870-1900 (and even later in eastern Pennsylvania)

The color was popular at the same time as Greek key patterns in cotton.

Roman mosaic border
The design is a variation of a classical meander pattern,
found in borders from antiquity.

The Greek key was a fashionable trim
during the 1860s,

...Taste that lingered
into the 1870s and '80s in cotton prints.



The American Museum of Textile History owns
this apron of a centennial print (1876) with a Greek key border.

Rather like this pre-printed apron from 1878 sold
at a Crocker Farms auction.

I didn't realize pre-printed aprons went back that far.

Perhaps the rage for log cabin patchwork and Greek keys
were related.

Greek key stripes are also a good clue to a quilt from about 1870-1900,
often found with the Lancaster blue at the top left.


Repro block in blue with a touch of violet by Bettina Havig

Here's a repro quilt that Lori at Humble Quilts
made from her late friend Jill's stash.

Judie Rothermel's done several collections of Lancaster.

This week you should be looking for:
  •  Lancaster blues
  • Or Greek key meanders in any color.
I'd check the furnishings fabrics if you can't find
any Greek key-style in the quilt fabrics department.

What to Do With Your Stack of Stars?
An Innovative Meander

This complicated set is a variation of the traditional sash plus cornerstone set.

Add a sash finishing to 1-1/2" to one side of
all of your blocks. It's the same thing you'd
do if you were going to set these 6" blocks
with a 1-1/2" sash and cornerstone.

Like this.
Once you add this to every block
(light sash, red cornerstone)
You have a 7-1/2" square.

But rotate the blocks as you put them on your design wall.
Let the sash meander across the quilt.

One More Thing About Lancaster Blue

I have some guesses about the dyes and terms used for this color.The dyers and printers certainly didn't call it Lancaster blue.

Crookes's 1874 dye manual shows this swatch of "Ultramarine."

Note faded spot

I wonder if it's not a new shade from the old reliable mineral dye Prussian Blue.
(Well--- not that reliable, it does fade to white with alkalai laundry soap.)

Here we are at week 36---I have posts planned up to week 47, which will be early December. I bet we  could cover Cleveland with all the stars we've made.


Barb said...

Great themes! I know I have Lancaster Blue, but it will be fun to "hunt the closet" for Greek Keys.

Wendy Caton Reed said...

Whoopi! One of my favorite colors! The Greek Key might be a bit difficult to find but I love a good challenge!

Jeanne said...

I'm on vacation and will miss a few more weeks yet, but will resume and sprint to the week 47 finish :)

Cynthia@wabi-sabi-quilts said...

I have always called this blue "that glowy blue" - so beautiful against dark muddy neutrals. Now I know its proper name - thanks for yet another educational post!

Judy Dietrich said...

This has been so interesting to see all the different colors & print styles. Why the colors were used & how they were printed. Then you throw in fun ways to set the blocks each week!! I have been thoroughly entertained by this weekly history lesson. I have seen the Greek keys pattern, mainly on decorative ribbon. Will be fun to search for this!!

Kim said...

Thank you so much, Barbara, for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us! I look at fabrics in a new way now, with so much more detail and categorization than before, rather than just "I like that one!" :) You should compile all these posts into a book, I would buy it in an instant. This is one of the only "blocks-of-the-months" that I have ever kept up with. I will be sad to see the year come to a close...unless you have something else in store for next year! :)

Anonymous said...

Can you give me any more details about the quilt with this description under the picture? I have a quilt with this same pattern.
Vintage quilt, last quarter of the 19th century.
The shade of blue is an excellent clue to a date of about
1870-1900 (and even later in eastern Pennsylvania)