Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 41: Neon Novelties

Bettina Havig,
reproduction star using a black novelty print

Becky Brown, same repro print different colorway

Star top from about 1900-1925 with the black novelty or neon prints
at the top.

Amidst all those monochrome prints in the 1890-1925 era you
sometimes get a glimpse of color in the blacks.

Early-20th-century catalogs called these novelty prints. 

1895 Montgomery Ward & Company catalog describing "an unusually attractive novelty. For a dark effect it is one of the most stylish things we have ever seen..."

The 1896 Sears Roebuck & Company catalog sold: "Fancy dress skirts of black novelty goods."
1895 Montgomery Ward catalog sold: Cacheco Fast Black Novelties, solid black grounds with colored printing...heliotrope, gold, blue, green...."

We tend to call them neon prints.

Black novelties or neons---they are a good clue to an early-20th-century quilt.

"an unusually attractive novelty"

Doll quilt with note "About 1901."

"My mother made this 'top' for doll quilt
for me to learn 'feather stitching.' 
about 1901"

Look for hot pinks, purples, bright blues and emerald green
floating in black backgrounds.

Vintage quilt about 1910

Vintage Prints

Color and black---always dramatic.

Swatchbook from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sylvia's pinterest page

You get a whole new appreciation of 1915 fashion
if you imagine the black and white portraits
in color---lots of color.


Reproduction star by Bettina Havig
Years ago Terry Thompson and I did a Moda
line called Ragtime full of neon prints. 

Reproduction star by Becky Brown

We based some repros on a star quilt I have.

Bobbi Finley, Morning Star
Reproduction of the star quilt from about 1910.

Original showing some of the neon prints.

Three prints from Ragtime

These reproductions are hard to find. Here are
two from a recent line called Turn of the Century

If you can't find any neons in your stash or store you
could use a black and off-white print and say it's a faded neon.
See below.

Bettina Havig still has some of this reproduction print
that Pilgrim & Roy did a few decades ago. A lot of the neon
prints seem to be reproductions of early 19th-century styles
but done in bright colors.

What to Do With Your Stack of Stars?
Copy this vintage quilt.

We've started with a different block but we can get a close interpretation by sashing our 6" stars with 3" finished sashing. 
Above a very scrappy look.
Below more controlled.

66" Square

To piece the sashing strips which finish to 6" x 3"

EQ7 Says:

A - Cut 2 dark squares 2-5/8" and cut each into 2 triangles with one diagonal cut. 
       (You might want to add an 1/8th of an inch and make these larger to trim later.)
B - Cut a 3" light square for the center. Add the triangles around this squares
C- Cut 2 rectangles of light fabric 2" x 3-1/2" and add to either side for each sashing strip.

D - Cut the cornerstones of light fabric 3-1/2" square.

With 25 stars your starry field will be 48" square

54" square

Add a border of dark squares cut 3-1/2".

Add two more strips finishing to 3" to make a checkerboard and it's 66" square.

One More Thing About Neon Novelty Block Prints

We often see these at their bright best in tops and blocks.
They fade when washed.

The more they're washed, the more they fade.

Doll quilt date-inscribed 1911 with a washed-out neon
 print on the top row here.

They don't seem to be tub-fast, as one might have phrased it 100 years ago. It's not the black that's fugitive, it's the color.

Quilt date-inscribed 1912

Some times a well-washed quilt will have
a black and white print where just a suggestion of
color remains in the white, maybe a pale, pale green or yellow.
Was it once a bright novelty print?

Illustration of period prints from Making History

Read more about black novelty prints in my book Making History: Quilts and Fabric 1890-1970.

Our time machine has dropped us into 1915. Next week we'll go back a hundred years or so.


Wendy Caton Reed said...

Woohoo! One of my favorites. I'm sure it is a limited market, but I surely wish they would reproduce more of them. Thanks!

Barb said...

Ditto what Wendy said - love them and wish there were more!
Thanks Barbara. I promote and encourage your sew along everywhere I lecture or teach. It's been great fun.

darlynn said...

I normally do not leave comments. yet wanted to take a moment of your time to say thank you for time after time posting interesting and beautifully composed posts. Sincerely.....

Bees Knees Granny said...

How fitting, Barbara, to mention a "time machine" on your blog today. Today is "Back to the Future" day! Here are ten more ways to celebrate it:
PS: you've opened my eyes to the richness of neons. How I wish "Ragtime" could be brought back. It would add depth to today's brights.

Every Stitch said...

Neon repros are one of my favourites ...but I never know how to add them to a quilt. Seeing all these I know I should make more of an effort - gorgeous!

Quilteuse Forever said...

Fun to see how some 1910 quilts look so modern! Low volume background and bright neon repros are great together!
Thanks Barbara.

PaulaB quilts said...

Every week this year I have learned so much from this series. The neon is a new idea for me. So I just checked some of my photos of old quilts and am sending you a separate email of a block which looks like a neon to me, in a thrift shop find. Thanks for all the research you do.