Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 1: Multi-colored Turkey Red Prints

Reproduction star by Bettina Havig
in Turkey red and shirting prints

Vintage print: Typical imported Turkey red print
from about 1840-1865. 

We'll begin this Time Warp QuiltAlong with stars of Turkey reds. Turkey red is one of the most recognizable cottons in 19th-century quilts. We see it often, either as a solid color or print.

Vintage Turkey red print star.
Note how many different red prints she combined
to make the star. 

Our first stars will focus on the multi-color Turkey red print popular before the Civil War years.

My stars

Turkey red repros by Becky Brown, above and below.

Reproduction print from Moda's Collection for a Cause:

Vintage print from 1840-1860

The background for Turkey red prints was always red. The sophisticated printer could discharge (bleach out) white and add yellow, blue, green and dark brownish-black figures.

Rubia Tinctorum,
the vegetable dye for madder colors

The dyestuff is madder root, which rather easily produces a brownish-red. Vivid reds were hard to obtain in cotton.

The vintage windowpane check is madder red, a brownish, orangey-red.

Turkey red gets its name from the old Turkish or Ottoman Empire where dyers used processes they'd learned from India to obtain a bright cherry red in cotton. Turkey red came to Western Europe in the 18th century after French and British dyers sent spies east to learn the process.

Turkey red plain in a 19th-century block.  
Look for a blueish-red rather than an

Early European efforts focused on plain reds obtained by dyeing the cotton in the yarn, then weaving it into solids.

Vintage two-color Turkey red print

The simplest Turkey red prints were discharged white figures. In 1810 Daniel Koechlin-Schouch of Mulhouse in Alsace, France, developed techniques to add yellow figures in the discharge process. 
Most of the Turkey red prints we see in mid-19th-century
American quilts have some yellow figures, as in these blocks. Adding the
yellow often gave an orange cast to the red.

In the early 19th century, printers developed increasingly complex processes to add blue, green and black figures to the Turkey red background. Mills specialized in Turkey reds. Towns in England, Scotland, France and the German and Swiss states were home to Turkey red workshops and factories,
but the process apparently was not done in the United States until after the Civil War.

The vintage multi-colored Turkey red print is a good clue
to a date of about 1840-1865.

European dyers offered a variety of backgrounds for these multi-colored prints but American quilters
were crazy about the red-ground prints, which became quite the fashion here about 1840. 

Vintage print


When looking for Turkey red prints to reproduce a pre-1865 look
keep an eye out for bluish-red backgrounds and
figures in yellow, green, blue, white and dark brownish black.

Reproduction print

Reproduction print from AlaCarte by American Jane.

Sandi Klop designs many American Jane
prints in French Provincial style for Moda. She often
has two or three good Turkey red reproductions in a line---
the right reds with multi-colored figures.

They still print Turkey-red-style prints in France.
Pierre Deux is known for their provincial-style

lots of which are figures set in a regular diagonal
grid, a foulard design. Because they use modern dyes
the figures are a bit brighter than the 19th-century prints
but the style is good.

Cornucopia from Simply Baltimore by Sue Garman

Sue Garman specializes in red and green quilts. 
The red reproductions in her stash always work well.
See her blog here:

Cactus Rose Reproduction Quilt
Pieced, Appliqued by Pam Mayfield and Jean Stanclift,
hand quilted by Ann Thomas. Designed by Barbara Brackman.

For this reproduction quilt we used several red prints sold for clothing rather than quilts. The pattern begins on page 66 of America's Printed Fabrics.

Stars and Squares from Annette Plog's PetiteQuilts on Etsy

I found this repro block at the Trkingmomoe blog.
She has captured that very scrappy look.

Lori's reproduction of the Beyond the Cherry Trees
applique quilt uses a red paisley I did for Moda a few years ago.

Vintage star from an 1836 cradle quilt in
the collection of Historic New England.
(Scroll down to see the whole quilt.)

My interpretation of that star. I cut up a French
Provincial dinner napkin.

Moda includes two good Turkey red plain reproductions in the Bella Solids
collection. The lighter shade is Christmas Red (9900-16) and
the darker Country Red (9900-17)

Setting idea for your stack of star blocks:

Set them side-by-side as in the 1836 crib
quilt from Historic New England.
(Sixty-three 6" stars)

Several years ago Terry Thompson and I interpreted that quilt with
an abolitionist poem in the center star

See closeups of the original here:
One More Thing about Turkey Red

Turkey red is colorfast. It doesn't bleed onto other fabrics
or fade with light. But damage is common. One of the biggest problems with
antique prints is the way the dark brown figures
start to rot from the iron in the brown dye process.

Sometimes the brown completely disappears

leaving holes with the batting peeking through. Mills use
different dyes today so don't worry about your reproduction browns tendering
(textile jargon for rotting.)

You can see here how the brown is printed atop
the Turkey red and the yellow is bleached out or
That tendering won't happen with today's Turkey red
repros---we use completely different dye processes today.

Turkey red stripe as the star's background in a vintage quilt

I'm going to try to capture the look of old star blocks (mostly by trial and error.)
I need a pinker pink here and a stripe rather than a plaid.

Read more about Turkey red in America's Printed Fabrics, pages 62-67.

And in these blog posts:


cityquilter grace said...

have decided to make 3 blocks per week giving me a twin size quilt when done....and mine are finished already! can't wait for next week's color....

Jeanne said...

I have both books and a stack of fabrics, but my Dad is very ill and I'm away from sewing for a bit, so off to a delayed start.
Will the series go all the way into Depression-era? or just stay with 1800s?

Barbara Brackman said...

Jeanne--sympathy about your dad. Perhaps hand sewing in your few spare minutes. I am going to stick with the 19th century in 2015.

Jeanne said...

Thanks! I'm working on binding, filling the waiting time. 19th century is good -- I can daydream and organize my project in my mind :)

Judy said...

thank you for so much information on Turkey Red. Will be re-reading it several times I am sure. Moved recently and of course my book is packed!

Vic in NH said...

I learned so very much about turkey reds, thank you! Now to raid my stash to find the best examples of what you've taught me.

Anna said...

love turkey....and love turkey red!

WoolenSails said...

I do love red in my quilts and fun to learn more about them. I do love the madder red, I have some colors like that and love using it.


Suzanne A said...

I was fascinated to learn that Turkey red was imported here until some time after the Civil War. Thanks also for giving us an example of a fabric that qualifies that can still be found on the Internet -- rather than use my stash this time, I chose to buy some of the A la Carte you featured.

Chantal said...

I have learned so much. Going over my stash to see which ones are madder and which ones are Turkey reds. Thanks. ;^)

Churn Dash said...

I've joined a group that is swapping blocks that reflect back to the civil war era.

I'm British and it is proving an interesting opportunity to learn about an era that hadn't interested me before.

I wonder if you could include some pictures of what doesn't work and an explanation of why.

The group that I am in has stipulated "no blacks" and that is something I am hoping to learn more about here.

Thank you for this quilt along.


Sandy said...

I had no idea all those prints fell into the category of Turkey Reds. I guess I have more than I thought! I might have to make this BOW after all :-)

Nann said...

I highly recommend "A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire" by Amy Butler Greenfield. It's amazing what people would do, and did, for a color.

ipatchandquilt said...

Dear Barbara,

I am so enjoying your blogs on the civial war fabrics! I love to read more about the history of quilts. I would qualitfy myself as a modern quilter using very simple, often geometric prints / blenders. I do not know if I ever will use reproductions of 19th century fabrics, but I am hungry for knowledge! So many quilt books and blogs just show the making process and not much about the history of quilts. Thank you!

I have started working on some stars for baby quits in very very very bright colours... So I am joining your BOW a bit!
Bye bye

susan said...

Loved reading this post. I just finished the Carrie Hall Sampler using some turkey reds and other more modern reds but used a turkey red repro for the border and I am happy with the results. Not completely true to a reproduction but I made it my way! Stitchinwitch on flickr

susan said...

Wondering also if you have noticed specific quilting designs used during specific times other than the traditional 1/4 inch in from the seam allowances. Knowing that most of the quilting designs were hand quilted. Did they ever use any allover designs.... like a grid or roman fan, clamshell?

Anonymous said...

Please can anyone tell me what kind of background fabrics, shirting-types etc, were used in the pre-Civil War era? Liz B.

Jane A. said...

I have your turkey red from years ago!.. I am eagerly awaiting the spikey set directions for the border of last quilt project. Becky was working on the directions. It uses eight light tones of Bella. When may I expect that? I bought the Bella colors already. Thanks, Jane

Anonymous said...

Barbara please can you tell me how to find the reproduction dates of you fabric collections.
Thank you Val D

allstontowers said...

For those who would like more information on Turkey Reds in Scotland, follow this link to the National Museums of Scotland pages where you will find lots ofit. They ran a series of "Turkey Reds in Scotland" for a year which I followed. It was fascinating.

Rose said...

Am following with interest from here in Uk and hoping to join in at some point as am building up civil war era fabrics. Also my grandparents both worked in the Vale of Leven dye works in Scotland which produced turkey red dyes. Website mentioned above is fabulous! there is a book too called Colouring the Nation.