Vintage quilt, 1851
Detail of Sara Keplar's quilt
Vintage sunflower blocks set with stars in the sashing, about
The green often seen in mid-to late-19th century quilts is a grassy green, the product of two natural dyes in blue and yellow that are laid one over the other.
Sara Keplar's quilt dated 1851.
Collection of Colonial Williamsburg
See the catalog entry on the Keplar quilt here:
Elizabeth Crandell's 1852 green has held up well. Notice
the subtle shifts from yellow-green to blue-green in the swag,
indicating an overdyed green.
Shifts from yellow-green to blue-green are often not so subtle.
The lighter, yellow-green above is perhaps due to a spill on the vintage applique shown at a
Western Washington Quilt Study session. Or ...
...the shift may also be from light damage.
Was the quilt folded on that line and placed
near a window?
One of my quilts shown in Clues in the Calico.
The basket looks tie-dyed but the green is
damaged from laundering.
In the mid-19th-century quilt above the shift is from green to blue, again possible laundry damage.
Matching that old, over-dyed green plain fabric is difficult. (Green prints are easier---we'll discuss them later.) One aspect of the natural green dyes that adds to their beauty is the depth of color you get when two dyes are applied. It's just not done now.
Reproduction quilt by
Joy Swartz for the American Quilt Study Group's
Quilt Study in Red and Green, 2010
Joy did a great job of finding the right green.
When choosing a green to match the overdyed look you
have to consider whether you want to do the original grassy color,
or the lime green, the color shift visible today.
Moda offers two Bella Solids:
Bella Solids Pistachio (lighter) and Leaf
Sherri McConnell used both in this pieced block.
And then you have to decide whether you are looking to get that depth of color. An approximation of the over-dyed look is in the perfect batik or hand-dye.
You might have to fussy cut around the figures
but batiks can give you that blue/green---yellow/green combination
similar to the old natural greens.
Reproduction star by Becky Brown.
She found a swirly green print with the right range.
Another option is to use the wovens called shot cottons,
which are one shade of warp and another of weft.
The crossed yarns give you a sense of depth.
The darker shot cotton is Pepper Cory's Tea Green
and the lighter is Kaffe Fassett's Chartreuse.
Pistachio in Moda's CrossWeaves is scheduled for 2015 delivery.
Sue Garman's Potted Tulips
The major factor is matching the color, something Sue Garman is good at.
The wrong green just looks wrong.
It's never Kelly green as in these recent appliques.
Setting idea for your stack of star blocks:
Gang the stars into a nine patch like Sara Keplar did. See her 1851 quilt
at the top of the page.
Alternate plain squares cut 6-1/2" with your 6"
star blocks. Then alternate those 18" blocks with plain blocks
Barb Vedder did this chain of stars a few years ago. She set her nine-patch blocks on the straight. Sara Keplar set hers on a diagonal. Either way the quilt grows fast. It could cover Rhode Island if you can't stop making stars.
One More Thing about Overdyed Greens
These greens of over-dyed blue and yellow are a good clue to a mid-19th century quilt. They were quite popular with quiltmakers but you rarely find them in clothing. About 1880 a change occurred in green colors because of a change in dye chemistry. The vibrancy of the over-dyed, natural greens was replaced by a flatter, duller green. We'll return to these greens from synthetic dyes later in the year.
An end-of-the-19th-century applique with a synthetically-dyed green
fading to khaki.