Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 11: Purple

Reproduction block by Bettina Havig

Vintage block from the last half of the 19th-century. 
Mary Barton collection.
Picture from the Quilt Index.

Reproduction block by Becky Brown

Vintage quilt, 1870-1890

We've been making some vivid blocks in the first ten
weeks of the QuiltAlong, so purple reproductions will
be a change.

Some of Bettina's blocks

Much of the purple we see in quilts from the 19th century is muted. 

It may have left the mill quite bright but light seems to have a strong effect on the color, fading it to brown.

Vintage block from a quilt in the collection of the Benton County (Oregon) Museum

Here's a brownish swatch removed from an old top.
Notice the tiny strip of brighter purple in the seam at the bottom.

Sometimes you find a swatch that hasn't really seen the light of day because it's tipped into a book (glued into a book).

Swatches tipped into Persoz's 1845 dye book

How purple were all these purples at one time?

Vintage quilt about 1880-1900

Vintage quilt, perhaps 1870-1890

You can see the purple setting squares fading on the fold lines.

Mid-century quilt from Judy's Antique Quilts.
This one's held up well.

Vintage block from the early 19th century. 
Collection of Old Sturbridge Village.
Again this early block may be vivid because it was kept in the dark.

Faded or not, lilac makes a nice contrast to the brighter colors of the time.

One often finds the purples mixed with madder reds, browns and oranges.

My guess is that the purple is from logwood dye, which worked well with the madder mordant-dyeing method, or it may be that madder itself could produce the color.

Here's a bolt label or cloth label from the collection of
the American Textile History Museum:
Madder and Lilac together.
Read more about labels at their site:


Reproduction North Star block by Heidi/Cranberry Chronicles

Purple grounds in chintzes go back to the 18th century. For the mid-19th-century you'll probably want to stick with monochromatic prints.

Judie Rothermel reproduction
And you have to decide how purple you want to go.
Should it be purple as it came off the bolt?

Paula Barnes, Companions

Or purple as it appears today?

From Betsy Chutchian's Wrappers

Judie's Authentic Minis

Terry Thompson's Merchants Wife

Some purples suitable for mourning prints from my 
Civil War Jubilee collection for Moda.
I found this color in a swatch book---not exposed to light.

Reproduction block by Becky Brown with purples from that line.

You see redder violets too as in this Collection
for a Cause Mill Book 1892 coming soon.

And look for purples mixed with madder shades.

From a Shelburne Museum collection

What To Do with Your Stack of Stars?
Build a square around your block.

Grandma Laurel's blocks-
Fabrics: Dancing in the Rain 
from Edyta at Laundry Basket Quilts with
some bronzey-browns

Turn your stars on point and add triangles to the edges.
Cut squares 9-3/4" and cut each into 4 triangles for a 6" block.

Top by CottonCharmQuilts-
Fabrics: Wicasset from Minick & Simpson

Both tops above were made from the Schnibbles pattern Madeline from Carrie Nelson of Miss Rosie's Quilt Company (Carrie now blogs for Moda, YAY!) See her at her new job here:

This set is particularly good for sampler blocks that are not the same size. Make the corner triangles extra-large and then trim all the blocks to the same size later.

Another way to get the same look is to alternate x blocks with the stars.

Battlefields from Country Threads

One More Thing About Purple
British Plate-Print, about 1780
Winterthur Museum #1960.85
"printed in purple but now brown." 
See page 214.

Linda Eaton's new edition of  Printed Textiles: British and American Cottons & Linens 1700-1850 from the Winterthur Museum emphasizes the fugitive nature of purple colors. The catalog focuses on furnishing fabric and shows numerous examples of furnishings "printed in purple but now brown." Drapes and bedspreads are usually exposed to more light so more apt to fade, but I am having a hard time imagining all these lovely browns being an even lovelier purple when new from the mill. I'm going to have to change my thinking.

You need to own Eaton's new Winterthur catalog. It's the current last word on Printed Furnishings.

Read other posts I've done on purple:


Barbara Black said...

Now you're speaking my language--eager to make 2 of these!

Virginia said...

Always enjoy your posts. I have had the opportunity to see "good" purples in English quilts--ones that aren't fading or turning brown even in quilts that have been used. Wish I knew what dyes they were using!

Debra said...

Oh, I have been waiting for purple! One of my favorites and the repros are so interesting. I guess I will be making at least two blocks again this week! Thanks!

Cynthia@wabi-sabi-quilts said...

Thanks Barbara for another informative post! I never knew that purple faded so much. Time to dig into the purple scrap bin - decisions, decisions.

Louise said...

I knew purple was just around the bend. I have a rather small collection of them but looking forward to using them.
I am really enjoying your wonderful history lessons. Thank you.

Baxtermom said...

Love all the information and I can't stop making blocks. I think I have about 40 already. I keep thinking of new combinations which each new lesson.

Linda said...

Hi Barbara - I have been enjoying the star blog. However I truly need help understanding red. I have a hard time deciding if some reds are blue or an orange red. Then there are the names of red like turkey & madder?
If we a making star blocks from a span of time how do we know what star background to use?

Unknown said...

Barbara, would this be a time to use some of the purples/lavenders from your Hartfield collection, or would the early English fabrics be better used at a later time, or not at all?

Faunacoco said...

I think if you use the large 9 in.² cut into quarters and attach those to make a square in a square with the star block, you end up having so many bias edges that then have to be sewn and are in danger of stretching. I’ve been looking up square in a square patterns and formulas. I think if you cut two squares, sized 5 1/4 inches and then cut those in half diagonally, the bias edges are then attached to your star square, and when you so all the squares together your sewing on grain lines and preventing stretching.I hope this makes sense!

Tabatha said...

Great article. I am trying to help a friend locate the name and a source for a civil war reproduction fabric she bought in the early 2000s( i believe). It is purple and I am just not finding anything on it. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you , Tabatha