Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp: 14 Rainbow or Ombre Prints

Reproduction star by Becky Brown
using a 20-year-old ombre print by Pilgrim & Roy.

Monument to Major Ringgold from a vintage Baltimore album

Many of today's quilters are familiar with rainbow, ombre or fondu prints through their use in Baltimore Album applique of the 1840s and '50s. The shaded stripes added dimension to the monuments and floral details.

A 1905 technical article explained the process of rainbowing, invented about 1820.
"The purpose of rainbowing is to arrange the colors or shades on a fabric so that they shall proceed gradually from the lightest to the darkest, the points where they touch becoming thereby imperceptible. The old system (fifty years old, at least) was to have from ten to twenty narrow boxes placed lengthwise at the end of the sieve, and a color lifter made to fit the boxes. The color lifters were filled with the different shades of color, which were transferred to the sieve and spread with a roller wrapped with soft cloth. The block was then dipped in the color and transferred to the fabric."

It's complicated!

Becky divided the center square into 4 triangles
and fussy cut a shaded blue.

Reproduction rainbow prints from myUnion Blues collection that's in shops now.
Today we print with a silk screen method.

Swatches showing rainbowing in Persoz's 1842 dyebook.
The backgrounds above are shaded, the figures remain the same color.

In this vintage swatch the orange dots are shaded as is the purple background in the stripe.

Quilt dated 1844 from the Connecticut project. Quilt Index photo.
Rainbow shading in a floral stripe added to the visual---what's the word I am looking
for ---chaos? But fashionable chaos.

A block from the Winterthur's collection.

The mid-19th-century purple here is more a stripe than a rainbow.

Vintage quilt, early 19th century. The multi-color rainbow print
catches our eye, but the brown stripe to the left is also
part of the rainbow fad.

Shaded grounds were fashionable behind stripes and in plaids, as well as under figures like florals and scrolls. American quilters had a particular affection for blues of varying intensities obtained with Prussian blue. Rainbow prints were fashionable in all colors from about 1840 to 1865. The fashion was revived about 1880 but dyes were different.

Vintage mid-century fabrics

Vintage  patchwork bag from about 1870-1900.
Both figure and ground in the dot
are shaded but not very skillfully. A quality rainbow
print shaded gradually.

Dress from about 1860
A stripe alternating a shaded rainbow print with
a floral serpentine stripe. The shading in the green
gives a plaid look to the fabric.

Woman wearing a rainbow stripe, about 1860


In SF's star the rainbow blue reproduction has a shaded ground.

Shaded reproduction print from my Metropolitan Fair collection. The figure
changes color here while the background remains the same.

From an old line by Terry Thompson and me: Calico Craze

The blues always catch your eye but don't forget
the madders, purples and browns.

My weekly pirated picture from Barbara Schaffer's blog

Nancy Gere often includes a shaded print
in her reproduction collections.

Shaded ground from a Pat Nickols collection.

Shaded figure from the Cumberland collection
by Fons and Porter (15 yeas ago????)

Sea to Shining Sea by Gaye Ingram.
You must have rainbow prints if you do Baltimore Album reproductions!

Star by Shawn
Many of us are holding on to the last scraps of this
rainbow blue Elly Sienkiewicz did years ago.

What To Do With Your Stack of Star Blocks?
Start Working on an Applique Vine Border

Vintage star quilt bordered with an deep applique vine,
Date-inscribed 1846, HAS.
From Stella Rubin's shop.

The quilt is evidence of the popularity of large plaids
and rainbow shading in 1846.

See more at Stella Rubin Antiques

Reproduction quilt, Marsha Fuller's Civil War Stars in Texas
from a pattern by Bits n Pieces.

Barbara Ann Wafer's Scrappy Stars with a border designed
by Mimi Dietrich

Even simple applique provides an attractive contrast to the geometry of the stars.

One More Thing about Rainbow or Fondu prints

Black and white photo of  irisé wallpaper.
The figure is shaded.

Shaded pattern was also popular in wallpaper. Different languages had different words for the popular fashion.Catherine Lynn in Wallpaper in America discussed the name:
"Some used the word ombré for what [the Alsatian inventor] called irisé, and, less frequently the phrase 'fondu style' was used in referring to papers that featured color shading. In the American wallpaper trade, they were called rainbow papers. Samuel Robinson of Washington, D.C. used this term in his 1826 advertisement for 'Rainbow Papers, all colors.' "

Fondu: French for melted or dissolved. An 1847 dye book explained: "FONDUS; is the name given by the French to a particular style of calico printing resembling the rainbow, in which the colours are graduated or melted (fondu) into one another, as in the prismatic spectrum."

Irisé: French for iridescent. Iris is the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Ombré: French for shaded or tinted. An 1858 lady's magazine didn't advise using "ombre silk" thread. "The sudden transition from light to dark, or vice versa, has the worst possible effect."

Rainbow: English for graduated color in the full spectrum

Moda makes some rainbow bias strips called Color Theory
Shaded vines?

See pages 58-61 for more on rainbow prints in my America’s Printed Fabrics, 1770-1890. C & T Publishing. 2004.


Sandy said...

Just when I thought "where the heck am I going to find one of those?" I recognized a print from my stash. OK then! :-)

viridian said...

I still have some of those Elly Sienkiewicz prints - somewhere in my closet. Must dig them out. Now I know why I have a wide and deep stash!

Jeanne said...

I found two so far in my stash this morning -- might be another one or two lurking somewhere :)

Mary Says Sew! said...

I've always loved these prints, even before I became interested in antique quilts. I love "Calico Craze", and wish I'd bought more when it was available. Thanks for showing all of these!

Louise said...

I can do this! I have a few of these amazing pieces in my stash....I think I might reconsider lightening my fabric collection. One never knows when you might need a particular piece. Thank you for another most interesting topic.

Jeanne said...

An off-topic smile and wave:
The full line of Union Blues arrived at my LQS today!!!
Jeanne :)