Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 29: Lapis Blue

Val's repro star for white ground chintz
captures the popular red, white and blue color scheme.

Vintage chintz

In the 18th- and early 19th-century a color style combining red and a bright blue was quite the thing.
The blue was indigo; the red from madder.

The dyes used to print the color combination
worked quite differently, making the popular
palette difficult for printers to produce.

Early-19th-century quilt
Printers had to leave a white halo or space between the red and the blue.

Detail of a hand-painted and block-printed Indian palampore.
Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Some designers planned the gaps between the reds and the blues. Others had a more devil-may-care attitude.

Early-19th-century blotch-ground chintz.

In 1808, textile engineers figured out how to print reds (or other colors) registered right next to an indigo blue.

Calicoes from old blocks showing madder reds and indigo blues 
printed adjacently without the intervening white spaces 
that had been necessary prior to 1808.

Designers still could add white for effect but note how the
red touches the blue especially in that red scallop.

The mills called these red on blue prints Lapis prints,

Lapis cufflink

using the name of the vivid blue stone. Another name
was lazulite for another blue mineral.

From William Crooke's printing manual.

In 1874 Crookes described, "A modification of indigo Lazulite, neutral, or lapis style."
He outlined the complicated formula, even though "the lazulite style is at present in very little request...As fashion may revive at any moment, it should not be overlooked."

Fashion did not revive, so the blue and red combination is a good clue to an early quilt. And something to add to your shopping list.

Why is it important to know the difference between a true lapis
print and a blue ground with white haloes? If you are a quilt
detective you can use the information as a clue in dating.
The lapis print above had to be printed after 1808.


Lexington quilter found a stripe with red and blue
separated by white for one of her repro blocks.

Becky couldn't find any red, blue and white chintzes in her
stash. Here's the closest red and blue priints she could come up with.
But they are terrific blocks. Not only will the bird remind us
to buy some lapis style prints; she can remind us how good primary colors look together.
And why people wanted red and blue in the same print.

Another by Becky.
Can we count the blue and red berry as a lapis print.
Why not???

S.F.'s repro star has a copy of a blue ground chintz. The reproduction gives a hint of the haloes once necessary to print blue and red in the same design.

Stella Bella's small repro quilt makes the most of a
 traditional blue and red palette.

As does Austin Manor from Harriett Hargrave.

It doesn't really matter if your reproduction prints
are true lapis style or just blue and red chintzes and calicoes.

Deatil of a Hickory Leaf repro quilt by me,
 showing two red + blues in the upper left block

Broderie Perse by Roseanne Smith
Center of a quilt.

Above and below are blue-ground chintzes Terry Thompson
and I did over a decade ago for Moda.

Look for blue ground chintzes and smaller-scale prints
with lots of red in the figures.
The print is in the eage in the top border below.

Barbara Fritchie Star
by Jean Stanclift and Shirlene Wedd

Karla Menaugh and I designed the pattern and picked the fabric.
Jean and Shirlene did their deft sewing.
One of our favorite quilts from our old Sunflower Pattern Co-op days.

Stripes from Nancy Gere

Ginger Coral by John Robshaw
And, as always with these early prints, look at upholstery reproductions.

What to Do with Your Stack of Stars?
Shade the composition.

Quilt dated 1832 by Rebecca Burroughs,
 possibly Pennsylvania

Nine Patch from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

Quilt dated 1832 from Chester County, Pennsylvania

Similar idea in a nine patch from the collection
of the American Museum in Bath---a hot design idea in 1832 in Pennsylvania???

Early quilters favored a central focus. They shaded the overall composition to create one, arranging the repeat blocks in areas of lights and darks.

Baby Blooming Nine Patch by Lynn Stalowy
Reproduction top.

Or one might shade the alternate setting squares as well as the blocks. The Blooming Nine Patch was an idea from Blanche Young's 1996 book Tradition with a Twist.

Simple stars could be substituted for nine-patches.

Reproduction top by Bobbi Finley and friends

We shaded the setting squares to mimic a strip quilt. The fabrics were strike-offs from my Lately Arrived from London line. The blues were never actually printed to be sold. We had too many choices and that colorway had to go. (Too bad for blues fans including me.)

There are many ways to shade the overall composition.

The star quilt on the cover of the McCloskey-Martin book Variable Star Quilts shows shading without the medallion-like focus you often see in early quilts. The shading moves the eye across the composition.

One More Thing About Blue and Red Prints

Detail of a foulard-set florette with a white halo
from an early 19th-century quilt

Even after 1808 when blues and reds could be printed adjacently without the intervening white spaces printers continued to include the halo. The calico above is in a style we might call a provincial print, a mignonette or an Indienne. The necessity for a halo became a style in itself. 

Savonnerie by Sandy Klop/American Jane

The reproductions of these Provincial style prints tend to be rather minimalist lately and the blues are quite intense. But now you know what historical styles are the inspiration.

We'll discuss these classic prints later, but this week's a good time to see if you have any red on blue or blue on red provincial prints in your stash.


Barb said...

Lovely examples of Lapis Blue - can't wait to dive into my fabrics.

Suzanne A said...

I think you were photographed in front of that Hickory Leaf repro being interviewed for a tv documentary. A friend who can really (!) sew offered to make something for me, we had both seen that show and I said that was the pattern I wanted. I never got it because we could never find that quilt again to copy. Nice to see it here! Is there a pattern for sale somewhere?

viridian said...

I think I have some fabrics that will work - purchased a long time ago! This style of fabric is not reproduced very often, is it?

Jeanne said...

I've not heard of lapis prints before, but I should have some red and blue fabrics.

Cyndi said...

Another great posting with excellent information! The Hickory Leaf pattern is in Barbara's book, "America's Printed Fabrics 170-1890"...........have always wanted to make it too! Along with a couple hundred others!

Barbara Brackman said...

Thanks Cyndi for answering Suzanne's question.

Suzanne A said...

Thanks Cyndi & Barbara. I have that book! Now I have to make the quilt. . . I love how it's scrappy, the only scrappy leaf and reel quilt I've seen, and I like this leaf better than the traditional Oak Leaf.

Gypsy Quilter said...

Fascinating! Did they use hand-engraved metal rollers for this process or something else?

Cynthia@wabi-sabi-quilts said...

I wish the fashion would "revive"! I love those rich indigos with reds. And I too am drawn to that scrappy Hickory Leaf.

Barbara Brackman said...

Back to the scrappy Hickory Leaf. Too bad more 19th century applique wasn't scrappy. I was inspired by a quilt found in the California Quilt Project.