Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 35: Cretonne

Becky Brown reproduction star,
with a bronzey/cretonne look and large scale figures.

"The Popular New Cretonnes"
Woman's World in the twenties.
The border shows children's prints and florals.

Star quilt with cretonne alternate blocks and border,
About 1880
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Woman with cretonne drape about 1880

Cretonnes, like earlier chintzes, were designed as furnishing fabrics,not really meant for clothing.

After the Civil War, as America went crazy for calico. Small-scale dress prints manufactured by American mills dominated women's at-home clothing and their quilts. Large-scale prints, the European chintzes that had been so popular in quilts made before the war, came to be "chintzy" in their eyes.

Charm quilt about 1880

Charm quilts were one result of the Calico Craze.
They may include a few large-scale furnishing prints
but the point here was collecting small-scale prints.

A similar quilt about 1910
with a cretonne on the reverse.

In 1861 the Ohio Cultivator warned women against two things:
1) Patchwork
2) And "old fashioned 'curtain calico' with its monstrous figures and glaring combination of colors."

An old-fashioned chintz quilt

Do NOT try this at home!

A new fashioned cretonne top about 1890. 
You couldn't get any less elegant than this, according
to the fashion arbiters.

You can see how "chintzy" began to imply something cheap and unfashionable. 

By the 1870s manufacturers avoided the word chintz and used the word cretonne. Cretonnes were the "proper thing for draperies, hangings, furniture covering, etc." according to the Sears catalog in the 1890s.

Cover of the Ladies Home Journal in 1921.
Chintz was back for decorating

What's the difference between a chintz and a cretonne? Time. Like the words reticule and handbag,
or petticoat and slip.
Comforter about 1900

The red and pink ground cretonnes here have a texture. 
They are twills with a diagonal raised surface rather
than plain weave.

American cretonnes were usually printed with synthetic dyes, sometimes on textured goods such as twills or crepes, so one way to tell a late-nineteenth-century cretonne from an earlier chintz is by texture. Early chintzes were rarely printed on a twill or a cotton sateen. Later cretonnes are often coarser or sleazier fabric. 

Cretonnes can be beautifully drawn and printed.
This one is French, printed in the late 19th-century bronze shades.

Another characteristic of later cretonnes is better registration. Improved technology permitted printers to precisely align figures. Greens were a single step process with no overlap of blue and yellow as in the old overprinted foliage. Backgrounds fit the figures without the overlap and outlines found in early chintzes.
New dyes allowed a wide range of color in cretonnes but many dyes were quite fugitive, particularly blues not derived from traditional indigo or Prussian blue.

Did the cretonne on the right bordering the triangle quilt fade?
Or was it always so shadowy?

Original document print for a cretonne repro
in my Arnold's Attic line of several years ago

Lots of olive and lots of pink in a bronze-style colorway.
That new brown style made these large-scale prints novel.

This one imitates a woven tapestry.

Many shades of blue were available

Cretonnes were popular for the back of an all-calico quilt or comforter. 
They were sometimes described as robe prints.

Black was newly available to printers so for the first time we see black-ground 
furnishing fabrics.


Carol Gilham Jones
Arnold's Attic
The red colorway of the leaf print above.

Becky Brown, Ladies Album.
Pink was a background possibility in the bronze style prints.

Another of Becky's blocks with a grayed blue figure
on medium brown ground.
Cretonnes are made to fussy-cut.

My Ladies' Album collection had an exotic Jacobean floral cretonne.

We at Moda explore these beautifully drawn late 19th-century cretonnes quite a bit. As I mentioned last week, Edyta Sitar has interpeted many bronze-style prints in small and large scale.

Heart's Content
Edyta Sitar for Laundry Basket Quilts

Edyta Sitar for Laundry Basket Quilts

A blue cretonne-style print from my Alice's Scrapbag

And a pink one from my upcoming collection
Old Cambridge Pike

Two by Nancy Gere
Look for romantic, well registered, naturalistic florals.
Here's your chance to use blacks in a repro quilt.

Celeste from Moda
The blue really captures the period color...
And it will not fade like the old cretonnes.

Vin du Jour by Three Sisters.

What To Do With Your Stack of Stars?
Copy the Quilt at the Top of the Page

The quilt from the LACMA collection at the top of the page has inspired several 
of today's quiltmakers.

Judy Severson---the unmitered stripe is
an important part of the look here.

Barb at  Fun with Barb

Barb has done it at least twice.

Jerrye Van Leer

One More Thing About Cretonne

Vintage quilt.
Not elegant. Chintzy as a matter of fact.

If an American word has cheap connotations you can always Frenchify it. (Do you French readers know we do that in America?) We pronounce the names of inexpensive stores as if they were French.

Zhay See Pennay for JC Penney
Tar-zhay for Target

When fabric manufacturers needed a new name for furnishing scale fabrics they came up with Cretonne, derived from Creton, a French town that had specialized in manufacturing a coarse cloth made from hemp. Cretonne (pronounced kree-tawn' by women who remember when it was popular) was synonymous with the word "chintz" between 1870 and 1950.

Pardon! as we try to say in French.


Jacqueline said...

The power of the pen is greater than that of the sword.

Wendy Caton Reed said...

Love your description of the fabric weave. I will do my best to find the "sleaziest" fabric I can find. Having a ball with my stars.

Barb said...

What a nice surprise to see my star quilts with Cretonne! Love the other examples too - maybe I'll have to make another. Third time is a charm

Sue in Marion said...

Three years ago, on a Friday afternoon in July, I was volunteering at the front desk at the Quilters' Hall of Fame. It had been a slow day, and I was straightening up the gift shop when I heard the front door. It was 5 minutes to closing, and when I walked out to see who was there, I saw a tiny little white-haired man walking with a cane, and assumed he was at the wrong address. I asked if I could help him, and he said yes, he'd like to make a reservation for the induction banquet for the new QHF Honoree the following week. I gave him a form, he wrote a check, and I saw that he had made a substantial donation. I'm thinking, who is this and where did he come from? Further conversation revealed that he had known QHF founder Hazel Carter for years, was the first man to win an award at Paducah, and he had designed a line of fabric with Barbara Brackman. It dawned on me that he was Arnold's Attic Arnold! It ended up that in 2014 we did an exhibit of his personal quilts and memorabilia, including the Arnold's Attic document prints. I do the display cases at the public library where his exhibit was, so I got to work with all his fabulous stuff. Including dozens of 3" 9-patches he pieced when he was seven years old (he's 88). We did another exhibit this past July of his family quilts, some of which were 175 years old. Arnold is truly a treasure and a wonderful, lovely person. He is now living in Carmel, Indiana, still independently. Last year he bought a new top-of-the-line Bernina and he still sews every day.

Sue in Marion said...

Is your new line, Alice's Scrapbag, from Arnold's Aunt Alice?

Barbara Brackman said...

Sue- Isn't Arnold a treasure? The Alice in Alice's Scrapbag is another Alice. Alice Browne who lived in Kansas.

Sue in Marion said...

He IS a treasure! I was just informed that he will have a small quilt in our Modern Quilt exhibit at the QHF in a couple of weeks.