Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 42: Sprigged Muslins & Indiennes

Amy A's repro star could be described in many ways.
This week we'll consider the fashion terms
sprigged muslin and Indiennes.

The Time Warp is going back a century or so from 1900 last week to 1800 this week.

Sprig muslin star on chintz
by Becky Brown

Whether your regency reading is textile history or Georgette Heyer's romances you've seen the words Sprig Muslin before.

Sprig or sprigged muslin refers to a fine white cotton, embroidered or woven with a pattern. The design was often white on white as in the ruff collar worn by Miss Lockhart Alexander, portrait by John Hoppner. 

But a contrasting color on white was also popular.

Emma Corbett Making Childbed Linen 
During A Voyage At Sea (detail)

There is much discussion in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey about Catherine's "sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings," perhaps resembling the dress in the 1794 illustration of the fictional Emma Corbett. 

Ackermann's Repository
featured a swatch of block-printed 
sprigged cotton in an 1813 issue.

Printing cotton was all about imitating more expensive fabrics so there was a large market for block-printed, sprigged muslin that imitated embroidered cotton.

Fine muslin with printed sprigs from the Copp
Collection at the Smithsonian Institution

We've discussed these cotton prints before in different categories. The technology is wood block printing; the set design is often a foulard/diagonal grid. But the style terms are sprigged muslin or Indiennes.

See woodblocks here:

Foulards here:

Ackermann's Repository showed "Muslin Patterns"
in 1815.

Muslin to us is an inferior weave, but in the early days of cotton clothing in the West, muslin referred to a fine, light weave. It was often a synonym for cotton.

This week we'll consider early prints in terms of style---No one in Jane Austen's novels ever mentions a block-printed, cotton foulard, but sprigged muslins come up frequently. Sprig refers to a simple, small floral---"a sprig of lavender." These prints initially were imported to the west from India, so another name refers to their origins: Indiennes

Swatches of Indiennes, "Toilles de Cotton" imported through 
Marseilles, France

The word Indiennes initially meant any printed cotton from India.

 And then came to mean cotton printed elsewhere in imitation of Indian style.

Detail of a British quilt, 1820s

From my book America's Printed Fabrics 1770-1890:
"... a small isolated figure set in diagonal repeat. Figures fall in a half-drop repeat with rows aligned in staggered fashion, giving the over-all effect of a diamond grid. The figure may be a flower, leaf, paisley cone, or motif so abstract it is identified only as a mignonette (little fancy). The print style with its diagonal, neat design is also known as an Indienne, a copy of an Indian-style print."

Chintzes and sprigs, reproduction hexagons
by Georgann Eglinski

Repro block by Becky Brown
A multicolored sprigged muslin as background.
The set style is a floral trail.

Sprig Muslin Star by Bettina Havig

Repro by Bettina Havig
A tossed set in a sprigged muslin as background.

A grid set as background by Bettina.
All these sets are variations of Indiennes and sprigged muslins.

The Indienne style is still an important category of fabric design today. Here are three new prints from Moda, coming out in November, 2015, that aren't being marketed as reproduction prints, but of course they are. These basic figures have been printed in thousands of subtle variations over the centuries.

What to Do With Your Stack of Stars?
Piece Them Into a Garden Maze.

Quilt from about 1830. 
Stars set in a pieced sashing
we call Garden Maze.

Collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum

Despite its complexity, the set is found in early quilts.

Johann Kimmel painted a quilt with a garden maze set in
 his 1814 picture The Quilting Party. 
There might be X patchwork blocks barely visible,
or the blocks could be unpieced...

like this mid-19th-century quilt from Ruth Finley's collection.

Quilt date-inscribed 1830.

A green calico star from the end of the 19th century.

Pook and Pook auction house sold this beautiful 
mid-19th-century example in 2010.

I could tell you how to make a quilt much like this for 6" stars.
But Dawn Heese has already done it.

Her Pathways quilt with 25 six-inch stars finishes to 66" x 78"

The pattern is in her 2014 book
Autumn Splendor

One More Thing About Sprigged Muslin

"denying me a fmall fum to purchafe a piece of fprigged muflin"
Problems in a marriage 200 years ago---
 related to fabric purchases.

"La, if you have not got your spotted muslin on!"
Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Other names include
"Spotted Muslin"
And "Book Muslin"

Swatch number 4 (lower right) in this page from Ackermann's Repository in 1809 is captioned "Printed book muslin for evening wear," according to textile historian Florence Montgomery. She discussed muslin in Textiles in America, 1650-1870. Book muslin was another name for the same stuff, but referred to the way it was folded for sale---similar I guess to our words flat-fold today.

See a preview of Montgomery's book with a muslin discussion on page 304 by clicking here at Google Books:


Nancy A. Bekofske said...

I first heard of sprigged muslin when studying Austen in college in 1978, many years before I Started quilting and become interested in quilt history and antique fabrics. Luckily our professor covered the material culture of Austen's time. We learned what a sprigged muslin was, and what color were puce gloves, and about the many kinds of carriages.

Sally said...

I re-read "America's Printed Fabrics 1770-1890" (amazing book) just yesterday and noted 'sprigged muslins' as a type I needed to separate from regular shirtings as I have with the conversationals! Once again, thanks for the delightful lesson!