Textiles and the Triplett Sisters

To Dye: The Barks


In our last blog we briefly discussed quercitron (bark primarily from the Eastern Black Oak in the US) used in combination with cochineal. But quercitron was used on its own to create a color fast yellow. In the US local mills advertised the grinding of barks, which could be used for home dyeing or mulch. To see an 1844 ad about a Bark and Grist Mill follow this link.   In England the use of quercitron inspired a whole color scheme known as “drab style.” The 15 year patent for the dye ran out in 1799, which caused the drab style to be particularly fashionable in fabrics until 1807. Quercitron was used for block printed chintzs until about 1815.   Cedar and tanbark are two additional barks that are used for dyeing which creates a deep...
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To Die for Dye: Cochineal


When I give my program Red & Green Quilts for Xmas…NOT!, I usually don’t talk about cochineal. Instead, I tend to focus on Turkey red, a popular color fast dye in the 19th century. Shame on me! Here thousands of cochineal insects were literally dying to create a fabulous color red and I neglected to discuss. Cochineal is a dye that was and is still in use today. In fact, cochineal dyes are returning in popularity because they are natural, and water soluble yet resistant to degradation. In the 16th century the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire introduced cochineal to societies on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe there was no comparable color, the closest being crimson from the Kermes vermilio insect. Once the European market discovered carmine, the demand increased significantly. Even the Pope...
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Ooh là là, Chintz!


The second part of the Quilt History Retreat focused on Chintz; a longtime favorite of the Triplett Sisters. Well, not just the Triplett Sisters, who doesn’t love Chintz? (Okay, I do understand that there are some people that don’t like chintz, but given that fabrics beauty, it is really hard for me to comprehend.)   Chintz first made its way to Europe in 1498, when a Portuguese explorer named Vasco da Gama returned with the fabric from India. Shortly thereafter the popularity of the imported fabric led to a decline in profits of the French fabric and therefore it was banned in 1698. Which of course meant traders or smugglers continued to bring it into the country anyway.   In 1734, a French officer M. de Beaulieu sent home letters and actual samples of chintz fabric...
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C’est magnifique…oh là là!


After more than 2 years because of Covid cancellations, the annual Zieber Quilt History Retreat was finally able to meet again. This year the theme was Viva La France, with guest speaker Sandy Sutton and her textiles. Besides being an avid textile and quilt collector, her son lives in the Alsace region of France, which means she has lots of opportunities to acquire the textiles there. We started the retreat with an examination of "Toile de Jouy" or cloth from Jouy-en-Josas a town/suburb SW of Paris. (Note, when purchasing the train ticket to visit, be sure you use the full name of the town. When Kay and I visited the site, I almost got arrested/thrown off the train because she’d accidently purchased my ticket incorrectly for Jouy. Thankfully the train conductor took pity on me when...
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Quilt Blocks


When did the use of quilt blocks originate? Is it American in origin? When I was teaching a workshop in the Netherlands, I was asked this question, and I didn’t know the answer. Sometimes these questions provide me with a new research topic. One museum expert that was present at the class stated it was American in origin. Another person thought it began about mid-19th century with the Baltimore Album Quilts. I wanted data before making any statements. Occasionally I’ve looked for academic articles about the topic or read history of quilting books to see their answers. I’ve never written about it because I never really felt I had a solid answer. I decided the best way to get the answer was to track quilts by date. Then the answer wouldn’t be about “best guess.” Barbara...
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