Textiles and the Triplett Sisters

Bannister Hall/Charles Swainson


Bannister Hall Printworks, famous for several bird chintzes, was founded in 1798 by Richard Jackson and John Stephenson. Located near Preston, Lancashire, it was the leading printworks for woodblock furniture chintzes during the 19th century. In 1804 Jackson and Stephenson would bring Charles Swainson into the company, eventually completely selling the company to him in 1809. Between 1809 and 1825 it was owned by Charles Swainson, and from 1825-1856 it was known as Charles Swainson & Company. The Swainsons would open a second “big mill” called Fishwick Mill, with John Birley & Sons. People still referred to the company by various names including Bannister Hall, The Big Mill, Birley & Sons, Swainson & Sons. Eventually, in 1892, Edmund Wright Stead would purchase the blocks, machinery, and more than 9,000 designs of Bannister Hall for the competitor...

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Inscribed Quilts


Studying all these Northern Chintz Style Quilts with signatures and presentation info got us thinking about how and when the craze started. We see the proliferation of signatures on the Baltimore album quilts and even in the deep South too. So, it wasn’t associated with just one area or region. The earliest known autograph album was created in 1466, but it would take until 1507 before the “album amicorum” or book of friends to really be established. In the mid 16th century it was fashionable and became common throughout Europe in the 17th century. In the United States, 1820s are usually the time cited of popularity. So, what inspired the writing on quilts? The creation of Indelible ink. It may well be that earlier quilts had signatures or notes that simply didn’t survive the passage of...

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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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