I haven’t forgotten the plan to keep adding early prints to the Flower Patch collection here at Two Threads Back. I just lost sight of it for a little while. Literally.
Occasionally I get hit by a frantic cleaning frenzy and start to clear out and organize everything, almost compulsively. Yet every time I do, I forget where I’ve moved stuff. Out of sight, out of mind. The “out of mind” part is especially fitting.
Anyway, I opened a box today and there they were, the quilt pieces, waiting reproachfully for some attention. So I selected a wild little print, an early calico reminiscent of an animal pattern: leopard, amoeba, tortoiseshell? Hmm. I prefer the feline. Like the others, it dates to the first quarter of the 19th century, probably c.1810.
But really, what Regency lady would dare to wear it? It’s certainly not for the fainthearted, a milk-and-water miss. Or am I being too…catty?
Perhaps I should have titled this “What Do You Do When Old Looks New?” These stripes are from the same early 19th century quilt as all the other Flower Patch samples, but they look so modern to me that if I weren’t completely sure about their age, I’d think someone was sneaking in new fabric. However, I’m convinced that all the different fabrics date to within the same few years. (Any fabric experts passing this way are welcome to call and opine!)
I could easily see this pattern on a man’s shirt today. But what would it have been used for then – gowns, aprons, children’s clothes? These have the same glazed finish that many of the others do, and I’ve added the very last picture to try to show that.
There once was a lady who lived and sewed in New England, way back around 1810. She had a little girl who wanted to help, and so she taught her how.
This lady (I’ll call her Mary because there’s a 27.4% chance that was her real name) was making a simple quilt out of four patch squares. Calico was dear, so she used every teensy scrap she had to make the patches.
She gave Betsy (I’ll call Mary’s daughter Elizabeth because there’s a 14.3% chance that was her real name) some squares to practice on. Betsy wanted the pretty patterns to work with, but Mary was reluctant to use those for lessons, so she compromised. One print, one plain.
Well, Betsy finished her block, and Mary finished 89 others. Then she packed them all away. They were never made up, but remained in a box in the attic for 200 years. Don’t you wonder why?
It might be a stretch, but these Flower Patches of yellow, white, and brown reminded me of a photo I’d seen in a costume history book. I just couldn’t recall where! All I could remember was that it was very yellow and had something to do with parasols and a theme exotic to western eyes, like something from the “Orient.”
Finally, I found this illustration from Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915, by Sharon Sadako Takeda. (Fabulous book!) It’s definitely yellow. And the pattern is certainly exotic. The quilt fabric, however, is heavily glazed, and I have no idea whether it was used for apparel or furnishings. I re-read the section on yellow dyes in Susan Greene’s Wearable Prints hoping to identify the type, but decided I’m too inexperienced for that.
As for date, the little bit of text printed on the back of one of the pieces was an enticing clue. I was surprised to see how many early publications appeared after a keyword search. Even after I filtered the results by spelling and phrasing, there were way too many to pin it down. And I found that many publishers “borrowed” and reprinted much more often than I would have expected – even for that era. But I did get it narrowed to circa 1808 or ’09, the British Register, Political Register, Annual Register, Literary Register, Cobbett’s Register…. At that point, I guess it registered with me that the exact source would remain uncertain.
Here’s a flower patch for the lovely month of May since it is (now!) a pretty spring color. The print is similar to the others I’ve posted, but the mint green color is unusual. Actually, I’m not sure exactly what the original shade was, because you can see that it has faded unevenly – dyes of the era were notorious for their fickleness! Unlike the other fabrics, it does not have a shiny new glaze, since it must have been washed and worn earlier in its life.
Time for a short post before Christmas! Here is a patch in Christmas red and green, with a little black accent. Once again it has the peculiar (to my eyes anyway) mouse-squiggle-alien creature-seed pod-flower design. Buti? Boteh? “Shawl pattern”? Indian import or English version? I don’t know. But I do know these patterns on calico show up a lot in the first decade or so of the 19th century. If you search for Ackermann’s Repository, the plates with fabric swatches attached, you’ll see them in many dress prints.
I chose another pattern for the season, and in honor of Thanksgiving week, it’s one with leaves! But to be quite frank, it’s pretty much… not pretty. Perhaps the whole pattern was nicer, and it’s only this snippet that is less than attractive to me.
The maker was certainly wanting to use it though, because she had to piece the piece. You can see just how tiny the scraps were, and it amazes me that she made the effort. Keep in mind the whole hexagon is only 2 inches across!
Something else that I find surprising in these sections is just how many of them have their original glazed finish, or sizing. Perhaps they were only cutting scraps, not from worn out garments. Even though times were changing, fabric itself still had more value than the average worker’s time. And it’s not just the fact that the scraps retain their glazing, I’m really surprised that so many of the pieces have it at all, enough to make them very shiny. I have to angle the photo “just so” to limit the reflection. Hmm… something to reflect on….