Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rachel Littler Bodley and a Patchwork Mystery

Rachel Littler Bodley (1831-1888)

This carte-de-visite (CDV) photograph of a young woman has been described as a woman wearing a Balmoral skirt.


Peterson’s Magazine 1861
 Balmoral skirt:
a striped or plaid underskirt
revealed by a turned-up (retroussé) overskirt.


If you look closely she is holding or
wearing a patchwork item over that striped underskirt.

Who is she and what is that bound piece of patchwork?

From her hairdo and the her clothing we
can guess the photo is from about 1860.
The woman is identified as Rachel Littler Bodley of
Cincinnati, Ohio, who would have been about
30 years old in 1860.



The objects in the photo tell us something about her. Note the microscope and glass vial on the desk. Rachel was a chemist, the first woman professor of chemistry at a medical school when she became Chair of Chemistry and Toxicology at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1865. She may have posed for this portrait then, or perhaps it was a celebration of an earlier triumph in 1862 when she became a professor of natural sciences at the Cincinnati Female Seminary.

The objects on the floor and plant stand include books,
perhaps her science and medicine books plus 
a copy of a privately printed book she finished in 1865.

Rachel Bodley's Catalogue of Plants
Contained in the Herbarium of Joseph Clark.


The basket at her feet and the one on the plant stand may be full of plant specimens symbolizing her interest in botany.

But the piece of triangle patchwork? 
It certainly looks like an overskirt.

Bodley's papers are at Drexel University, but I can't find the source for the CDV. 

I think I'll go as Rachel Bodley if I ever go to a Civil War re-enactment.

Read her book here at Google Books:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Starsin a Time Warp 7: Madder-Style Prints

Reproduction star in madder-style prints by Becky Brown

Vintage quilt about 1870
Many madder stars set in chrome-yellow sashing. Quilt 
from the Holstein collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.


Madder-dyed prints filled the scrapbag of the 19th-century quiltmaker. 

"Union Prints Warranted Madder Colors"
guarantees the label from the collection of the American Textile History Museum.

See a page of their bolt labels advertising madder colors at this link:

Vintage star quilt from about 1840-1890
The dyers called the process Madder-Style

Madder style prints were popular due to many factors. 
  • It was an inexpensive (if complicated) dye process that produced a range of color. 
  • The dyes were colorfast.
  • The colors were considered quite appropriate for women's clothing (as Turkey red or Chrome orange were not.) .
  • Madder calicoes were a mid-19th-century fashion fad for clothing  perhaps because these were the colors in the equally fashionable Kasmir (paisley) shawls of India.
A vintage madder-style cotton imitating a hand-woven
wool shawl print, about 1870. We call it
a paisley.

The paisley print above shows the variety of colors obtained from one dye by manipulating the various mordants or metal salts that fix the dye to the fabric. This process of mordant-printing allowed several characteristic shades, most tending towards red. (I'm not sure how that gray blue was printed.)

1. Chocolate Brown. Customers and dyers have long called the darkest brown Chocolate.

Here's S.F.'s first reproduction star, a lovely combination
of madder reproductions with chocolate.

Chocolates and shirtings, reproduction blocks by
Bettina Havig.


Reproduction star by Bettina  in a plum paisley from my Ladies' Album.


2. Plum. Madder also produced a dark purple-red brown called Plum in the early-19th-century and Puce later on.

Vintage star from about 1840-1890

3. Miscellaneous browns from medium to light---all on the warm side or red side of the color wheel.


The more greenish or yellow-browns in this vintage block were probably produced
by different dyes. The star points are definitely madder-style.



3 vintage blocks taken from an old top probably about
1870

4. Orange. Shades from cinnamon to pumpkin to terra-cotta.
(Double pink is actually a madder-dye, but a different process
so the printers didn't classify it as madder-style)


Reproduction from Lisa at Ivan& Lucy blog

Reproduction Print: 
Nineteenth Century by Froncie Quinn, Hoopla

Vintage block, maybe 1830-1850

A variation on the orange is a pinkish-orange, not very bright, tending towards peachy.

Vintage block, perhaps 1840-1860.
Madders are hard to date because they were printed over
such a long period of time.


Victoria Carroll's repro block.

These peachy oranges are harder to find than the browns and the reds.

Reproduction Print: Paula Barnes

Oranges were featured in my Moda line
Civil War Crossings from several years ago.

Reproduction block, North Star by Sanguine Stitcher

5. Madder red. A brick red, warm, reddish-brown, robin's breast red... You do find it in solids as in the North Star above.

A recipe for a madder-style printed plaid from the circa 1830 George Haworth recipe book in the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society. See a post about the manuscript here:

Reproduction star block by Jeanne Zyck from madder reds in my
Civil War Jubilee collection

Reproduction Print: Savannah from Makower

Reproduction quilt: Cinnamon Stars by Jo Morton
Fabric and quilt by Jo, who often features 
madder reds in her excellent reproduction collections.

It's difficult for beginning stash collectors to distinguish between madder red and Turkey red.

I found a good example of vintage madder red on the left at Cyndi's Busy Thimble blog. On the right some vintage Turkey reds from my collection. It takes time to learn the differences. Madder reds tend to be duller; they tend to have different colors in the figures. To confound the issue, both red print styles are obtained from madder dye. Turkey red is more complicated and was more expensive.

Here's Amy's first repro block: It's red with yellow figures---
just like Turkey red, but I would classify this more as madder red.

Judie Rothermel reproduction print.
A little warm gold is good as an accent---which
of course confuses the issue with Turkey red.

Vintage print with madder red, orange, chocolate, white background showing through plus a yellow gold. It's madder style rather than Turkey red style.

And so is this vintage red block. Again, there is blue
in the points but you can't call it Turkey red style.

Vintage Turkey red solid---it's brighter, redder.
I realize the issue is like trying to decide if tomatoes are a vegetable or a fruit. 

Well what's the worst that can happen? You bought it for Turkey red and it's more madder-style. They are both mid-19th century fads and make a repro quilt look authentic. Quilters mixed them. Red was red.


Quilting Twin Keryn is working on this reproduction star in 2015.

What to Do With Your Stack of Star Blocks?
Alternate Simple Applique Blocks.

Froncie Quinn did a copy of the Sarah Johnson quilt at the Shelburne Museum
for her Hoopla Patterns Shelburne Repoductions. Here's the center as a miniquilt.

And a version of the center detail by Rosemary Youngs.

Sarah Johnson surrounded her center with a field of stars and alternate plain blocks. The  quilt is dated 1826. See the pattern here:

Here's a detail of a mid-19th century quilt that Fourth Corner Antiques
posted on their online shop inspiring me to trace around some 5" leaves.

One More Thing About Madder

Vintage quilt about 1870-1890
The vegetable dye madder must be combined with mordants of metal salts to create fast colors. The browns were mordanted with iron. Iron rusts. Madder prints rust too. The dark brown stripes above are oxidizing---reacting to the oxygen in the air and disintegrating.  


It looks like all the madder browns in this mid-century quilt are 
tendering (rotting).

The more iron mordant the darker the brown. The more iron mordant the more fragile
the old print. Dark brown figures and backgrounds are often the first to fall apart in an antique. We don't use madder dyes anymore so browns are much more stable.



A collection of  vintage books covered in madder-style cotton prints, Skinner Auctions

More evidence of how common and inexpensive madder prints were. I'm inspired to to cover all my books.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Confederate Quilts"

Linsey nine-patch quilt
Did people refer to home-woven linsey quilts
as Confederate Quilts?

Regina Brant 1840
This is one of the few home-woven, wool/cotton fabric quilts I've seen with a date on it. The machine stitching and the print on the back indicate it was finished after 1840, however, probably after the Civil War. The signature style also seems inconsistent with a date of 1840. Shouldn't Regina have embroidered that signature in cross-stitch? The stitch style and the color of the thread also look late-19th century. Too bad the home woven plaids and solids offer us no assistance in dating the quilt.

A digital search for the two words Confederate Quilt does come up with one reference to a quilt of  home-woven fabric..


Newspapers printed an account of "Women's Wear in Wartime," which may have originated in the Charlotte Observer in 1905. The article was copied in many other papers, North and South, in 1905 and 1906.


The unknown author recalled:
"We had one cotton mill to spin a warp. The people stood in line to get a bunch of cotton for warp. The filling was yarn, cotton, flax and tow. We got our dyestuff from the forest...There was a great rivalry among the women to see who could have the prettiest dress. I have a quilt made of cotton and linen called a Confederate quilt."
The fabric she remembers was home woven cotton and linen. One sees more quilts made of combined wool and cotton.

In her article "South Carolina Quilts and the Civil War" in Uncoverings 1985, Laurel Horton writes that home manufactured cloth was "generically called confederate homespun. 'Confederate' was a term applied to many homemade, generally inferior items, such as 'confederate' coffee made from peanuts..." But, she notes:
"None of the makeshift 'confederate' quilts are known to survive."

Linsey nine-patch quilt, date?

In the thirty years since she did that research we still know little about homespun quilts made during the years of the Confederacy.

One problem is in dating the linsey and other homespun fabrics. They looked much the same throughout the 19th century so determining whether homespun fabric was made in 1790, 1860 or 1890 is difficult.

Home-woven fabric on the reverse side of a wool calimanco
quilt from the 18th century.
Missisquoi Historical Society Collections in Quebec.

The blue is probably wool, the lighter color linen:
traditional linsey woolsey.

Similar fabric in a Tennessee quilt, last half of the 19th century,
blue wool, white cotton.

Above and below, linsey quilts documented in the Quilts of Tennessee
Project, pictures from the Quilt Index, probably post-Civil War.


Other hits in online searches for "Confederate quilt" seem to mean a generic name for a Southern quilt. In the article below a Confederate Quilt was raffled. The only description: it "was a very handsome one."


Ocala (Florida) Banner,
June 30, 1905



Read Laurel Horton's article "South Carolina Quilts and the Civil War" in Uncoverings 1985 at this link at the Quilt Index: