Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 19: Serpentine Stripes

Reproduction star by Becky Brown

Vintage block, 1820-1850

Serpentine stripes, which snake along the fabric's surface, were quite popular in the first half of the 19th century. 

Vintage flowers set in a striped set, but a serpentine striped set.

We're changing our focus here, going back into the 1800-1840 era, when serpentine stripes were IT.

Detail of a cotton dress about 1820 from
Charles A. Whitaker auctions

Early Medallion framed by triangles of stripes---serpentine 
and straight (neat stripes, about which more later)

Serpentine stripe reproduction by Becky Brown

Vintage block, 1820-1840
Combination of a serpentine stripe with an indigo neat stripe.

Serpentine stripes add fussy-cut effects to hexagons
as in this early quilt. Also notice the border. 

It's 4 diamonds, 3 shaded one way, 1 another.

Valerie's purple repro block included a serpentine stripe in the center.

Another reproduction star by Becky
She and Valerie have the same print in different colorways.

Vintage block, 1820-1840-
Note the unusual shape that is pieced of the serpentine stripes. It fits with hexagons
and offers more fussy-cutting possibilities.

Rainbow shading in a serpentine stripe

Girl, about 1840

Undulating stripes soften the lines of the dress so curved stripes might have been a fashion demand. But rollers printed these stripes easily and well, so the fad could also have been caused merely by the novelty of the cylinder print machines.

Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection
at the University of Wisconsin

Detail of an early 19th-century scrap quilt. 
Curvy stripes add to the busyness of the classic chintz look.

Mill book with illustrations for fabric about 1825.


Turkey red and a purple stripe by Becky Brown
The purple looks like the 1825 swatches

Terry Thompson and I reproduced this print for Coral Gardens
back in the '90s.

Sharon and Jason Yenter have a lovely example
in their Circa 1825 line for In the Beginning...

used here in a reproduction from Busy Thimble blog

Nancy Gere may be the queen of serpentine stripes.
She reproduces them often and well.

Lori at Humble Quilts used that blue stripe above.

A reproduction dress seen at Hearts Full of Joy blog.

SF's block using a popular repro print.

It was in the Sarah Johnson line from the Shelburne Museum

Here it is again in Old Virginia by Mariann Simmons. The print is rather strange and
quite accurate.

A recent repro from Mary Koval's Edith

Val has a piece of another old favorite

What to Do With Your Stack of Stars?
Make Blocks of Different Sizes

Star Happy Quilts by Judy Martin

We're working with 6" stars but you could be making 3", 9" or 12" stars too. With a little bit
of extra setting fabric you can give these vintage-looking stars a more contemporary look.

America by Leere Aldrich

Winter Blues
from A Year of Cozy Comforts by Dawn Heese.
Dawn alternated a large star with a 9-patch pieced of small stars.

Your 6-inch stars in a Nine Patch block would finish to 18".
If you alternated 5 big stars (finishing to 18") and 4 nine patches.....

You'd need only 20 small stars to wind up with a 54" quilt.
The nine patches are called Cluster of Stars and are BlockBase pattern #1710.
Those big stars would be an excellent spot for a Serpentine Stripe.

One More Thing About Serpentine Stripes

The Smithsonian's History  Museum owns a quilt made
by Martha Washington and her granddaughter Eliza Custis.
The brown stripe in the center border is supposed to be one
of Martha's dresses

That serpentine stripe was reproduced during the Centennial in 1876. Note the stripes going both ways. It's a rather basic print, possibly American manufactured. It's probably a little too primitive to be commercially viable today. But now you know what to look for if you are channeling Martha.

Read more about the quilt here:

Repro by Becky Brown. 
She's added seams to the center
square to fussy-cut the serpentine stripe.

Read more about serpentine stripes in my book America's Printed Fabric, pages 37-39

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Varina Davis's Butterfly Quilt Part II

Detail of Varina Davis's Butterfly quilt
in the Museum of the Confederacy
See last week's post on its making:

Varina Howell Davis suffered a good deal of loss in her life. She outlived all four of her sons. In 1872, while living in Memphis, her youngest boy Billy died at 10 of diptheria, a common deadly childhood illness.

William Davis at about 6 years old

Varina's 1931 biographer Eron Rowland wrote that Varina sought solace in working for her church, St. Lazarus Episcopal.

The Davis's lived on Court Street in Memphis.
The historic house was demolished in the 1930s.

"It was during her stay in Memphis [1869- 1878]  that she began her famous quilt that became the wonder and admiration of so many of her friends." This is probably Varina's Butterfly quilt now in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy.

That quilt was actually begun in 1865 right after the Confederate surrender. The lavishly embroidered blocks obviously took some time to complete.

Jefferson and Varina Davis about 1868

Varina seems to have donated that quilt to the church in 1872 or 1873 for a fundraiser. She had organized a fund to purchase silver communion pieces to replace the old pewter. Perhaps the silk quilt went for that cause. Rowland quotes a letter from family friend Ambrose Dudley Mann living in Paris in June, 1873, who offered to buy the quilt rather than see it raffled off.

Diplomat A. Dudley Mann (1801-1899)
"I beg you to frankly write me how large an amount is expected to be realized from the Raffle (I abominate that word.)"
The letter, writes Rowland, gives the "impression that [the embroidered silken memento of the Confederacy] might have been purchased by the author."

The Butterfly quilt then might be dated 1865-1873. Mann might have purchased it. Somehow the quilt wound up in the possession of Varina's granddaughter who donated it to the Museum of the Confederacy fifty years later.

Virginia Tunstall Clay (1825-1915)

There is one more written reference to the silk quilt. After the Civil War Varina's husband fell in love with Virginia Clay, a younger, married woman. A friend of the family, Virginia exchanged romantic letters with Jefferson Davis, who told her she was one of the few to whom he shared his"secret thoughts." What kind of a relationship this close friendship was, and what Varina thought of it, we cannot tell. The Davises spent much of their  marriage living apart and the years when Jefferson Davis was enthralled with Mrs. Clay were no exception.

One day Mrs. Clay paid a visit to Mrs. Davis in Memphis. In an April 1, 1872 letter to Virginia Clay, Jefferson Davis wrote:
"Mrs. Davis told me of your pleasant social visit to her...told of your kind offer of material to finish the quilt and asks me to write to you that there would be time enough to use it, but that is is unnecessary."

The editors of Jefferson Davis's letters from this period, ‎Lynda Lasswell Crist and ‎Suzanne Scott Gibbs, speculate the quilt discussed is the Butterfly Quilt. Apparently the quilt was almost finished, and Varina declined Virginia's offer of more fabric. Or perhaps Varina did not care to include fabric from Virginia Clay in her memento of better times.

Jefferson Davis, Junior, 1857-1878

Memphis must have had many sad memories. Varina's last surviving son Jefferson Davis, Jr. died during a yellow fever epidemic there in 1878. He was 21 years old. Varina left Memphis soon after.

Obituary portrait of Varina Davis (1826-1906)

Varina Howell Davis led a fascinating American life. 

Publicity about the 1931 biography of Varina

This biography casts her in the familiar role of wife.

Joan E. Cashin's recent First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War looks closer at Varina as an individual.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 18: California Gold

Reproduction block by Becky Brown,
a California style print in the center. 

Vintage block about 1900

The smallest stripe is California or California gold, a fabric style popular with quilters
from about 1850 until the 1890s.

Vintage girls' dresses in California gold

An 1851 fashion note from Godey’s Lady’s Book recommended as dress fabric “an intense yellow, not disagreeable in small spots or stripes upon a white ground, called by the French ‘California’.”

A "not disagreeable" vintage print

My guess is that their “California” print might refer to chrome orange or chrome yellow as figures on a white ground for cotton. The style featured fine chrome orange lines on white. The eye reads the fabric as peach or butterscotch These pale orange calicoes appear in mid-century patchwork and were often used after the Civil War.

Quilt top dated 1878

One of the most common prints features a tiny heart.

Vintage quilt late-19th-century. 
Note the patch.

A bolt label and a piece of the fabric from the Passaic Mills in New Jersey.
"Orange frock print" for dresses

Vintage quilt about 1880-1900 

Detail of the quilt above.
Dots on a grid were another popular staple print.

Becky used a brown dot on yellow to reproduce the look

Vintage top quilt dated 1903

The Pennsylvania Germans held on to their taste for bright greens and yellows
while mainstream quilters moved on to navy blues, wine reds and grays.

Another name for the print style was bouton d'or, French for gold button or buttercup.  But the style is more orange than buttercup yellow. Godey's described it "as exactly the color of the double gilt buttons worn upon dresses some season ago."

Fashion notes from the English
Ladies' Companion & Monthly Magazine, 1853
describing dresses for young ladies 
of "all colours; rose, white, blue, bouton d'or, &c."

"Bouton d'or and mallow colour are also very fashionable hues for trimming bonnets."
The Illustrated London News, Volume 21, May, 1857.

Vintage block: late-19th-century
Often a simple figure on a geometric background of plaid or stripe.

Vintage block, late 19th-century with a staple print

Another staple figure on a honeycomb background.
Staple prints are those produced year after year.
Another name in the trade is "Bread & Butters" because
staple prints are where the mills made the large profits..


Judie Rothermel's Shirts & Ties, "Saffron dots"

Vintage dot on a hexagon net

Jo Morton collection

Notice I am not offering you a lot of options.
Look in other categories of fabric for the right butterscotch shade.

Check the checks and plaids section for the right shade of yellow with white or tan.

and more dots.

What to Do with Your Stack of Stars?
Stars & Stripes

Piece alternate blocks out of 3 strips cut 3-1/8" x 6-1/2".
The blocks above are a detail from this little medallion.

Star Medallion by Kathleen Tracy
See more of her quilts on this Pinterest page:

Lincoln reproduction quilt from Huckleberry Stitches blog

She used many fabrics from my old 
Metropolitan Fair collection for Moda.
The pattern is Lincoln by Carrie Nelson from her Schnibbles line.

A little medallion from about 1880....

interpreted by Legends and Lace

A loose version of the idea from about 1960.
The strips could be random sizes.

One More Thing About California style prints

Block with three related prints
Chrome orange, chrome yellow and California

The “California” print seems to have been tasteful enough for the fashionable to wear. Brighter chrome orange or chrome yellow was not appropriate for dress.

Fashion correctness was a concern. Textile historians Susan Mellar and Joost Elffers found an 1851 swatch, a  yellow and blue printed plaid with a white ground. The swatch was “given the name ‘California’ (probably to cash in on the allure of the California gold rush) by its French maker Koechlin of Alsace.”

In the swatch book they viewed,  a pessimist had written a note: “It will not have success. It will not sell much in Paris, they are afraid of the color."

Many European printers designed fabrics for the foreign market---their former and present colonies in the Americas and Africa. California may have been designed for the American market.

Reproduction block by Becky Brown