|The Midwest Fabric Study Group met on Saturday, November
19th, 2005 at the Brownsburg Public Library, Brownsburg, Indiana. The
topic for the day was the color blue. We were given two handouts for reference and a set
of contemporary fabric swatches to test our knowledge of the color blue.
We began with a discussion about the different terms used to describe
the color blue and the dye processes used. We learned there are several
different dye stuffs used to produce blue and several different dying
methods. Did you know there are 50 different plant species that can be
used to produce blue?
We focused on indigo, woad, Prussian blue, Lancaster blue, cadet
blue, and synthetic blue as these were the colors we had the most
examples of. We learned that you can still buy indigo dye in cake form
today. We also learned indigo will adhere to cotton without a mordant!
It turns blue when it hits the air. We learned that Saxon blue is really
just ground indigo mixed with oil of vitriol and produces a turquoise
like blue which is used mainly in on wool or silk. The terms Dutch blue,
German blue, and Amanda blue were actually just marketing terms used to
describe indigo. Chemists are unable to tell whether a fabric is dyed
with indigo, woad or a synthetic dye.
We learned woad is a plant in the mustard family. It is said to grow
as a weed in the US and can be found in Indiana!
Prussian blue is a mineral compound of potassium ferricyanide and
iron acetate. It also known as Berlin blue, Lafayette blue and Napoleon
blue or even island blue. You see it a lot in 1840s and 1850s quilts in
florals, chintz, pillar prints and rainbow prints. It is often used in
two step dyed greens. An interesting bit of trivia we learned was that
the first greenbacks were made with Prussian blue!
Lancaster blue was found mainly in Pennsylvania in 1860-80 thus the
name. It is a clear bright blue often seen as a blue on blue print with
a darker blue printed over a lighter blue of the same.
Cadet blue is a misty grayed blue popular in the 1870s to 1890s. It
is also known as Calcutta blue. You usually see it printed with a white
design of some kind.
Synthetic blue was first marketed in 1897 and is still used today.
Within ten years of its introduction very little natural indigo could be
found. A clue to an early synthetic blue was its poor colorfastness! We
saw a very good example of that on the back of a quilt.
our initial information session, we started the day looking at examples
of indigo. Our first couple pieces were fragments. The more interesting
of the two was printed using what is called an American resist (left)
because the background is not blue! It is actually blue printed on white
and examples of this can only be found in the US. It is thought to have
come from the Dutch colonies in New York around the 1790s.
we saw a piece of toile dated 1810 featuring scenes from Sir Walter
Scott's Lady of the Lake from Mulhouse, France. It is what is considered
a China blue because of the sharp clear print. The date was part of the
print if you looked very closely!
saw two feathered stars one was a 1830s feathered star with some indigo
feathers and my favorite was all indigo and white with a compass in the
center of each star.
say the group's overall favorite indigo quilt was a folk art style
appliqué that featured blocks set on point made up of indigo hearts
radiating form a center design with oak leaves in each of the four
corners. The border featured a large chunky undulating vine with
flowers, small hearts and small diamond shaped leaves. It was quite a
sight to behold!
ended our look at indigo with some contemporary fabric examples. These
are imported from DaGama Mills of South Africa. We saw examples unwashed
fat quarters and compared them to washed pieces. The unwashed was almost
as stiff as cardstock. The washed pieces were just as soft as an old
quilt! We particularly liked the company's logo printed on the back
which featured three leopards. Examples can be seen on
www.reproductionfabrics.com and www.cottoninthecabin.com.
lunch we moved on to examples of Prussian blue, Lancaster blue
(pictured), cadet blue and a couple synthetic blue pieces. We saw two
examples containing Prussian blue. Interestingly enough both were set in
the stripy style. One was worked with several different fabrics. The
other used the Prussian as part of the setting for the on point blocks
and part of a strip separating the two. It dated to 1850.
We saw a quilt and two different tops that contained Lancaster blue.
The quilt had a very Lancaster county feel to it due to its color
combination of pink, green, and double blue. The two tops were nine
patches with the double blue pieces scattered through them.
We saw as many examples of cadet blue as we did the indigo. There was
an ocean waves, bow tie, trip around the world, baskets, nine patch,
double cross and stars all done in the two color combination of cadet
and white. They were very soothing to look at.
My two favorite cadet blue quilts were both tree of life patterns.
One was worked with the trees set on point and the alternating block
were what we termed "ubiquitous yellow" otherwise known as
chrome yellow (right). The second had an interesting shape to the tree's trunk.
It was almost the shape of an elongated bow tie and it was appliquéd
onto the block! The setting for this quilt was unique as well. The trees
on both long sides pointed toward the center and the two rows down the
middle pointed up (or down as the viewer's perspective might be). This
quilt had exquisitely executed quilting and we were all in agreement it
had a very 1925 feel to it (left).
We were also treated to a special contemporary blue quilt. It was the
1987 Vermont Quilt Festival raffle quilt won by one of our members! It
was a gorgeous mariner's compass set in a medallion style.
How lucky to be the winner of such a beauty!
wound up the day looking at some off topic show and tell. Our first were
two pieces of red toile purchased on the fabric tour of France. The one
piece was from the 18th century and was a blurrier print compared to the
piece from the 19th century which was a more crisp print! The second
item we looked at was a star quilt that had faded considerably but was
still very pretty in its current soft coloring. The last was a star baby
quilt done with ubiquitous yellow squares in the centers of the stars
with Turkey red tips.
I'm pretty sure I speak for those in attendance we came away with our
heads feeling like saturated sponges filled with our new found knowledge
of blue. I think we could have easily used yet another day or at least
several more hours to cover all the great information Joy and Peg put
together for us. A very big thank you goes out to them for all their
efforts. We are all more informed because of it.
Our next meeting will be a visit to Cincinnati Museum Center to view
the exhibit, Threads of Faith: Recent Works from the Women of Color
Quilters Network and a visit to the nearby Underground Railroad Freedom
Center. Both are planned for Sunday, January 22nd, 2005. If for some
reason we have bad weather that day we will try again on the following
Sunday, January 29th. Please check your email as details will be