Thursday, May 30, 2013

Modern Color: Chambrays & Shirting Weaves

Quilt made from the Mountain Mist Sunflower pattern
mid-20th century

Marie Webster's design for her Sunflower appeared in the
 Ladies' Home Journal in 1912.

Mountain Mist began publishing a similar pattern in 1931, using Webster's solid colors and medallion format but further abstracting her naturalistic rendering of the plant. 

As I noted in a recent post Marie Webster was an important influence on 20th century quilts but her ideas had to wait until the technology for dyeing solid color cottons caught up. It isn't until the late 1920s that we start to see more reliable and more diverse solid cottons. Soon we also see more applique in the Webster style. Many pattern companies and kit companies sold interpretations of her designs, defining the "thirties quilt."

In the decades before the innovative dyes, Webster and others encouraged quiltmakers to use lighter colored fabrics, particularly solids, but where would the customer get new shades?

Quilt dated 1911

In pencil it says
Quilt made by Grandma Robertson
1911-91 Years
Grandma may have been born when Monroe was President
 but she knew what was fashionable in 1911.

Quilt dated 1912 and 1913

Chambray was one answer.
Chambray is a yarn-dyed fabric with a white warp and a colored weft. 
The darker yarns crossing the white yarn appear to be paler, one way to get a color-fast pastel.

Chambray shirts today

The blue in this log cabin dated 1921 is a chambray. The pale peach is a solid and there is no way to know what color it once was. Solid pastels tended to fade. Chambrays held their color better.
See this quilt at Rocky Mountain Quilts:

Blue chambray quilt, this one from 
Historic American Quilts' online catalog.

Another popular option: yarn-dyed stripes and plaids,
which held their color in the same way chambrays did.

Even if they fade chambrays and other yarn-dyed patterns tend to fade true to their original color rather than to a dun-colored tan, so they were a popular fabric in the teens and twenties. Not only functional but modern.

Quilt dated 1911-1912
They may not look so modern to us but
these were cutting edge 100 years ago.

You might want to read Virginia Gunn's take on shirtings and chambrays at the time in her article "The Gingham Dog or the Calico Cat: Grassroots Quilts of the Early Twentieth Century"  in the American Quilt Study Group's journal Uncoverings 2007 (Volume 28).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Modern Print Monday: Marcelle Tolkoff

Marcelle Tolkoff for Tiger Fabrics

During the 1960s new dyes and new finishes enabled designers to combine vivid colors, creating what is called the psychedelic look. Innovators included Marcelle Tolkoff and her husband Daniel for their Tiger Fabrics, founded in 1959.

Marcelle's daughter is a friend. Joann has a wonderful hand-drawn blog.

The Tiger Fabric records are at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

The fabric photo is included in Pat Kirkham's book Women Designers in the U.S.A, 1900-2000: Diversity and Difference. Here's a preview:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Solid Colors in 20th-Century Quilts

Poppy by Marie D. Webster
from her 1915 book 
Quilts: Their Story and How to Make Them

Copy of Webster's Poppy
Marie Webster had a good deal of influence on the look of twentieth century quilts.
One important style characteristic was the use of solid color fabrics rather than prints.

She advocated pale colors rather than the saturated Turkey reds and chrome yellows that had been the standard for applique.

Webster's quilts began to appear in the Ladies Home Journal in 1911.

Edward W. Bok 1863-1930

Edward Bok, editor of the Ladies Home Journal for 30 years, was a fan of modernism, advocating liberal thinking in social issues,

publishing the work of modernists such as Maxfield Parrish,

featuring home designs by Frank Lloyd Wright between 1901 and 1907, and encouraging needlework designers to update traditional techniques.

"The New...." was a regular feature.

Marie Dougherty Webster 1859-1956

Webster's quilts were examples of "The New Patchwork Quilt." It took several decades for her influence to be felt, but she did create a new style of appliqued quilt. 

Detail of Webster's Morning Glory Wreath
in Ladies Home Journal in 1912.

One reason for the lag between idea and fad was the lack of solid color cottons for quilters to work with. To get the colors she wanted Webster advocated appliqueing with linen. The quilt above from the collection of the Indiana State Museum is Webster's model, done in linen and cotton.
See the quilt here:

Webster's Granddaughter Rosalind Perry in her book A Joy Forever Marie Webster's Quilt Patterns explained the inspiration:
"By choosing linen, muslin and solid color cottons, she reflected the Arts and Crafts preference for sturdy materials with a hand-woven look."

This quilt from about 1890-1920 
was probably once a dark green on red.

But linen was expensive and hard to work with. In 1911 solid color cottons were not reliably colorfast.

It's hard to know what this one looked like when it was new. The synthetic dyes, particularly the solid blue background here, were apt to fade from light or bleed in washing.

Greens were the least reliable, the most fugitive.
Women were unwilling to invest time in applique if the fabrics were likely to fade.

After 1925 we start to see Webster's ideas about color
become popular with new cottons dyed with new synthetic dyes.
Solid pastel cottons are a hallmark of the New Patchwork Quilt.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Modern Print Monday: Lucienne Day

Calyx by Lucienne Day

This print set design off in a new direction. English designer Day's post-war floral abstraction came to define mid-century modernism.

Lucienne Conradi Day (1917-2010) 
with husband Robin Day

Lesley Jackson in Twentieth Century Pattern Design describes Day's influences:
"...The cartoons of Saul Steinberg, the paintings of Miro and Klee, Alexander Calder's mobiles and the sculptures of Naum Gabo."

Robin Day was an equally influential furniture designer. 
His Polypropylene Chair from 1963 has been quite a success.

See Lucienne Day's obituary here:
Do a web search for images  Lucienne Day to see more iconic designs.
And read the preview of Lesley Jackson's book, Robin and Lucienne Day: Pioneers in Modern Design

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Modern Panel: Millside Rose

Millside Rose
by Barbara Brackman
17" x 28"

Here's a rose abstracted to the edge, inspired by the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Glasgow architect and designer. Scroll down for the free pattern.

I began with this watercolor Roses on a Checkered Ground, which he painted in 1914 when he was living at a house named Millside in Walberswick. The painting is from the collection of the Hunterian Gallery at the University of Glasgow (See a link to more at the bottom of this page.)

The watercolor has many ideas in it. I selected the roses and the checkerboards and abstracted it further for a very simple applique panel.

Four shades of pink---the largest and darkest about a fat quarter, the others scraps.

Two black and white checkerboard fabrics:
The larger check for D is cut 4" x 14-1/2". The smaller for the smallest circles just a scrap.

Two black and white stripes
The larger, darker piece C cut 17" x 14-1/2", the smaller piece E cut 5-1/2" x 14-1/2"

A solid black for the border and binding: a half yard.

The diagram includes the finished sizes.

A - Cut 2 strips of black 2" x 17-1/2".
B - Cut 2 strips of black 2" x 25-1/2"
C - Cut the dark strip 14-1/2" x 17" for the applique background
D - Cut the larger check 4" x 14-1/2".
E - Cut the lighter stripe 5-1/2" x 14-1/2".

Cutting the Applique. Cut three of each of the four circles and the oval. Add a scant 1/4" seam allowance. You can click here to see a PDF

Or click on this picture and then copy it to a word file or a JPG and print it out so the gray square is about 8". The measurements for the circles' diameters are approximate.


Stitch the applique first, preparing the shapes by turning under the edges. I glued mine over freezer paper templates, which I removed after I finished sewing by cutting a hole in the back. 
On top of the background piece C stack up the circles as shown and glue or baste down.
Stitch by hand or machine.
Add strips D and E at the bottom.
Add the side borders B and then the top and bottom borders A.

I quilted this simply with white Perle cotton ( a twist) and a long stitch that showed in the blacks. I quilted around the circles in the roses and followed the background stripes down from top to bottom about an inch apart. I quilted in a little curlicue in the bottom border. 

See the catalog of Mackintosh designs at the Hunterian Gallery at the University of Glasgow by clicking here:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Modern Print Monday: Lindsay Butterfield

Lindsay Phillip Butterfield, 1903

Lindsay P. Butterfield (1869-1948) was an unofficial heir to the Morris tradition. He began designing in the 1890s, incorporating Morris's floral observations, the pattern layering, outlining and emphasis on stems and leaves rather than flowers. He was a contemporary of C.F.A. Voysey and was influenced by Voysey's simplifications to arts and crafts patterning.

Morris print

Butterfield took Arts & Crafts ideas into Art Nouveau---the repeat was more mannered, more geometric, the colors in a minor key. He was a free-lance designer, working for several textile and wallpaper manufacturers in England.

Lesley Jackson in Twentieth Century Pattern Design describes his patterns:
"There was a refreshing naturalness and lack of pretension to Butterfield's designs, and the effect were never forced." Linda Parry in Textiles of the Arts and Crafts Movement calls him "one of the most important and successful designers of the period."

Biographical details about Butterfield are meager but he came from a creative family. His father's brother was William Butterfield (1814-1900), a successful London architect who designed over a hundred churches in the high church, Gothic Revival style. Lindsay apprenticed with a cousin named Philip Johnstone, also an architect but one who left few records. His godfather was another architect, John Belcher (1841-1913). 

Lindsay specialized in pattern at the National Art Training School at Kensington, which evolved into the Victorian & Albert Museum. The school offered training "in the practice of art and in the knowledge of its scientific principles, with a view to qualifying [students] as teachers of schools of art competent to develop the application of art to the common uses of life, and to the requirements of trade and manufactures." 

Read more here:

Meg Andrews has a piece of Butterfield print:

The Victoria & Albert Museum has the best collection of Butterfield designs, some donated by the artist himself.
Do a search for him in the collections:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Principles of Modernism: Unmodulated Color

Sawtooth medallion about 1900

Art historians analyze trends and describe them, often using jargon like "unmodulated color," which means plains or solids to a quilter.

Not Modern
In painting they are talking about large areas of flat color without the traditional shading seen in this 1889 portrait of a shepherd by William-Adolphe Bouguereau 

In this portrait of a clown done in 1896, Henri-Toulouse-Lautrec relies less on shading to depict the figure and her clothing: Unmodulated color.

One reason folkarts appealed to the modernists was the use of flat areas of color.

Amish Quilt
Early 20th century

Chintz Quilt
Early 19th century

We can apply the same principle to modern-looking quilts. Prints add texture and modulation to the areas of the composition--- the visual equivalent of a romantic painting.

Amish Quilt
Early 20th Century

Plains look more modern.

Early 20th Century


Early 19th century
The age of the quilt has nothing to do with how modern it looks.
The calimanco wool quilt above from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum
is about the same age as the chintz quilt below.

Early 19th century

Early 20th century

You see the use of flat planes of color in modern prints too.
The early 19th-century chintz above is full of shading, highlights and visual texture.

CFA Voysey's "Bird & Tulip" from about 1900 uses a minimum of shading with very different effect.

Not Modern