Fabric Dating References
Welcome to the Quilt Index Wiki page on fabric dating references. If you have information about books on dating fabrics, or general information on dating fabric materials, patterns and prints, or colors and dyes, please consider adding your information to the Wiki. To contribute to this resource, please create an account on this Wiki. Once a QI staff person approves your account, you will be able login and edit the page.
Eileen Jahnke Trestain. Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide. Paducah, KY: American Quilters' Society, 1998.
Barbara Brackman. America's Printed Fabrics 1770-1890. C & T Publishing, 2004.
Barbara Brackman. Clues in the Calico: A Guide to Identifying and Dating Antique Quilts. EPM Publications, 1989.
Barbara Brackman. Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. In Print. http://www.AmericanQuilter.com
Barbara Brackman. Making History: Quilts & Fabric from 1890-1970. C & T Publishing, 2008.
Fabric Types and Materials
Fabric Patterns and Prints
Colors and Dyes
Quilt-Specific Colors Used in the Quilt Index Comprehensive Fields
All text for the Quilt-Specific Colors written by Amanda Sikarskie. Please do not modify this section of the page.
If the 1870s and 1880s were “the brown years,” the 1920s could be called the pink years. Many pinks were popular in the 1910s, ‘20s, and ‘30s, including double pinks and salmon pinks. Bubblegum pinks, however, are easily distinguished from the others by their cool undertone and general resemblance to chewing gum. Bubblegum pinks were used in solids as well as prints.
Butterscotch fabrics often date to the middle of the nineteenth century and were frequently used as a background for a pieced pattern. Butterscotch prints are often small, with the motifs closely packed together.
Cadet blue is a light blue that was first used around 1880 and was most popular in the period from about 1880 to 1910. It is often paired with white in prints.
Cheddar Orange, Antimony, or Chrome Orange
Chrome orange, or antimony, was commonly used in appliqué, especially in Pennsylvania, from about 1860 to 1880. Thus, this dye can help to both identify both the date and location in which a quilt was made. This dye was often made in the home from store-bought powder, however, the high lead content of the dye made it (in retrospect) a dangerous substance with which to work. While the color was called antimony or chrome orange in the nineteenth century, historians and collectors often call the color ‘cheddar’ today.
Chocolate Brown or Hershey Brown
Chocolate browns are very indicative of the 1870s and ‘80s. In fact, that segment of the Victorian period is often referred to as “the brown years” because of the prominence of browns in paints and fabrics. Rich chocolate brown (think the color of a milk chocolate bar, hence the alternate name ‘Hershey’ brown) was often paired with white in quilts.
Chrome Green and Yellow
Like, antimony or chrome orange, chrome greens and yellows were popular in the period from about 1860 to 1880 and were produced, often in the home, from highly toxic chemical dye powders. Chrome yellows are brighter than butterscotch, another popular yellow from the same period.
Claret or Wine
Claret was a popular color in cotton fabrics from about 1880 to 1910, and was often paired with white in prints.
Double pinks, sometimes called ‘cinnamon’ pinks, feature tiny prints in a dark, cinnamon-like pink, on a light rosy pink ground. Both of these hues have warmer undertone than bubblegum pink, which emerged as a quilt fabric, often as a solid rather than a print, in the twentieth century. Double pinks were most popular in the 1860s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, though double pinks are common in quilts through the 1920s. At the height of their popularity in the mid-nineteenth century, double pinks were often paired with madder or chocolate browns in quilts.
Indigo dye has a long history in the United States, and was used in quiltmaking from the eighteenth century onward. In the period before 1830, indigo blue dye was very dark, often appearing black or violet, especially in digital images. Wool and flax were often dyed with this early indigo blue and used as a solid in wholecloth quilts and calamanco. Throughout much of the rest of the nineteenth century indigo blue was often seen as the background in prints, sometimes with the overlaying print in chrome yellow or orange. Indigo continued to be common in cotton fabrics through the Edwardian period. Today, indigo blue dyes very similar to those made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are still common in African quiltmaking and are sometimes used in contemporary American art quilts.
Lancaster blue, sometimes called Pennsylvania blue after Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, are a ‘double blue’ similar to double pinks in that they are composed of a fine light blue print on a slightly darker blue ground. They were popular in quiltmaking in the same period as the double pinks, roughly 1860 to 1880.
Madder dyes come from the roots of the madder plant, also known as rubia, and along with walnut shells, clay, and certain woods, were used to dye quilt fabrics brown from the eighteenth century onward. While browns, including madder brown, were extremely popular throughout the nineteenth century, madder browns are most identified with quilts create in the period from 1860 to 1880, the so-called “brown years.” Madder browns are distinguishable from the others browns popular in this period, such as chocolate brown, because of their coppery color. Madder browns often appeared in prints with browns of various hues.
Madder Red or Cinnamon Red and Madder Orange
Madder red, also known as cinnamon red, was a bright red dye made from the roots of the madder, or rubia, plant, and was especially popular in the late nineteenth century. It is differentiated from another red dye made from madder, Turkey red, because of its dyeing process. Water was used to make madder red dye, while oil was used to make Turkey red. The madder reds have thus been less colorfast than Turkey red, and are often responsible for bleeding onto adjacent fabrics and/or fading to a reddish-brown. Madder orange, related to madder red, could be produced by varying the intensity of the dye.
Manganese dyes were responsible for a deep, rich brown and was often used in floral patterns. Manganese dyes have been used in quilts since prior to 1820, however, they were often fugitive. Manganese dyes are often responsible for serious damage to the cloth and other adjacent dyes.
Nile green, usually indicative of quilts dating to the 1930s or ‘40s, is a medium to light green with a yellow undertone. Nile green was often used in appliqué on quilts with a white or cream background. Greens were very popular in these decades, and Nile green often appears in quilts with other greens, such as mint, dark green and sage.
Prussian Blue or Lafayette Blue
Prussian blue was very popular in America in the 1850s, and was first used in the United States in the early 1830s. Prussian blue was commonly used in ombre prints, prints which featured a gradation from light to dark.
Turkey Red (named for the country, not the poultry) is a highly colorfast dye made from the roots of the madder plant, also known as rubia, and was used in quilt fabrics throughout the nineteenth century. Turkey red was highly prized and is differentiated from madder red, a similar color made from the same plant, by its superior dye-making process. Colorfast Turkey red dye was made with oil, while more fugitive madder reds were made with water. In the mid-nineteenth century, Turkey red often appears in prints which also contain chrome yellow or indigo blue. Around the turn of the last century and through the 1920s, Turkey red thread was used in redwork, red embroidery on a white or cream-colored ground.
Amanda.sikarskie 19:16, 29 September 2010 (UTC)