Saturday, October 24, 2009

Buff and Blue Number 2

Julie from Tennessee sent photos of a quilt signed "E. Prouty" that she bought in upstate New York several years ago. She was confused by information in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns where I indexed the design as "California Rose," indicating it was published about 1898 in the Ladies Art Company's catalog of quilt patterns. The fabrics looked much older than 1898 to her.

Her question is a good one and illustrates the problems with indexing patterns because the names were only published after 1885 or so, 100 years after Americans started making patchwork quilts. Quilts in some designs were made directly from those turn-of-the-last-century patterns and publications, but quilts in other designs were made much earlier than their first published reference.
Julie's quilt is one of those older patterns passed around hand-to-hand before magazines and catalogs began to sell how-to patterns. The fabrics are the blue-and-buff prints in rainbow or fondu (shaded) style that were so fashionable in the 1840s and '50s for clothing and patchwork.

Although it's hard to date quilts from photographs, this high-style color palette was popular in the mid-19th century rather than at the end. She's right in thinking it's older than 1898. As far as a name: My Encyclopedia and BlockBase, its digitized version, show many rather romantic names and variations. Some are pieced and then appliqued to a square, which looks to be the case with Julie's quilt. Others are completely pieced as in the block on the right below.

There is no "correct" name for quilt patterns because names were so often set in print decades after the quilts were made. We have no idea what E. Prouty called her quilt, and Julie can call it what she likes.

The fabrics are a showcase of 1840-60 prints with quite a few rainbow prints and many bright Prussian blue plaids, stripes and eccentric prints. Do note the brown stains next to some of the blue and buff prints. I have seen this kind of brown color echoing blue patches before. It may be a form of dye migration.

If you'd like to read more about Buff and Blue prints see my posting for August 8, 2009 by clicking here:
I will be eMailing a subscription newsletter The Quilt Detective: Prints Color & Dyes this winter. You can read the first issue, which has to do with Prussian blues, as a free sample, by clicking here:
For subscription information click here:
If you'd like to make a block in the Victoria's/Caesar's Crown, Strawberry design you can print templates any size in my BlockBase computer program for PCs. The many variations are numbered from 3625 to 3665. For more information on BlockBase from Electric Quilt click here:


  1. Julie sent a note saying: The blocks in the Prouty Quilt are totally pieced, just like the block on the right in your blog. BUT they do have a wider 'point' on the 4 central corners than the pieced one shown.

  2. Barbara,
    I always enjoy reading your blog about fabrics- I have one of your newest books about the history of fabrics and have spent many enjoyable hours looking at the photos and reading about the fabrics.
    Thanks for sharing your encyclopedic knowledge of fabrics. The quilt world is richer for it.
    I will certainly check out the links in your post.

  3. Several years ago I was asked by a local charity shop to look at some quilts that had been donated...sure enough there was one very much like this one (as far as date and pattern) but not in near as good condition.