Quilt in a regional design from Tennessee and Texas
Most of the yellows we see in 19th-century quilts were dyed with chrome.
Sampler block, 1840-1860
Chrome yellow and chrome orange
Chrome yellow is closely related in chemistry to chrome orange (what we call cheddar today). It's a true yellow that the dyers called canary yellow.
Pennsylvania quilt 1880-1910
Swatch glued in a 19th-century dye book
showing chrome or canary yellow.
The color changes when it comes in
contact with certain chemicals---
like the acids in an old book's pages.
Observation indicates that the chrome orange shade was more popular for backgrounds and accents, but many quilters made good use of the bright, clear canary yellow.
Chrome yellow could be bought as a solid or a print.
Pennsylvania, end of the 19th century.
The color was important in Pennsylvania German design, which emphasized bright next to bright.
So we see many Pennsylvania quilts using the color.
Block about 1840-60
Quilters all over the country used it, however.
The chrome yellow process was developed early in the 19th century, but we really don't start seeing a lot of it until the 1840s when it became important for applique and piecing.
It's difficult to determine whether a print is 1860 or 1890.
The common combinations were red and black (dark brown) figures on yellow grounds.
The major difference between mid-century prints and those from the end of the 19th-century is that the later prints became more standardized. There just wasn't a lot of variety. Mills printed the same design in the same color for decades, marketing them as old-fashioned calicoes.
Top from the 1940s?
Apron from the 1960s or 1970s.
The yellow prints were almost the same for a hundred years.
But then... they stopped printing them about 1980.
Reproduction of a classic yellow print 1860-1980
Here's a reproduction of a 1960s interpretation of the old prints---
a repro of a repro that Moda and I are doing in a collection of
Old Fashioned Calicoes.
Start thinking canary and click here.