Thursday, April 6, 2017

DeLaines & Prussian Blue

Mouse in the mousseline delaine

Prussian blue cottons in a top from my collection.

At the recent conference on Printed Fashions at Colonial Williamsburg two speakers focused on a related topics: Prussian Blue and Mousseline De Laine

These pictures are not theirs, but some
I have collected as pictures or quilts.

Anita Loscalzo showed us many examples of Prussian blue in cottons and explained the chemistry of this dye. She mentioned that the greens seen with the blues were colored from Persian berry. I assume the yellow from Persian berry or buckthorn shifted the blues to this characteristic teal green.

Another of my tops.

Prussian blue cottons were quite popular with American quiltmakers in the 1840s. Anita said that as early as 1827 the Cacheco Printworks bought 4 machines for "bluework." I was surprised to hear that so much Prussian blue printing was done in the United States.

Quilt dated 1846

Mousseline de Laine, produced by English mill Hargreaves in 1849.

Dr.  Margaret Ordonez also surprised me with American swatches of delaine (wool & cotton mixed fabric) printed in the Prussian blue steam style. 
Although named a bleachery the firm 
printed cotton and cotton/wool fabrics.

She showed the 1843 sample book from the Green's Dale Bleachery in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, which contained many of the dress fabrics they marketed as French delaines.

Two colorways of the same delaine print

De Laine (French for "of wool") is a combination of cotton yarn and a worsted wool. The wool takes the dye better than the cotton. Notice the white specks where the cotton has rejected the brown color. The formal French name was wool muslin Mousseline de Laine but that was usually shortened to delaine.
Swatch from a delaine tile quilt once in Linda Reuther's collection.

Margaret had many observations about what she saw in the sample books. One was that the designs were often printed on the reverse of the fabric, the side that had more wool exposed. 

Another was that red, oranges and yellows were printed in smaller areas---more as accents. The fabrics tended to blue, brown, green and purple.

Sample book or swatch book from 1846 - 1848

Delaine from the British Journal of Design, 1849

Swatch with formula from a Pacific Printworks 
dye book in the Cooper Hewitt Museum

The fabrics were heavier after 1860.

The fact that they were domestically printed certainly explains
their abundance in American quilts.

I have a Pinterest page of Prussian blue---vintage & repro cottons. Check it out here:

See Anita's AQSG paper about Prussian blue in Uncoverings 2010.

Loscalzo, Anita B. "Prussian Blue: Its Development as a Colorant and Use in Textiles,"  in Horton, Laurel. 2010. Uncoverings 2010: Volume 31 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group.


  1. Be still my heart. DeLaine's are my favorites. They hold their vibrant color so well. I wish fabric manufacturers would bring them back. Thanks for sharing excerpts from this wonderful symposium.

  2. I remember Ma's fancy dress for the Maple Sugar Party in Little House in the Big Woods was delaine fabric and I never knew what that was before. Thanks, I enjoy your blogs. I hope one day to put together my Stars in a Time Warp!B