Monday, October 9, 2017

Chintzes from the Portuguese 1

Quilter Margaret Mew posted this photo on Instagram of a lovely piece
of vintage fabric she bought in Portugal in April.

It caught my eye right away as I have been building a picture file of these distinctive chintzes. I see Di Ford has done a reproduction of a similar style.

Bally Hall line, Birds of a Feather print
by Di Ford Hall, 2017

What do these prints have in common?
  • A wide stripe alternating with a narrow stripe.
  • Birds in one of the stripes
  • A sharp line between the stripes
  • A secondary pattern of fine lines behind the figures in the narrower stripe.
  • Vivid colors
  • Good registration of colors
These are great patterns for quilters, of course. You can cut two different stripes out of it or fussy cut some of the birds and flowers.

Chimney Sweep quilt signed "Kate H. Tupper / 1850," 
Charleston, South Carolina.
Collection of Colonial Williamsburg.

Or use the double stripe as Kate Tupper did to border her album blocks in 1850. (She might have mitered the corners but if you've ever used a double stripe you know how it goes.)

The caption on this quilt says:
"The quilt is bordered with two different glazed cottons of red, green, and brown with a repeat of flowers, leaves, and birds."

I don't believe that's true. I think the border is a single glazed, striped cotton.
Click on the link and enlarge the photo. I see seams but not between the wide floral stripe and the narrower bird stripe. That's a hard edged line.
Here's yardage from the Cooper-Hewitt's collection:
Turkeys & chickens with fine lines behind the fowl.
Also a more tropical bird in the wide stripe.

And the same print from the DeYoung Museum in a different colorway.

Both these collections identify the fabric as 19th-century Portuguese,
which is where Margaret found the stripe at the top of the page.

I was surprised to see the origin as Portuguese. Did Kate Tupper, whose father was a Charleston merchant, have access to fabric printed in Portugal in 1850? What kind of cotton printing industry did Portugal have in 1850? Did they have turkeys in Portugal in 1850?

I liked these questions so much I will have to tell you about my quests for answers in several blog posts over the next week.


  1. I can hardly wait to see what you have found. I am taking a workshop with Di Ford next month using her Bally Hall border print with birds.

  2. Portuguese were heavily involved in the slave trade. This may be the connection to Charston.

  3. You are right Rita. It took me a few weeks to figure that out though.

  4. These prints are awesome. I really need to keep in mind the possibility of fussy cutting and applique when I see these types of prints, whether repro or modern, I fear I've passed by some gems. Am I the only one thinking "turkey, I don't see a turkey" for a minute on that last print?

  5. I'd love to have yardage of them all! I can't wait to hear what your research reveals.

  6. You research the most interesting things! I can't wait to read the answers to your questions.

  7. Don't you love it when there is something new to learn? I'm looking forward to your subsequent posts.

  8. Finally have time to read all these in one sitting..... I love Portuguese chintz and can now articulate why!