Sunday, November 8, 2009

Prussian Blue

Detail of a cotton print that can be classified as a printed plaid, a stripe and a rainbow print. Estimated date: 1840-1860

Over the past few years I've been saving photos of Prussian blue prints like the one above from online auctions. I'm especially interested in quilts with dates inscribed on them. I have quite a few details of Prussian blue prints in quilts inscribed from 1846 to 1868. See below for photos in order of date.
Prussian blue is a dye process. It's also a bright royal blue color produced by that dye, often combined with a buff or tan. The blues are printed in various styles including brilliant rainbow or fondu prints, double blues, plaids and stripes.

Looking at these 9 examples (I didn't see any earlier or later) I can conclude that distinctive rainbow prints, large scale plaids and stripes in Prussian blue were quite the fashion from the mid 1840s to the 1860s, as were the blue and buff combination prints.

When I make these lists of dated quilts I usually throw out the earliest and the latest examples. The earliest example may have been misdated later by someone other than the maker and the lastest example may have been old fabric or blocks put together later. The list is then 7 quilts from 1846 to 1858, twelve years of a fad. The information helps in dating quilts with these fabrics, which to be safe I would say tend to date from 1840 to 1860.

I corroborated these dates by looking in the catalogs of Baltimore album quilts, which include a lot of Prussian blue rainbow prints. I didn't find any Baltimore albums with the graduated blue prints outside this date range.

Note the dates are below each photo.










  1. I love the examples you've shown here. It's amazing that the blue has stayed so vibrant!

  2. That first example...the blue plaid in the star...makes me weak! Gorgeous!!

  3. Your blog is simply fascinating. And I love the color you're working with now.

  4. What beautiful shades and patterns from that time, I would have never guessed they were that old from the prints. I have a lot to learn.


  5. I have an 1848 Carpenter's Wheel from Baltimore that has these fabrics...I'll try and post some photos on my blog this week. Also, thanks for reminding me about your newsletter...