Monday, February 4, 2013

Antique Prints for Metropolitan Fair

Amethyst block by Denniele Bohannon
from the Grandmother's Choice block of the week.

Striped cotton in madder style

I usually base my antique reproduction prints on the fabrics in my own collection.
For many years I've been buying blocks, tops and pieces of vintage cotton to study and to reproduce. The wide stripe above was printed in various colors produced by the practical madder dyes---chocolate and carmel browns and brick reds.

Reproduction print

We reproduced it quite closely in the Metropolitan Fair collection and the colors became the dominant palette of that reproduction group.

We added a variety of blue shades to the color scheme

And an olive green...

New Jersey by Becky Brown
...which Becky has been
making good use of in the Grandmother's Choice blocks.

Here are the vintage scraps I sent to Moda, the document prints for the reproduction fabrics. My job is to pick out a coordinated group of prints: similar time periods with a variety of scale, figures and repeat style. Because this is a Civil-War-era reproduction line I picked out prints that looked 1840-1870 to me. That small geometric stripe at top right was also dyed in the madder-style colors and we interpeted it for three different madder repros, pulling out that pinkish orange that is also very typical of madder and adding that to the overall palette.

New Jersey by Denniele Bohannon

Star from about 1840-1870

Someone gave me this set of blocks, which are in absolutely terrible shape---probably made into a tied coverlet at some point and used until they fell apart; then removed and set aside because nobody wants to throw out all that work. (Good deal for me!) Every Civil War reproduction collection needs a foulard-style print, a little floral figure sent in a regular diagonal repeat, so this one seemed perfect to reproduce despite its condition.
Read a post about foulards here:

I removed a piece and sent it off.

It's also in madder colors with a rather bright white and a lavender figure too.
I decided against the white ground and the lavenders in this reproductions collection. You have to be conservative in color and choose just a few colorways---which for me is the hardest thing. If I used a white background for this one I'd have to use white backgrounds in all the others too and I didn't think that would work. 

There will be purple in the next Civil War collection. In this one the accent tends to be pink.

Here are two reproduction prints made from that little diamond patch.
You can see the pink and the blue here as figures along with the carmel colored brown. Once I choose the authentic colors we often add something completely different---because you lovers of reproduction fabrics are a "niche market"---a rather sophisticated and select group.  We also try to appeal to a quilter who never thinks about history but wants something to go with her decor. And gray is the word this year.

I liked the idea of adding a gray because there is a lot of symbolism in the idea of the Blue and the Gray, representing Civil War uniforms of the North and the South. So here we have one of the gray prints. If you are looking for authentic reproduction prints from the 1860s remember that gray is much more a 20th century shade.

Here's another vintage block that provided the patriotic print in this line, a wonderfully detailed little feathered star.

This is where we got the green color. Below are two reproductions.

Centennial by Becky Brown

Union Square by Becky Brown

Click on the links to see two quilters who are working on projects with the Metropolitan Fair prints. 
Tabitha's Trinkets by kindred quilts uses the minicharms from MetFair and shirtings from her stash for contrast:

Lesley is using pink and gray:


  1. I love this collection, and just picked up a few pieces for my bom on your civil war blog
    thank you for explaining the grey-as they had me puzzled for civil war era

  2. Thanks for this posting. The fabric design aspect is very interesting to some of us. Loved seeing the originals and the repros and some insight on the process. Thanks for such a great blog in general.

  3. I love Metropolitan Fair. I resisted buy it for awhile, but finally couldn't take it anymore and now own a fat eighth bundle. Love seeing more about it in this post.

  4. It's a beautiful line of fabrci and I like seeing the original inspiration.

  5. I really love how the prints look in the blocks and it helps me to think about ways to use the prints I have left.


  6. What a great post! You know I love my Metropolitan Fair, and seeing it used in so many blocks here and reading its history is very inspiring. I hope to use it in my Grandmother's Choice blocks as well!