Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cretonne Novelty Prints

Cretonne print with puppies

In the late 19th century the New England mills created a fashion for these scenic cretonnes. In that sentimental age many of the prints pictured household pets.
Sort of like a Puppy Channel.

Or a Kitten video.

Many of these detail shots are from the cretonne quilt in
the collection of the Spencer Museum.

The dog prints can be cute or noble as in
the English Setter above
in a hunting scene.

The prints were perhaps aimed at children's interests.

And the quilts focusing on these prints might have been gifts for children.

Here's the chicken print again.
You could think of them as an antique version of the "I Spy" quilt.

Some imagery seems to be inspired by children's book
illustrations of the era, like this allusion to Kate
Greenaway's old-fashioned children.

Mary Koval has done a reproduction of one of these
Greenaway-style cretonnes
Days To Remember

Which Cynthia Collier is putting to good use in her
Baltimore Childhood block she designed to
teach at a workshop at Baltimore on the Prairie next year:

We see a good deal of romance and historical references in the old cretonnes.

And there may have been one or more circus-themed prints.

Here's another example of the style from
the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's

The central panel celebrates the sloop The Vigilant, which won the America's Cup Race of 1893.

These warriors dressed in Arab clothing were popular.
The Spencer's quilt includes a brown colorway.

The quilt in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection
has another brown colorway--more gold than buff.

The same colorway that's been used in a cut-out chintz
or Broderie Perse fashion in this top from an online auction
a few years ago.

This particular top is one of several late Broderie Perse
examples where scenes from various fabrics
have been cut up and reassembled.

The emphasis is on children and pets with
the kittens on the left and the English setter on the right.

The puppies again.

The Broderie Perse quilt also has a memorial to President James
Garfield, assassinated in 1881
The quilt top is dated 1893.

The image is cut from this yardage, a piece of which
was sold online this year.

The Ohio Historical Society has a log cabin quilt with backing fabric that is probably the print above. Their online catalog describes it:
"The printed pattern includes lattice and cornerstones and images of the Garfield family crest, the U. S. shield, and multiple color pinwheels.... cheater fabric... of American origin produced at the time of President Garfield's death."

The undated cretonne quilt in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts features Garfield too, the portrait probably
cut from some campaign yardage.

The campaign yardage from 1880 includes Chester A. Arthur too.
As Vice-President, Arthur assumed the Presidency.

A mourning Ribbon
"Died on Duty"

There are many Garfield images in quilts. Whether they were meant to be political, patriotic or a mourning image takes a little research to figure out. Because the election was in 1880 and the assassination in 1881, it's hard to tell. Garfield among the puppies, kittens and crested chickens reminds us of the continuing national mourning at his death. 


  1. What a pleasure to look at those antique fabrics, those cretonnes that we used a lot in France to cover the furniture. They were very strong cotton fabrics and the name cretonne comes from a french village called Creton. Thank you for those beautifull pictures. Christine

  2. I love seeing the old prints, makes me think I need to look in the old curtains department at the thrift;)


  3. I never tire of seeing these wonderful old fabrics, thank you for posting them. I love working with the reproductions of them and appreciate the mention and link to my Baltimore on the Prairie class next September in Nebraska. Thank you, Barbara!

  4. I am so glad that worked for you. I had someone email me this week to tell me about her experience pre-washing some backing fabric. A basic pre-wash showed no bleeding but she decided to soak it overnight just to make sure. Sure enough the fabric did bleed during the long soak. She got it all out before using it in a quilt. That's why I soak all of my fabrics in 2 12-hour soak cycles.
    It can't solve all problems but it get rid of 99% of them.

  5. In the Broderie perse quilt with the red sashing, is our old friend Bunthorne or Oscar - 3 across, 3 down. That fabric keeps turning up. Cheers, Louise