Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cheater Cloth - Geometrical Chintz

Printed patchwork, about 1880.
Probably from the Cacheco Mills.

Wholecloth quilt. Note the diagonal seam.
This was a very successful print at a time
when "patchwork prints" were the fashion.

A business paragraph reprinted in many newspapers
in 1878
"Dry Goods...business continues quiet....Prints are moving slowly, except specialties, such as Turkey reds and patchwork prints, which are in fair request."

The hexagonal print, which textile historian Deborah Kraak found numbered #8896 in
some Cacheco records, was used rather creatively by quiltmakers.

Here it's the focus in a charm quilt from an
online auction.
It's fussy-cut here too in a sampler from the Pat Nickols collection at the Mingei Museum
(Is it a quilt as you go/potholder style construction?)

Most of you know the term potholder style, and might describe the fabric as cheater cloth or faux patchwork. How historically correct those terms are is disputable, but they do communicate.

Other quiltmakers thought the Cacheco patchwork print quite appropriate for a setting fabric.

Going along with the whole Victorian idea of more is better.

Another colorway

Less contrast, but still a bit much.

Here it is as a border.

The best idea may have been as a whole cloth quilt
or a backing.

From the Athol (Massachusetts) 
 Historical Society collection.

And if you didn't have enough---
Faux Patchwork is faux patchwork, I guess. Combine
two of them.

When I wrote Clues in the Calico in 1979 I noted several names for the style. Printed Patchwork seems to be the period name from the late 19th century.

I was wrong 28 years ago about the dates on the style but that's another post another time. They seem to go back to the 18th century in Europe and earlier in the East.

Geometrical Chintz and Faux Patchwork were terms Ruth Finley used in her 1929 book. I haven't found any period references to the name Geometrical Chintz. Finley's Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them is the first publication in which I've been able to find of the term Faux Patchwork.

For Cheater Cloth I was surprised to find a 1910 citation in the industry periodical America's Textile Reporter.

Cheater cloth, 24-27 inches wide 9 cents a yard under ginghams.

Gingham at the time was not narrowed to a woven check. It meant a plain woven, cotton fabric.
That word might actually be Chester cloth but I haven't found any other references to Chester cloth. Or any other period references to cheater cloth for that matter.

See Deborah E. Kraak's "Patchwork Prints in America" in  Uncoverings 2011. The abstract describing the paper is here:

And if you must have some of the hexagon cheater cloth you probably can.
Riley Blake and Penny Rose did a reproduction last year.


  1. Interesting to note how narrow fabrics were. (I know that "broadloom," used to describe carpets, means the looms were about twice as wide as regular looms, e.g. 54".) For people accustomed to 27" the development of 36"-wide must have seemed huge. (Was that in the 1930's?
    Or earlier?) When I made my own clothing (starting in the late 60's and through the early 90's when I threw my lot to quiltmaking) patterns gave yardage requirements for 44/45" but also 36" (and sometimes 54/56" for suits and coats that would use wool).

    I have a lot of vintage fabric that's 36" wide. When did that width replace 27"?

  2. I don't know that it was standardized before the 1970s, but the 45" width is now the standard. If you read the old catalogs the widths varied, probably depending on when the mill bought their machinery.

  3. I also think that price list does say cheater. Comparing to the other words, the "s" blobs seem to be more solid, and the "a" blobs have a similar little light dot in the loop and slight left slant.

  4. You often mention "Cacheco." Do you mean Cocheco Printworks of Dover, New Hampshire?

  5. Patricia - yes I do. I should explain it more.

  6. I love cheater prints whatever the true term should be. I used cheater reproductions on the backs of my most recent "potholder" style quilt and it makes the back almost as much fun as the front. And yes, Pat's quilt is a potholder quilt. Or at least that is what "Potholder Pam" Weeks says. I would love to see that one in person. Thanks for another great post.