Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Cabbage

Tailor with a head of cabbage, 1812

Here's a strange word meaning that illustrates how symbolism becomes lost over time.
We've been posting about jargon and slang and this cartoon illustrates how meaning disappears.

I wondered what cabbage had to do with sewing when I found an 1858 reference to cabbage in regard to "the fashionable dressmaker."

"Cabbage should not be a permitted perquisite when the pattern is unique and cannot be matched."

It wasn't too hard to find out what the heck that sentence meant. (The O.E.D. was on top of it.)

Dressmakers and tailors had two ways of supplying fabric. In one the needleworker provided the wool for a suit or silk for a dress; in the other the customer brought in the fabric.

In either case the establishment kept the leftover pieces. Although the customer might provide the fabric it was a tradition that the seamstress or tailor was entitled to the extra scraps. 

From a 1911 dictionary

This was called the cabbage. The term seems related to a French verb cabbaser---to put in a basket. The dressmaker might keep a basket under the worktable for the cabbage.

The Dreamstress blog called our attention to this 1760 painting by Raspal of a French sewing workshop. Under the table: a basket for the cabbage,

which also litters the floor, along with some almost empty spools.

One can imagine how much cabbage was leftover from tightly
fitted bodices like this one in the Victoria & Albert's collection.
But the pieces must have have been quite small.

There were always complaints that the stitchers appropriated more cabbage than was reasonable---
Some of which wound up in their own clothing. The cabbage was also resold to other customers and to wholesalers who then retailed it themselves, as in this 1826 reference to a mantua-maker (dressmaker) who "finds it convenient to sell off her old rags, her cuttings and cabbage, at high prices."

Who would want such small fragments of delaine and challis?

I like it. The cabbage.

"The cabbage" for my container full of scraps too small to save,

which go into a larger box of pieces too small to save.
Another related word is garbage.
I am not kidding.
A 1900 explanation:
"There were few apprentices who did not wear cloth and cassimere vests throughout their entire apprenticeship, that were made of cabbage, and there was no attempt to conceal it, for the privilege was almost universally conceded; and where it was not, in individual cases, the customer was looked upon as 'close fisted,' mean, and penurious. It must be conceded however, that cabbaging was sometimes practiced in such a reckless manner, as to make it little less than downright stealing, and this brought it into disrepute."
See the Dreamstress's post on cabbage:

It's a verb too. Have you ever cabbaged on to something?

Tiny pieces---good for nothing but patchwork?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Passion for Exotic Flowers

Winterthur print featuring the ten-petaled passion flower.

A different colorway from the Victoria & Albert, 
which identifies it from designer Samuel Matley, printed in 1824.

Another stripe, this one from the Cooper Hewitt Museum's collection

European interest in exploration created a rage for exotic chintzes to decorate English rooms, one reason we see so many passion flowers in early cottons.

From Winterthur's collection.

Passiflore de Belot
The genus Passaflora has over 500 species, mostly tropical.

About 1700, Portuguese explorers found the unusual flowers in South America and seeing Christian symbolism everywhere (there was an Inquisition going on so piety may have been a requirement) they decided the plant was a metaphor for the Passion of Christ, the Crucifixion. Ignoring the native name they called it Passion Flower (Passaflora). 

R. J. Thornton, Passiflora caerulea, from the 1807 Garden of Nature

In this metaphor, the blue ring represents heaven, the ten petals represent the ten apostles (it was a reach.)

Passiflora caerulea in a print for London draper Richard Ovey
by Bannister Hall printworks. 
The Victoria & Albert captions this piece as 1802.

Ovey and Bannister Hall printed many yards of passionflower prints.

Victoria & Albert Collection
Ovey commissioned this piece printed to shape and cut into a chair cover from Bannister Hall about 1800.

Detail from a Bromley Hall print designed by William Kilburn,
attributed to about 1775 by the V & A

Bannister Hall's competitor Bromley Hall also did passion flowers.

Detail of a print credited to Bromley Hall printworks,
1816-1817 by the Cooper Hewitt.

They have another piece in a white colorway with full-chintz coloring.

Wholecloth quilt once in the McCarl Collection.

Two distinctive features of the tropical Passiflora:

1) A prominent stamen and style 
2) surrounded by rings

The center of the flower catches your eye in American quilts made before 1840 or so.

Quilt by Amelia Heiskell Lauck, 1823, Virginia,  in the collection of the DAR Museum.

Stripe in a border of a medallion quilt by the Allston family of
South Carolina, Smithsonian Institution.

Same print in an applique medallion in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum #2008.040.0019 from the Dillow Collection.

It's the rather pinkish stripe, the second last border.

The ten petals are also a characteristic but botanical accuracy was not a priority.

Two passion flower derivatives in the popular peacocks with chicks chintz.

Detail of a print in a quilt date-inscribed 1830 from dealer Pique Trouver

Some prints eliminate most of the botanical detail. This one with a fancy machine ground behind the flowers looks more like a hibiscus than a passion flower.

In the U.S. we have a hardy hibiscus called the Rose of Sharon with a prominent
stamen and five petals.

Another Smithsonian quilt. 
The light flower in the right border
looks more like a hardy hibiscus than a tropical passion flower.

This English palm tree panel includes passion flowers and hibiscus
with exotic pheasants---Asian natives.

Smithsonian quilt found in Vermont.

I have many more examples in my files of American quilts with passion flower prints than I do of British quilts. In fact my British examples are only marginally seen as passion flowers.

The Austen quilt at Chawton Cottage has far more domestic flora.

Pieced British quilt

Is it possible that most of the British prints with passion flowers and relatives were designed for the Portuguese market (the export market) and shipped to the Americas where taste was thought to favor the exotic? Yet, Richard Ovey would not have been commissioning passion flower designs for furnishings if they weren't popular in London in 1805. Perhaps the fashion became passe in the 1820s and was then thought suitable only for the foreign buyer.

Whole cloth quilt from Cindy's Antique Quilts inventory

The passion flower prints are distinctive and in American quilts probably offer us clues to a date of about 1820-1840. The sources are probably the big English printers Bromley Hall and Bannister Hall and their imitators.

Stripe described as a Portuguese print, probably English designed for export market.
Collection of the Cooper Hewitt.
See more about the Portuguese stripe style here:

Passion flower prints give us a little more insight into the fabric trade in the first half of the 19th century.  The more prints I look at carefully the more I see a division between what shows up in British quilts versus those made in the U.S. Two very different markets.

Small quilt made by Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend, Charleston, South Carolina.
Smithsonian Collection

Monday, July 23, 2018

Contained Crazy Quilts

Contained Crazy Quilt from the Arizona project.
Someone asked what a Contained Crazy Quilt was.

I did a search on the Quilt Index site for the word "Contained"
and found several interesting quilts

Contained Crazy Quilt dated 1904
from the Quilts of Tennessee and the Quilt Index.

The documenters in the 1980s were using the words Contained Crazy Quilt to refer to these and it's a term that still communicates today.

Bates Family Parlor Throw, described as a contained crazy quilt. 
New Haven, Connecticut.  NMAH/Smithsonian collection.

I doubt it was a term used before the 1970s.

Unconfined craziness. Just irregular shapes scattered across the surface.
Many of these are from online auctions or found on the internet.
All of them unless dated are probably 1880 - 1910.

A perfect example of contained craziness from the Winedale Collection and the Quilt Index.

A contained crazy quilt is first of all a crazy quilt, which means it has pieces cut to no standard shape
Those pieces may be embellished with linear embroidery.

 But what makes it different from a regular old crazy quilt is that the crazy parts are contained within a standard repeated shape.

Craziness contained in a triangle

Diamond-shapes may be the most common kinds of containment.

Actually, most crazy quilts are confined, built on squares. 

Crazy dated 1884, early in the fad.

There is probably a seam line right below that line in
the detail above but she's disguised it. 

Even a lot of those that look completely unconfined are based on squares or rectangles but the quiltmaker appliqued crazy pieces and embroidery over the seams to hide them. When you flip them over you notice the construction from the back.

Dated 1893 by Leonard Mitchell, Columbus Quilt for
the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Illinois State Historical Society

So one could classify nearly every crazy quilt as a contained crazy quilt. But this does not make sense to us, so the definition for a contained crazy quilt must be...

Crazy patchwork contained in a shape other than a square or rectangle.

With exceptions on the fuzzy edges of the definition.

Contained or not? Everybody has to settle on their own definitions.

Alice Bowman Plummer, Indiana Project & the Quilt Index.

Alberta Project & the Quit Index