Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Childress Collection at QuiltCon Nashville

Housetops quilt, Mid-20th Century
Collection of Marjorie Childress

Merikay Waldvogel on the left with Marjorie. 

I didn't get to go to QuiltCon but field reporter Merikay sent photos of the special show of Marjorie's fabulous collection. (She has 300---this is the tip of the glorious iceberg.)

Several of them are astounding in their geometry. I'd guess many were
Southern, made from factory cutaways, shapes leftover from cutting clothing.

Hat brims?

The one below is satins---all those long triangular shapes---the kind of thing you could buy by the pound at an underwear factory.

A tile quilt. Shapes used just as they came out of the scrap bag,
appliqued to a white background.

This one's more conventional with shapes trimmed to patchwork sized triangles.

No piece too small/What about no piece too large?

Signed Merry Christmas, Elizabeth, Grandma Davis, 1978
Merikay liked this one. It's a linsey quilt
made of the coarse wool/cotton combination fabrics
popular for sturdy 19th century clothing.

Quite a contrast to the looser/improvisational pieces.

Orpha Scott Campbell, Kentucky

Half a log

About 1900

Nice bunch of quilts, Marjorie!
And thanks, Merikay, for taking the photos.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Stars in Her Crown #8: Leopold, Duke of Albany

#8 Leopold by Becky Brown

Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert (1853-1884) was named for his parents' common uncle. First cousins Victoria and Albert were close to their Uncle Leopold of Saxe Coburg-Gotha who'd decided when they were young that they should marry. 

Their youngest son and eighth child was afflicted with serious health problems. Leopold suffered from seizures and hemophilia, an unfortunate combination as any falls resulted in bleeding episodes. He was diagnosed with hemophilia at about 7 years old but it was his seizure disorder that concerned his family the most. Victoria tried with limited success to restrict his activities.
"[Leopold] bruises as much as ever...he holds himself still as badly as ever and is very ugly....He is a very clever, amusing but very absurd child."
Leopold and elder sister Louise.
Both were musically gifted; Leopold played the piano and flute.
As younger children they had more freedom
although freedom required braving the Queen's wrath.

English winters are hard on a hemophiliac's joints so when he was eight Leopold began spending the winter months on the French Riviera in the company of a doctor and an elderly guardian Edward Bowater and his family. When Prince Albert died in December, 1861, Leopold was in Cannes where Bowater died the same day.

Leopold soon after his father's death,
miniature by William Charles Bell

Hemophilia, a hereditary blood clotting disorder, was little understood. When Leopold was 20 his mother wrote that a grandson had "the same constitution as Leopold. Only where does it all come from?"

Leopold, photographed by Charles Dodgson, 1875
John Ruskin: "He had no extraordinary taste for art, 
although all his sisters are artistic; 
his special gift was musical."

Leopold was bright, rebellious and practical. If rough sports were restricted he became a chess expert and popularized croquet. He graduated from Oxford and while there associated with a set of aesthetes, becoming friends with art professor John Ruskin, painter John Millais and composer Arthur Sullivan. Other friends included the Liddell family and Charles Dodgson (see Alice in Wonderland). Leopold named his daughter Alice and Alice Liddell named a son Leopold.
One can't imagine where Dodgson got the idea for Lewis Carroll's
unpleasant monarchs.

Leopold led an active life yet survived his hemophilia for a remarkable amount of time in the 19th century. He did have terrible attacks of internal bleeding. Ruskin wrote of a winter, 1878 visit to Leopold, " a prisoner on his sofa lately...he is very bright and gentle under severe and almost continual pain."

Victoria in signature Queenly fashion was concerned about 20-year-old Leopold's suffering but complained to Vicky who was worried about her brother, "You only speak of him and not of my constant anxiety and the terrible difficulties I have to contend with...."

After a later attack of bleeding in his leg: "Baby has written to you about that wretched Leopold--who has through constant carelessness...got a most dreadful leg."

Leopold married his German princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont in 1882. On his birthday soon before his marriage the Queen wrote in her diary: "How often has his poor young life hung by a thread and how many and wearisome illnesses has he recover from....he has found a girl, so charming, ready to accept and love him in spite of his ailments." 

It was a short but happy marriage. On his winter visit to Cannes in 1884 he fell and hit his head, probably dying of bleeding in the brain at the age of 30. Helen was expecting their second child.

Alice, Helen and Charles Edward, the Duke of Albany
The Duchess of Albany worked to keep her husband's memory alive. The Queen
kept her and the children close until they moved to Germany.

Bench dedicated to Leopold in Cannes

When Leopold and Helen's son Charles was sixteen he was chosen as heir to the throne of Saxe Coburg & Gotha. Helen and Alice moved to Germany to be with him. The first Leopold's plans to unite England and Germany in common fellowship would seem to be working but World War I upset it all.

 Carl Eduard and his family in 1925

Charles who changed his name to Carl Eduard fought for Germany. During World War I Parliament stripped him and his cousins of their German titles. Between the wars he became a Nazi and is thought to have spied for Hitler on his English relatives, particularly King Edward VIII, to determine how willing the English cousins were to thwart Germany's plans for European domination.

The Windsors visiting Hitler and the German cousins, 1937

After the King abdicated Carl hosted a dinner for newlyweds the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their ill-advised trip to Germany. Through Carl's family, Leopold the Duke of Albany is great-grandfather of the King of Sweden Carl Gustav XVI.

#8 Leopold by Mark Lauer

The Block

The larger pattern is for a 12" Block; the smaller for an 8" Block.

To Print:
Create a word file or an empty JPG file.
Click on the image above.
Right click on it and save it to your file.
Print that file 8-1/2" x 11". Check to be sure the inch square box measures 1".
You'll need 4 copies if you are going to piece it over paper foundations.

The block is constructed in triangles—-Triangles are flipped and pieced into squares, four to a block. Each pattern includes paper foundations for 8”  & 12” blocks, which you can also use for template piecing. Add a 1/4” seam allowance when you cut the fabric using the templates.

In Block #8 the triangles are identical except four are flipped over.
In the sketch those four have a different color for Point A and strip C to give a shaded effect (although as you can see the model makers shaded them in various fashion.)

1-8 by Denniele Bohannon
One more block to go.

Mark's is quilted too.
Quilter: Jennifer Strauser

Textile of the Week

What looks to be a printed silk pocket square "England's Hope" with the eighth child Leopold as the youngest so we can guess it's from about 1853.

Artists had a hard time portraying children but this one
was exceptionally off.

Arthur and Leopold in 1863

Read a book a week:
Prince Leopold: The Untold Story of Queen Victoria’s Youngest Son by Charlotte Zeepvat

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The South American Market

Swatch of fabric, 1850
Nelson, Knowles, and Co.
"For the South American market"

About 1850 a British periodical The Journal of Design & Manufactures inserted swatches of actual fabric and wallpaper with critiques of current prints. (Wouldn't that be fun to revive!) The critiques could be sharp. The description of the stripe above in March, 1850:
"Nelson, Knowles, and Co., Manchester. The pattern inserted is a novelty in manufacture, being a specimen of chintz printing by eight cylinders. As it is intended, with some six or eight others, for the South American market, for which Messrs. Nelson, Knowles, and Co. chiefly print, nothing can fairly be said in criticism, unless we take the standard of those for whom it is produced."
In other words: 
They print for the export market. Since the customers aren't British there's no sense in even trying to measure taste by British standards.

A second Nelson, Knowles print
"Drawn and adapted especially for the Brazils....Must be judged by standards other than those we should apply to patterns produced for our home consumption. It is very effective in its way."
And a third:
"Manufactured principally for Spain and Portugal, and a clever specimen of executive skill; attractive for its purpose. Upon this and other goods prepared for foreign markets, we shall have some extended comments to make hereafter."
Shaded rainbow prints in blue and buff, two stripes and one coral print in bright colors with large figures. Printed for
  • Spain and Portugal
  • The Brazils
  • The South American Market
Terms that seem to be interchangeable.

As I've noted before the use of words like Portuguese indicates a general export market. These are the kinds of prints that were also purchased by North American importers as the same ships that served Portugal and Brazil made their way north along the Atlantic coast to Charleston and Baltimore.

I was also intrigued by the remark that Nelson, Knowles & Company chiefly printed for the South American market---the export customer.

Coming Home from the Mill by L.S. Lowry, 1928
Lowry painted 20th-century industrial cityscapes
and this one may be the Tottington Mill.

Nelson, Knowles & Company operated the Tottington Mill in Tottington, a few miles from the textile town of  Bury in Lancashire. The Tottington Mill began printing cotton about 1820 under owner Joshua Knowles (about 1794-1853).

An eight-color cylinder printing machine?

Their commercial histories tell us Knowles was the first to use an eight-color printing machine (noted in the 1850 print critique) and later expanded to twelve colors. By 1840 the mill employed 400 workers. Nelson, Knowles & Company closed the mill in the 1920s. Buildings were bombed during the Blitz and all that remains is the chimney among ruins in the Kirklees Valley nature reserve.

Knowles's estate Stormer-Hill still stands in Tottington.

See more on The Journal of Design & Manufactures

Monday, February 18, 2019

Digital Printing: My New Year's Resolution

Every year I try to spend some time learning some new skill. 2019 is the year of mastering digitally printed fabric.

I've been doing my own printing with an ink jet printer for years and I designed a few prints for Spoonflower, which prints custom designs on quilt-weight cottons---or any fabric, paper, etc.

Here's a Spoonflower search for Penguin:

I can't say I've mastered digital printing yet. Or even come close. But it's early in 2019 and by the end of the year I hope to say I've made some progress in designing and printing.

 Hillary Clinton/Susan B. Anthony panel
about three years ago

Small panel for Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee, both these printed on my own printer.

7" x 10"
I did several small embroidered patron saints collages with my own prints.

One of my Spoonflower designs is this yardage
of quilt labels to cut and ink. Spoonflower is great because
they print, market and sell your designs for you, paying you a royalty.

I also want to understand the commercial market better. I've been looking at what the big quilt fabric companies are doing in digital printing. For the past forty years or so prints for quilters have been screen printed, a kind of stencil process. A four-color print requires four screens.

Griswold Printing in Rhode Island prints using silk screen technology.
But this process using human printers is not cutting edge.

Giant automatic flat bed screen printing machines are the standard today.

It's the kind of technology the U.S. has not invested in.

Which is why most of our quilt fabric printing is done in Asia.

Screen printing has limitations. Because screens have to be cut and stored fabric companies want to sell a good deal of each print to cover their investment. No small niche markets.

Screen printing at Finland's Marrimeko

The highest number of colors per print is about 20---20 screens. And the fabric has to fit the screen width. But screen printing does produce a beautiful piece of cotton with dense, colorfast printing (almost as sharp as the copper roller print introduced in the early 19th century and abandoned in the late 20th century).

 Jasonda digital printer

Digital printing is the future. No screens to cut, no storage (except digital). They make flat bed printers the width of your living room, so theoretically there are few limits to how wide the repeat can be. (Except, I guess, for fabric size.) There are no limits on number of colors. If a computer can generate the color the printer can print it. And small-run editions of a print are feasible.

Right now, there are several ways to buy digitally printed fabrics for your quilts.

"Baltimore House - Multi Digitally Printed Panel
by Paula Barnes for Marcus"

The big companies are experimenting. For example, Marcus has done a Paula Barnes reproduction collection digitally. Is this because reproduction fabrics are now such a minor market that a small run is feasible with this technology? Or just an experiment with new techniques?

Another digital Marcus line: Ki-Coo Gardens by Laura Berringer.

Fluttering from Hoffman's Digital Spectrum line

Hoffman has a whole series of digitally printed fabrics, taking advantage of the color range possible.
This makes me think we can do a better job of reproducing the classic rainbow prints of the 1840s, print style not really feasible with screens.

Mid-19th century rainbow print plaid

Jason Yenter of In The Beginning is doing quite a bit of commercial digital printing.

Spoonflower's Heat Setting Machinery

You can buy other designers' work or your own patterns on Spoonflower.

Fussy cutting Queen Victoria shirtings from Spoonflower

The Spoonflower prints I've ordered are on the same quality fabric we can buy commercially, same thread count, yarn size, etc. But, they do not have the same final finish we expect, so they feel somewhat different on the surface.

Steph Skardal wrote a post last month on Joanne Fabrics's new digital printing service:

And if you want to think bigger than that---there are many digital printing companies that will print your designs in large or small editions. You market; you sell. See Robert Kaufman's website here:

Another site is Contrado.

The digital printing, particularly the custom printed fabric, is more expensive and it looks like some of the commercial quilt fabric is about $1 more per yard than commercial screen-printed yardage. Perhaps that's the price we pay for being a niche market. The whole idea of doing repro or retro prints that would never sell over a few yards is very appealing.

I've observed that most of the Spoonflower prints are very much like what's hot in the retail fabric business, same colors, same styles. The idea of doing something that is not trendy is interesting.

The Queen Victoria prints at Spoonflower are my latest experiment.
I will keep you posted. I'm thinking chintz panels next.