Civil War Quilts · Apr 22, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 15: Woven Plaids

Star of woven plaids and stripes by Becky Brown
Vintage block, perhaps 1850-1880 It's is hard to believe the woven green plaid is that old but it is.
Here's a swatch from an 1851 British journal with similar design. "Manufactured ...for the American market." What was different about the "American market?"
Vintage star quilt with plaids and stripes, about 1840-1860.
We've looked at the rage for printed plaids during the 1840s-1860s decades, See the post here:
End-of-the-19th-century block with a variety of checks and plaids
Plaids come and go in fashion but simple woven plaids are a classic.

Woven plaids are among the easiest patterns to create with yarns of different colors. The design is as old as the loom. Here the loom is strung with dark and medium brown yarns (the warp). The weaver crosses with dark and light yarns (the weft).

Vintage mid-19th-century star in the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection at the University of Wisconsin.
The brown center pinwheel above looks to be woven, in contrast to the printed grid design in the background.
Detail of a quilt from the Norfolk (Connecticut) Historical Society.
Woven plaids and checks are little help in dating a quilt. That pink windowpane check could have been woven in 1790 or 2015. Fortunately for us the blocks are dated in the 1850s.
The rest of the cottons in this star look about 1870-1900---the woven plaid, a classic.
Mid-19th-century doll quilt We know it's mid-19th-century because of the prints; the plaids and checks tell us nothing.
We might call these fabrics ginghams. In the past gingham meant any plain weave, yarn-dyed fabric, so one could have solid ginghams too.
Five ginghams, two prints in a block from about 1835. I'm counting the pink as a gingham too.
Table of fabric prices from the Library of Congress, ca. 1870
"White Goods, Linens, Printed Cottons, Ginghams, etc." Colored cottons were either Printed or Gingham
Woven plaids and checks---commonplace fabric---became fashionable again at the turn of the 20th century.
Checks are related...
to stripes and chambrays--- woven pattern of colored yarns.
Woven plaids are a great way to get a ca. 1900 look.

Above and below: Vintage quilts, about 1900

Consider them a good contrast to fancier printed goods in any of your 19th-century repro blocks.
Reproduction block by Bettina Havig It's hard to tell from the photo whether the background check is printed or woven. It really doesn't matter. She's captured the look of the shirting fashion.
Could this blue check from about 1890 be printed? Again it's the look that's important.
Two recent collections from French General and Primitive Gatherings

Rosemary Youngs has been making stars for a Japanese taupe project.
You can also find excellent plaids in places like the rag bag, the back of the closet and the thrift shop.
Use shirts,
Even if they seem a little strange---or too modern.
Vintage block about 1900
The bright plaids in this mid-19th-century star could have been woven yesterday.
What To Do With Your Stack of Star blocks? Alternate checkerboard blocks.
Set the stars with a checkerboard of squares cut 2" (WAIT! That's 2-1/2") to make a 6" finished checkerboard.
The Lincoln Museum quilt by Deb Rowden
Deb and I made this plaid quilt for the Lincoln log cabin at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
Plaid fabrics in a plaid set.
Scraps too small to save? Never. Cut 16 squares 2" x 2",
Bobbi Finley, Hancy's Stars
Bobbi pieced the small quilt from a reproduction fabric collection of mine called 1862: Battle Hymn. It's a different star with checkerboard center and a 16-patch checkerboard for setting.
One More Thing About Woven Plaids
Mid-19th-century star quilt from the Pat Nickols collection at the Mingei Museum
Add a green gingham to your mid-19th-century scrappy quilts.
Scrappy block from the 1860-1900 years.
Log cabin from the 1870-1890's
It's surprising how many green checks you see in mid-century scrap quilts. It may be that a woven green check, what they might have called an apron check, was common everyday clothing. Bright green calico prints were not really for clothing, but a subdued green check was just the thing for a work dress---and the scrapbag.
Union Cradle Quilt by Barbara Brackman. Green checks and gold checks. The pattern for this quilt is in my book Civil War Women
Read more about woven plaids in both my books on fabric dating: America's Printed Fabrics (pp 94-98) and Making History (pp 45-46).
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