Friday, June 28, 2013

Sunbonnet Sue - The Darling of Applique Quilts

Sunbonnet Sue- The Darling of Appliqué Quilts

For centuries needleworkers have embellished cloth by adding layers of fabric in pictorial  designs of religious and folk art themes.  In renaissance Europe this technique was considered a form of embroidery, known as “intasia” embroidery from the Italian for “inlay”.

In American quilt making tradition, initial appliqué was termed Broderie Perse (Persian Embroidery) in which elements were cut from printed chintz fabrics and sewn onto a plain ground. At times, borders were decorated with designs cut from scraps of plain or small-print cloth.  This would become the definition of American appliqué where entire designs were created from small pieces of overlaid fabric or “patchwork”. Applique embellishments were popular for garments and household linens.

As with all trends, rises in popular techniques are often followed by declines and by the end of the 19thC “piecework” in which fabric “pieces” were sewn together to form units became popular.  These units were then joined to form the quilt or garment.  This was further augmented by the increasing popularity of purchased commercial patterns and quilt kits with pre-cut shapes ready for stitching.

By the 1920’s appliqué was back, due in part to the production of colorful small-print Amercian-made fabrics.  At this time, also, arose children’s décor with quilts, linens and china created just for the small ones in the family.  Prior to this, many of these items were simply smaller versions of full-sized adult products.  

Now we come to Sunbonnet Sue.  There were early versions of this design, these versions were actually outlined embroidery.  In 1910 Sunbonnet Sue first appeared as a pattern for an appliqué child quilt. The design for this bonneted little girl came from the postcards and books by British illustrator Kate Greenaway in the late 1800’s.  In America, Bertha Corbett published The Sunbonnet Babies Primer in 1902 from which many, many first graders learned to read.

Post cards reproduced from original Sunbonnet Pictures.  Merrimack Publishing Corp., N.Y.

There have been hundreds variations of this design, including a small boy companion called Sam.

Embroidered Sunbonnet Sue quilt blocks

Sue's friend Sam

Friday, June 21, 2013

Designs from Paradise - Tori Richard

Tori Richard Designs

I have been fortunate to have visited Hawaii on many occasions. I have decided to write about 3 textile-related experiences I  encountered in Honolulu over several years.

 The main focus of one such visit was to attend the Textile Society of America Biennial in HNL.  I have written many times about the TSA and their wonderful conferences.  At this particular conference I was able to participate in an excursion to several HNL textile venues which will be the subject of two blogs: Tori Richard and Dale Hope of Kahala Designs.  The third of this series will introduce you to one of the most fabulous vintage clothing shops I have ever visited, Bailey’s

Today I wish to introduce to you the design house Tori Richard.  One of the benefits of touring with textile experts is the inside look at collections we are usually afforded.  At their office/archives panel after panel of the iconic fashions, designed over a period of more than fifty years,were displayed. .One could easily image their famous clientele wearing these fashions at galas, during cruises and on the most fabulous vacations.  Just seeing the glorious designs in the most vibrant printed fabrics made one appreciate the impact made by this company in the field of resort and vacation-wear.

This volume was published in 2006 to commemorate the fiftieth  anniversary of Tori Richard.
The history written here  is beautifully highlighted with photographs of the Tori Richard design line which recall fashion and design from the 1950's onward, but are still immensely popular today.

As is the case of many successful entrepreneurs, Mort Feldman the founder of Tori Richard was a self-made man.  Originally from Boston and already established in the textile trade of Chicago, Feldman fell in love with the lifestyle of Hawaii upon visiting a friend in 1953.  In 1956 he established Tori Richard with 2 partners in a room at Pier 7 at the Honolulu Harbor. 
The company name, Tori Richard is built upon the names of 2 of his children, Victoria and Richard.

Feldman had a great love of Asian, particularly Japanese design.  This, coupled with the impressive design elements of the Hawaiian Islands would be the beginning of a fashion empire that soon became global. The main factor to this success was, in my opinion, his attention to detail.  Feldman chose the most highly skilled Japanese fabric printing firms too produce his fabrics.  One such endeavor involved the making of Tegaki, a handprinted yardage created in lengths of up to 12 yards. This guaranteed each garment design was unique and no client would see her Tori design on another client. The designs also matched pockets and fronts for an uninterrupted pattern and French seams insured there was no raw edges ever to be seen.  Collars were interlined so they laid flat and buttons were created to match the garment.

In 2008 Tori Vintage reintroduced the most popular Tori designs with a modern update.
Tori Richard shops can be found in many major cities throughout the US and abroad.  Many upscale stores also carry garments from this fashion house.

Because of the superior manufacture and the lasting popularity of the designs, original vintage Tori Richard garments can still be found on the secondary market at a high price.. I still look for them at every “slightly used” shop I encounter.

Tori Richard vintage Hawaiian shirt found at Bailey's

Friday, June 14, 2013

Monochrome Pictorial Prints - The Glorious Toiles de Jouy


From early days, patterns were printed on cloth using a wooden block. Areas of the block were carved away leaving a relief design that was then colored from a tub of dye.  The block was firmly pressed on the stretched cloth ground and allowed to dry, before another color was added using another carved block.  This process was time consuming and required precision for the registration of the pattern, therefore it could not be used for mass production.

 In the 1700’s a new technique was advanced using large copper plates.  The large plates were able to be engraved in great detail (much like etchings).  The inked plate was then pressed onto the cloth.  The large size of the plate, sometimes as large as 3 feet square, could represent an entire scene and could be repeated with good registration for lengths of cloth. Occasionally, depending upon the skill of the printer, a thin, horizontal white line can be detected where one impression would end. The drawback to this procedure was the difficulty in printing in more than one color and so the majority of these fabrics were printed with madder, indigo or woad dyes.  Nevertheless these are some of the finest printed fabrics produced in France and Britain,18thC monochrome pictorial prints, referred to as Toiles de Jouy, “Toile” is French for cloth and “Jouy” refers to the village near Versailles where the most famous of these cloths were produced.  the factory at Jouy was established by Oberkampf in 1760.  Christophe-Phillipe Oberkamph was a German-born naturalized Frenchman who, through his skills in the processes of engraving and dyeing of fabric patterns, was named "Royal Manufacturer" by the French king.  He is also known for creating a process for the manufacture of wallpaper.

Monochrome c. 1800

Throughout the years these monochromes were reproduced and adapted with small changes made to the original design.

Toile c. 1830

Toile c.1890

Toile c.1920

The themes of these pictorials can be classified into broad categories: pastoral, romantic, mythological and historical  If one takes the motif of  these categories as definition of a toile design, it becomes necessary to include printed fabrics of the 20thC also.  Although at first glance these stylized textiles are not recognized as toiles (they are multicolored and were often printed on coarsely woven ground fabrics such as “barkcloth”) they do belong to this category of printed textiles.  I will bring examples of these contemporary cloths for you in a future blog.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Wedding Handkerchiefs

Wedding Handkerchiefs

Last June I wrote on the subject of “Hankie History”.  June is traditionally associated with brides and weddings as the month is named for the Roman Goddess Juno (wife of Jupiter) who was the goddess of marriage and households and, therefore, I chose “wedding handkerchiefs” as today’s topic.

Wedding handkerchiefs are the most valued of all hankies.  Traditionally they were made for the bride to carry, usually by the bride’s best friend. These textiles range from simple tatted edgings to very elaborate whitework.  Whitework is a broad term which includes white embroidery, lace and drawn work on fine white fabric. Very popular are monogrammed handkerchiefs, especially those from the late 19thC which feature small motifs of flowers and vines and intricate scrollwork.

If you find a suitable example of these handkerchiefs it is well worth the purchase so that you have on hand a remarkable gift for an upcoming bridal shower or to include with a wedding card.