Quilt History 
Today's Quilt Historians
Underground Railroad
Women at Work



New Pathways into Quilt History written by Kimberly Wulfert, www.antiquequiltdating.com

Reproduction Fabric Review by Kimberly Wulfert, PhD
"Birds and Basics" 
Reproduction fabrics from Harriet Hargrave 
(Summer 2004)

Even someone new to antique quilt appreciation is  likely to recognize the featured chintz in Harriet Hargrave's new line "Birds and Basics" by P&B Textiles.  It is a  genre of chintz that had immense popularity in its day, 1815-35 and can been seen on many of the surviving quilts in museums and private collections. 

On the left is the original, on the right is the reproduction. (reduced by 50%)

Original from the collection of Julia D. Zgliniec

Can you tell the difference? Great job I think. Harriet dates her line to the 1840s and used her own quilts for inspiration. The other two colorways are quite nice too!

This chintz print is historically from a genre of Game Birds and Tree prints that were printed on tea, tan or medium brown backgrounds from around 1815 to 1835, but reproduction of them have been made up to the present day in the furnishing fabrics industry.  A large print like this would not have been used for clothing, but for drapery and upholstery and bedding. 

Florence Montgomery describes this particular print as the pheasants and plum tree on a tan ground made about 1815 using the block print method. It was made with a roller printer around 1835 and beyond. (Printed Textiles, pg. 160)

 Mary Schoeser describes a close cousin of this pattern that features one pheasant under a palm tree with very similar flowers surrounding it: "isolated islands were a distinctive feature of block-printed cottons in the years around 1815...This type of design must have been extremely popular, since many examples survive, particularly in the U.S. (suggesting that such designs were among those 'dumped' on the American market in the attempt to stifle the development of their textile industry after the War of 1812 ended, in Dec. 1814). (English and American Textiles, with Celia Rufey, pg. 57)  The V&A Museum credits this 'madder-style' print in their collection to Bannister Hall,1815. (Victoria & Albert Museum, English Printed Textiles, block No. 46)

Patricia Smith, in her Calico and Chintz book, illustrates several different bird and tree prints popular between 1814 -16 and1825-1835. Other game birds used frequently were peacocks and partridges. Most of the prints in this genre had tea grounds and vivid colors of greens, blues, reds and yellows (p. 94-95)

Deemed worthy of mention in the writings of Confucius, the juicy plum has been grown in China since ancient times. The birds in this print sit under a plum tree with oval shaped reddish fruit. Lao-Tse, the famous Chinese philosopher, is thought to have been born under a plum tree a lucky occurrence since the Chinese believe plums symbolize good fortune. There are numerous tributes to the plum in Chinese culture. Confucius likens their beauty to a loved one. (About.com, Visions of Plums)

The eight smaller prints that accompany this feature fabric are in  three main colorways, beige/browns, dark and light pinks, and blue/greens or teal, to correspond with the bird and tree colorways. It seems that most of them would look good with any colorway of the large print.  I will picture the more densely colored ones so that you can see the detail, but there are light beige tone colorways.  These are adjusted to make the motif it's actual size.

This one is quite unique and is in teal, a color we need more of for reproducing mid-19th C. quilts. It is a true teal, tone on tone, even if it doesn't appear that way on your monitor. 

One has an India flair. This print style was swiftly taken up in the south of France;

Others remind me of textured woven cloth:                   

Picotage, tiny dots forming a design, were popular since woodblock printers put tiny nails into their blocks, but the roller printing machine made it a much more common method of printing cloth. Designers used  nature herself during this early time. Later on they copied from other designer's work and then added more to it. Somewhere along the line nature as the model was pushed aside, most noticeably in the 1850s when speaking about chintz prints.

The print above also comes in beige on ecru, dark pink on ecru, and teal on ecru.

This is a dark brown print with some dark red flowers too on beige. Another print has two shades of teal, and the other is tan on ecru with some dark red flowers.

This medium-large scale, but delicate, print also comes a pretty pinkish-beige
ground with medium brown leave veins and a tan ground with dark red veins,
oth with ecru as the third color like the one above.

Most of the smaller prints are new designs in the reproduction marketplace. There are two which are similar to other reproductions, the small printed plaid and the flower-head print.  It's not that unusual these days for two or three different textile companies to  reproduce the same print, sometimes concurrently, quite by chance. I find that amazing, given all the different prints there are. I say, you can't get too much of a good thing, as the poor designs are not usually the ones everyone wants to reproduce. It reminds me of the 100th Monkey Theory too!


There is a pink and brown on beige combination as well. This fleur print with large areas of a textured-looking ground between the fleurs reminds me of Civil War prints, so I recommend using it for quilts of that time frame too.

Reproducing a quilt from the time period that the bird chintz was popular would include such styles as the strippy quilt, or as the wide border on a block quilt, of  Ohio Stars, or Chips & Stones, or any block you like. It could also go around a Star of Bethlehem as the border and also be a row of diamonds within it. Adding a  large scale polychrome print to a small diamond in this large star will give a touch of several colors in each piece, and add interest to that row. Another way to show off this glorious fabric is to make a quilt that has large square alternate block between blocks of appliqué or patchwork.

In the early 1800s it wasn't unusual for a woman to cut a folded square of her precious chintz fabric into a large pattern that in turn is appliquéd to a light colored ground. The large scale of the chintz print, cut into a large appliqué design makes a very intriguing quilt. Look through books of 19th century quilts for some examples. The Shelburne Museums has  two, they refer to as the Oak Leaf and Orange Slice pattern. See "The Art of the Needle" on page 68 for one with sashing and "Enduring Grace" page 54 for one without sashing.  To make this one, use various large scale chintz fabrics with  the same large papercut appliqué pattern, such as the Oak Leaf and Reel, and you will have a stunning early quilt replication.  The quilt Harriet features in her pattern for P&B is a sawtooth quilt using the other pieces of the collection for the inner blocks and the chintz for the border.

Thank you to P&B Textiles for providing the fabric. All the information above is my interpretation alone. Check with your local quilt shop to purchase these fabrics.

Fabrics & Dyes

© 2004 - 2016 Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. Absolutely no copies, reprints, use of photos or text are permitted for commercial or online use. One personal copy for study purposes is permitted.

Fabrics & Dyes
Rugs & Textiles
Books & Reviews
Resource Links

Visit my
online shop ...
for quilt history lovers! 

* Gifts & Jewelry,
* Books & Stationery,
* Archival Supplies, 
* DVDs,
* Quiltmaker Supplies.