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

Reproduction Fabric Review by Kimberly Wulfert, PhD
"From the Mills" 
Reproduction fabrics from P&B 
(Fall 2001)

P&B's line called "From the Mills," is their second, produced in cooperation with The American Textile History Museum, in Lowell, MA. The first line, in 1999, used all Cocheco fabrics for inspiration. This line is using Cocheco, Arnold, Merrimack and Allen Print Works, all of which are from the collections at the museum.

The closer look at these fabrics through my site will not distort the proportions in any way, just increase the overall size of the motifs. Do keep this in mind when you go to shop for them.

In Summer 2001, at the museum, I had the privilege of viewing the original sample cards of the fabrics reproduced. In almost every instance of the eight documented fabrics, the reproduction is a perfect copy. The colors, scale, depth, complexity, and details were virtually the same on all but the stripe and one small tone-on-tone. Needless to say, I was very impressed.

Below, the documented fabrics, meaning the original design and colorway chosen for reproduction, are shown individually. The other colorways of the fabrics are grouped together by color. The swatchs and information about the documentary fabrics was provided to me by the ATHM, but the commentary is mine. I thank them and P&B for their support of this review. The P&B Web site may have more information on the quilt contest they put together for these fabrics: ATHM “From the Mills” Contest Rules. We saw it on my August 2001 tour, when it debuted. A portion of all the fabric sale profits were to go the museum. It was a win-win situation. I had the pleasure of speaking at the museum, during the debut of the Challenge Exhibit, August 18, at 2:00 pm. My topic was: "How to Date Quilts," and the audience was asked to bring antique quilts of their own, to be dated. 

This swatch is an example of dress fabric that was popular from 1890 to 1910 in America. Barbara Brackman calls these bright colors on a black ground "neons." The size of the motifs were from small to large, like this one, but the neon colors of sky blue, red, yellow, lime green, hot pink, were the defining factor. Merrimack and other mills produced these very popular neons.

This color style of print is called a "chocolate". Some were made with a blue/gray ground and others had a white ground. The brown was always this deep, almost Hershey Bar® color. Allen Print Works used the blue/gray ground. This motif is larger than those usually seen on chocolates, which were common in the 1870s and 1880s. (See my chocolates page.)

This print was made by both Merrimack and Cocheco, indicating that it was probably copied from the same European design P&B says. This print is easy to date to the 1880s because of the reddish/pink color on the ferns. I understand it to be referrred to as Strawberry Red, which was printed during that time using the new synthetic dyes. Small motifs, in tightly-packed overall designs, often had Strawberry Red highlights during this time period.

P&B states, "This small-scale dense print is typical of early 1880s dress prints produced by Cocheco. The design has a circus-like quality that might suggest colorful balloons and streamer-like scrolls." 

Arnold Print Works was known for making Indigo prints. Indigo dyeing requires different processes then roller prints. Small dots were used to form the secondary pattern in this print. This is an old technique, returned. It is called "picotage," but is now most likely done with engraved rollers instead of wood blocks.

Here is another indigo print from Arnold Print Works, dated December 24, 1898, which also uses picotage to enhance the background.

The print in the left panel was a "faux print" of sorts. It was intended to imitate a woven textured print. Faux textured prints were very popular in the 1870 -1880s period. The print in the right panel is an example of Cocheco's chocolates, as they always used brown on white grounds.

P&B's line includes colorways of the documentary prints, in dark and light blue, reds and pinks, golds, medium and olive greens, purples, light and dark, and one off-white.

For more information see Cocheco Mills, the history and fabrics.


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© 2002 - 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.

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