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

Book Review by Kimberly Wulfert, PhD


VINTAGE FABRICS - Identification & Value Guide
by Judith Scoggin Gridley, Joan Reed Kiplinger, 
& Jessie Gridley McClure

Many of you know the website www.fabrics.net. All three of the authors bring that website to us. Joan writes the In Search of Warp Ends column, Jessie is the graphics expert, and her mom Judith handles the remaining aspects. Now they have put together a terrific book to guide us to correctly identify a fabric by its weave structure and other characteristics that do not include the dyes or prints. The swatches are dated. This book fills a big gap in the books most quilt and quilt historians read. Of course it will appeal to all types of textile addicts, but what sets this book apart from the usual textile and fiber ID books is its plethora of vintage illustrations and advertisements, catalogue and newspaper photos, textile selvedge and paper labels, and fashion plates. It is colorful, quaint, cozy, fun to look at, and filled with information that is fascinating, useful and much of it will be new to many readers from the quilt world. Joan, an expert in fabric weave identification, compiled the information from her many years of collecting and studying a period of time in textile history she loves so dearly.

The softcover 158 page 9" x 11" sized book is aesthetically pleasing page after page with so many interesting things grabbing your attention. It's like a children's book but made for textile fanatics! Joan gives fascinating tidbits of history behind the names of different fabrics names, such as Jean Batiste linen named for this man from Cambrai, France in the 13th century. Joan describes how the fabric will look to you and the hand, or feel. She tells the number of ply in the warp or weft, when it is significant to Id-ing it, and she compares it to similar fabrics to help you further. The photos are good size, clear close-ups, and good in their color intensity. It provides great views of a swatch's characteristics, even when the fabric is white or cream in color. In most cases, the catalogue and ad photos are large enough to read the small type, which is a great aspect. There is the occasional quilt photo, but this not a book about quilts or prints at all. There are some prints pictured, but it is the weave structure, which determines the name of the fabric, that this book focuses upon.

The ads and other illustrations correspond to the particular fabric being described. Cottons, wools, silks, linen and some novelty or complex fabrics are the main focus. This information fills about three-fourths of the book.

There are many other useful charts in the book: thread count per inch by fiber type, grade and quality; burn tests with drawings of the fiber close-up; drawings of common weave patterns; names of manufacturers with their various products by date, and textile mills history are briefly described and some vintage photos taken inside the mills and outside are included. It's an easy reference book to use in this regard and I know I will turn to it often for a quick check about a mill, when it began production and what fabrics it made. There are also pages dedicated to synthetic fabrics, when certain types came on the market and under what name.

Occasionally, totally unexpected pieces of fabric history are revealed. Two examples; rainproof velveteen, recommended for shawls and gowns in 1895, and white silk parachutes were sold in 1948 as a cheap source of fabric for clothes, lampshades, slipcovers and more. The public could buy 65 yards of parachute material for $15.00!

Student costumers would find this book useful for the many advertisements of clothes that are dated. Re-enactors and stage costumers can easily see what fabrics were used for which clothing and when. This book could help a novice clothes collector or small museum, date and identify the items in their collections.

Value or prices are not listed with the photos and descriptions of the fabric swatches. They are compiled in chart form. The chart groups them by fiber and date. It also includes "what to look for and what to avoid". The prices are based on yard cuts in excellent to good condition. I rarely find yardage for sale in my textile hunts. The value or price is given as a range, without further description, which is not easy to understand. Some of the ranges are too wide too be of much help, such as chintz, seven to fifty dollars, while others vary by less than ten dollars. Frankly, I don't think price guides are useful anyway, since prices fluctuate so greatly with time and location and seller, so this rather limited and condensed price guide doesn't concern me, or lower the books value on my library shelf. The internet was used to determine the value ranges and can be consulted in the future by a buyer, as prices change with supply and demand.

The "what to look for and avoid" information talks about care of the fabric and what you can expect from handling it and storing it, along with warnings of deterioration that can't be overcome. My overall impression of the chart is that it is packed with info that would be easier to skim for use if it differed in formatting, like bold lettering and paragraph breaks. This is not a book I would carry with me to shop, but it is one I would turn to time and again after I had brought my new finds home.

Whether your passion is collecting fabrics, clothes, vintage advertisements or textile history or that you crave the knowledge to recognize fabric weaves to sew with them and achieve the right hand or wearability, you will find this book to be useful. Joan's expertise is evident throughout this book, which is a joy to look through and to read.

Please note: "As a result of extensive research on Indian Head cloth for a possible book, new information has come to light. On page 61 of the Vintage Fabrics book, please make the following correction. In the text beneath the Indian Head heading, last sentence, change 1961 to estimated mid-1970s. The exact date when Springs Industries folded IH into its Springmaid fabrics line or discontinued it is being researched by the Springs archivist." --- from Joan Kiplinger, Feb. 3, 2006





VINTAGE FABRICS Identification & Value Guide 

$13.57 on Amazon, regularly $19.95









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2005 - 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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