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Home > Newsletters > May 2005

May 2005

Common Question:

How can you tell a period fabric from a reproduction fabric?

There are many manufacturers out there today producing reproduction fabrics from the 1750s to the 1950s. Some are excellent copies, designed by Quilt Historians, so the more accurate they are, the harder it will be to distinguish the difference. But with some know how, you can easily tell the difference.

The differences between then and now are several. Colors, dyeing techniques, printing techniques, and the actual fabric that is used.

One of the most obvious clues, if you have actual yardage, is the selvage width.
Prior to 1915 fabric widths were under 24"
1920s to 1930s widths were 30" to 34"
1940s to 1950s widths were 36" to 39"
In the 1960s fabric widths expanded to up to 45" and that is where it hovers today
Not to confuse you, but there are many exceptions. But if you have a piece of cotton that is 44" wide, it is more than likely a reproduction than an authentic piece.

Another clue is how the fabric is dyed. Look at the wrong side of the fabric…is it saturated, can you see the color coming through, or does it look superficial? It is one of the best ways to tell a true piece of indigo print from a reproduction…if the blue is very heavy on the back, chances are it's authentic.

Printing techniques can help distinguish very old fabrics…fabric designs were printed one color at a time, and often the colors did not line up 100%, so you will find color "outside the lines". Today, with our perfectionist mentality, you would not see such 'errors' in printing.

Colors of yesterdays long ago are not the same today…just try to find a Turkey Red fabric true to the original Turkey Red. Become familiar with the colors of the bygone eras.

And lastly, feel the fabric. This can help identify true feedsacks from depression era reproductions. The feedsack material is very soft, slightly more open weave and a dream to work with.

Feature Article:"Using Reproduction Fabrics"

Reproductions have their place in the world.
Do you have a wonderful antique quilt that you would love to use but fear for it's well being? Make a new one using reproduction fabrics.

Did your cousin get Grandma's Dresden Plate Quilt and you wanted it? Make a copy of it! Make a few so all the grandchildren can have a memento of Grandma.

Quilts using reproduction fabric have been made to raise money for museums by copying one of it's quilts.
In some cases, if you are not concerned about the investment value or historical integrity of a quilt, you can use a reproduction fabric to repair an old quilt.

Famous quiltmaker Mary Schaffer made many reproduction quilts just so their pattern history would exist maybe another 100 years.

Whenever you use a reproduction fabric, you should document the project properly. Labeling out creations is very important, and when you are labeling an item made from a reproduction fabric, you should think about not only labeling it with you name, town, and date, but also that reproduction fabrics from Baum Textiles or Marcus Brothers or whoever was used.

If you have some time, grab a cup of tea (or glass of wine) and view the new items I have listed: vintage aprons, tons of antique and vintage lace, quilts, tops, and blocks, and much more!
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