Indigo ink on white bleached muslin fabric. (c. 1910?)

Fabric Pattern Sleuthing

When I first decided to remake the antique “T” quilt, I spent a lot of time trying to date the materials. I felt confident in my conclusions regarding the red fabric and the batting, but the backing fabric was a bit of an enigma for me. I knew it was not as old as the red or white fabric and I strongly suspected it was not as old as the cotton batting either, which meant that the quilt was assembled some years after the top was made, but how much later?

T Quilt Backing Fabric

I read a lot of information regarding dating fabrics, but nothing I read or saw came close to the pattern or color on the back of the original T quilt. My own life long experience with fabrics kept pulling me toward the 1930/1940 years. I have seen fabric like this sewn in my grandmothers quilts as well as in my mother fabric scrap box from when I was a child. So I started scanning the internet for reproduction fabrics hoping that I might find something that resembled it.

After days of searching the internet, I found nothing. So I started calling local quilt stores hoping that I could eMail them a photo of the fabric I was searching for. I thought someone must have something similar. One of the stores I called said they did not have anything like what I was searching for, but the woman did have information about the fabric itself. It seems that I had discovered a beautiful piece of fabric that dates back to the Great Depression (1929 – 1939).

T Quilt Backing Fabric CU

The shop owner told me that during those years, most fabrics were limited editions. She went on to explain that during the Great Depression the textile industry was hurting financially so they same up with a brilliant way to market their fabrics: Food and Feed sacks. It was a win/win situation for them. The backing on the original T quilt was not made from feed sacks as it was 1 large piece of fabric, but the time period fit the design and color.

During the early 1900’s, fabric was printed using a lithograph technique that produces large quantities of a single pattern. After a particular design was used to print a certain amount of fabric, the lithograph was destroyed and another was made to create a different pattern. The fabric made during a print run was sold in stores as yardage and it was sold for use as food packaging for both humans and animals. Apparently this was a cost effective thing to do because it addressed many income levels and the more variety a manufacture had, the more money they could make during the tough economic times. 

According to the woman who assessed the fabric on the back of the T quilt, that was exactly what I had and to find a similar pattern would be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. So I set my sights on finding a piece of fabric that was white with a blue print and much to my surprise I found a really close match almost instantly.

Backing Fabric

The fabric shown above I found was on the Missouri Star Quilt Company’s web site. It is part of the Adele collection and it is called “Berries”.It is part of the Whistler Studio’s fabric line that is manufactured by Windham Fabrics.


3 Fabrics

I fell in love with this fabric the second it arrived and I unwrapped it. It is visually beautiful to be sure, but it also washed like a dream and hand stitching it is like drawing a needle through warm butter. On my previous blog, Created by Bella, I talked a lot about the various grades of fabric and I have to say that this one will forever sit at the top of my favorites list. I enjoyed working with it so much that I will go out of my way to purchase Windham fabrics in the future. 



It is not a perfect match, but it is pretty close.

Happy Sewing!


5 thoughts on “Fabric Pattern Sleuthing

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