I got lucky on eBay a week or two ago. I was cruising through the antique quilts listings and came across an auction that reached out and grabbed my attention. I guess it is inaccurate to call it an auction since it was a “Buy it Now” deal. I kept going back and looking at the quilt and the description. That’s never a good thing for me to do since I seem to get more and more enamored with the item each time I look at it.
The fabric used in the quilt is chintz. Chintz textiles were imported to European countries from India throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The cotton was generally a calico or a bold print sporting columns, pillars, birds and the like. It was also glazed so the fabric was somewhat shiny. The glazed look is what sets chintz apart from other fabrics.
The process of making chintz in India was laborious. According to eHow.com, “the fabric was first polished with buffalo milk and a dried fruit containing tannin, called, ‘myrobolan.’ The patterns were traced on paper and then outlined with hole piercings. The design was transferred to the fabric by rubbing charcoal over it. A wax coating was applied to all areas of the fabric that weren’t designed to be blue or green. The fabric was then submerged in an indigo vat, used for the blues and greens and aired out before removing the wax. All other colors, except for yellow, were then hand painted and aged in the sun. Any yellow areas were applied last because of reduced color fastness.”
French and British textiles producers weren’t familiar with the Indian process of making the wildly popular fabric and even if they had been, I’m sure they would have run into more than just a few challenges such as finding an adequate quantity of buffalo milk, and had to figure out a way to create a similar look. Once synthetic dyes were invented that became much easier. So easy, in fact, that the mills produced so much chintz that they became overloaded with the stuff. There was no way to unload the warehouses except to greatly discount the fabric and the term “chintzy” became a common euphemism for something that is inexpensive.
The quilt is very scrappy and at first I wasn’t sure all the fabrics used in it were chintz. The lighter fabrics look a great deal like shirting yet, on closer examination, they too are glazed and shiny. This is the impetus it sometimes takes to make me go on a fact-finding quest. I still have so much to learn!
The quilt comes across as being very brown until that spark of pink jumps out. Once I got over looking at that pink, my eyes were immediately drawn to the long stretch of blue. Then the purples caught my attention. They are subtle and sort of a muddy tone rather than bright, which makes them fit in perfectly with the browns.
I love the movement the quilter created when she carefully planned this out and sewed the blocks together with a diagonal setting. Even when she ran out of matching colored blocks, she used fabrics that used the same value colorwise so it all blended together. It is a valuable lesson for those of us who have a tendency to start searching all over the place for the same identical fabric and can’t go on until we find that one matching piece.
I am so glad I bought this quilt. It is one of those rare beauties that I can look at forever and each time, find a little something that I hadn’t noticed before. It has a wonderful feel to it and the colors are so warm and inviting. It looks perfect placed across the back of my old rocking chair!