Lots of links!
 
Here are some of my favorite Internet sources for reliable, well-researched information on quilts and quilt/textile history.  This is a work in progress; please email me if you find any links you think should be added to this list.  There is always more to learn!

 

 

 

Interested in vintage fabrics?

Gridley, Judith S., Joan Reed Kiplinger and Jessie Gridley McClure, Vintage Fabrics Identification & Value Guide Paducah, Kentucky: Collector Books, 2005. Paperback, 158 pp.  $19.95. 

Because the subject of textiles is so dauntingly broad, I have always warned fabric collectors away from collectors' guides. Either such books are so superficial all but the neophyte is left saying "Gee, that's kind of obvious," or contain so much misleading information the reader wonders "Who did they pay to write this nonsense?" A few compound the insult by including a "price guide" that has no relation to any value outside a reseller's wildest fantasies.

That's why it was such a delight to page through this volume. It actually does what this sort of book is supposed to do: inform and engage. The authors are serious collectors (Kiplinger writes a funny and fascinating column on fabric history for www.fabrics.net) and their knowledge, enthusiasm, and wit is obvious on every page.

The book is loaded with hundreds of the sort of color photos that collectors love: not just crisp, clear pictures of the textiles being described, but vintage advertisements that put the fabric in historical context. The text is both concise and brimming with information ranging from the rejected names for nylon (including Delawear and nuron) to the strange story of Aralac, a fiber made from milk protein that was the perfect wartime substitute for wool - except that when wet, it made the wearer smell like sour milk. There's even information on how to tell the difference between organdy and "starchless lawn," and how to date dotted swiss (by the size, arrangement and way the dots are made).

Among the numerous appendices are fiber identification charts, thread count comparisons, a timeline of common fabric widths, artist's renderings of common weaves, lists of brand names (Fluff-o-Dene, Velutina, and Lotus Cloth) and finishes (Tebilizing and Stazenu), and brief histories of the 120 most prominent US textile manufacturers. And yes, there is a price guide - realistically based on data from reputable online sellers of vintage textiles - which includes tips on "what to look for and what to avoid".

To call this a mere "reference book" is to do it an injustice. It's certainly is the sort of volume collectors will refer to again and again. But for anyone with the slightest interest in vintage fabrics (and that includes collectors of vintage clothing), it's also just a darned fun read.  We can only hope that the authors will produce a companion volume dealing specifically with printed cotton fabrics. Quilt collectors would love it!

 

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