Tag Archives: fabrics

Ad Campaign: Dueling Textiles, 1969

Synthetic fabrics were nothing new in 1969, but they had been improved to the point that they seemed like a new idea.  Rayon and acetate had been available to consumers on a large scale since the 1920s but there were lots of problems with the fabrics.  They often were prone to shrinking, and there are even stories of women who got caught in the rain in a new rayon frock who then had to give the dress to a much smaller sister.  The dyes used, especially blue, could be unstable, with blue often turning to a pink or dark red.  They wrinkled as badly as natural fibers, and they were bad to retain odors.

The 1950s brought Dacron polyester which was usually blended into cotton.  Polyester had the advantage of being wrinkle-resistant, color fast and it did not shrink.  By the 1960s 100% polyester was being knit into what seemed to be a miracle fabric. It looked to be well on its way to replacing both cotton and wool knits.

The 1950s and 1960s must have been great days for those in chemical research.  People really did buy the famous line from DuPont,  “Better Things for Better Living…Through Chemistry.”

So with all these advantages to Tritessa, why would anyone want to buy silk?

Because as the International Silk Association tells us ten pages later in the same magazine, “Only Silk Is Silk.”

Researchers continue to improve synthetic fabrics.  The polyesters of today are far superior to the hot and heavy double knits of the 1960s and 70s.  Rayon is colorfast, wrinkle-resistant, and it no longer shrinks in the rain. Still, it has to be repeated, only silk is silk.

8 Comments

Filed under Advertisements, Viewpoint

Antique Fabric Swatches Need a Date

One of the reasons I keep returning to my local Goodwill Outlet bins is because I never know what will be found there.  It truly is a giant treasure hunt, with some people hunting for gold in the book bins and others hunting for silver in the toy bins.  Like me, there are those who are looking for textile treasures, so I have to really keep my eyes open and ready to spot something interesting.  On a recent trip I found a plastic baggie full of what looked to be at first glance, swatches of reproductions of antique fabrics.  I threw the bag in my buggy anyway to give it a closer look.

A closer examination showed that every swatch was different and they were all the same size.  A previous owner had written “$5” on the baggie, and so these were left over from a sale of some sort.

While examining the pieces I noticed that on the backs were remnants of glue and even little scraps of paper.  These swatches had been torn out of a sample book, was my guess.

And one was still clinging to this piece of very old paper. At this point I was convinced that these swatches were actually antique fabrics.  My guess is that they were attached to a sample book or cards, and that someone removed them to use as quilt or crafting pieces.  That’s the sort of act that just breaks my heart, as it removes the object from some very vital information.  Who made these fabrics?  When were they marketed?  Are they American in origin?

It’s likely I’ll never know the answers to all my questions, but I’m sure there are some of you who can help me narrow down a date for them.  Using the information and photos in Eileen Jahnke Trestain’s book, Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide 1800 -1960 I’ve placed them in her category of 1880 through 1910.  I’d like something a bit more precise.

I was amazed at the sharpness of the colors…

And the modern look to some of the designs.

There was even an early novelty print, in the form of card suits.

There were several prints that were made in different colorways.

About half of the swatches have a black background, but there are also some pretty, light prints in pink and white.

And then, as now, black and white prints were a favored combination.

So please, if you can shed some light on the age of these lovely little pieces, post and enlighten this mid-century girl.  I’d also like suggestions on what to do with them.  Should I put them back in a book where they belong?  Pactchwork is out of the question!

33 Comments

Filed under Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Textiles

Ad Campaign – Dorset Fabrics, 1947

The sun shines on Mr. and Mrs… who have carbon-copy tastes about vacations, about fabrics to live in.  They like the utterly young firm feel of Whaler, that good gabardine from Dorset…they like the way this playmate to all America holds its shape through sports and travel. Whaler is a whale of a fabric for rainwear too.  It’s but one of the new Dorset fashion fabrics going places in men’s wear, women’s wear and sportswear.

I think this is a rather clever way to show off the colors available in this new fabric, with Mr. and Mrs. looking on and ready to enjoy a vacation by the pool.  You can’t tell it so much from my photograph, but the ad photography is crisp enough that you can see the twill and texture of the fabrics.  There is even a gabardine sun.

From the always fantastic American Fabrics, issue 4, 1947.

3 Comments

Filed under Advertisements

Ad Campaign – Cohama Fabrics, 1947

Today’s post is a rerun from over two years ago.  I recently ran across this and decided to share it with all who missed it the first time around.

I suppose I ought to have a category titled, “Things I didn’t know,”  because that is where this entry would have to be placed.  Or it could go under “Things I learned while looking for something else,”  or even, “Things I should have noticed before but did not.”

While looking through my collection of American Fabrics magazines, the above ad caught my eye. It tells how fabric maker Cohama maintained the Cohama Hand-Looming Workshop,  a place where the fabric designers could experiment with their ideas before committing to large runs on the mechanized looms. I thought that this was a pretty neat idea, and gave Cohama some silent brownie points for such a practical solution to what can be a costly problem.

But it turns out that Cohana was not the only wool manufacturer who relied on the hand loom to try out the new ideas of the designers.

In the Fall 1949 issue of American Fabrics there is a small article, “Ideas Tailored on a Moment’s Notice”, in which they show the hand weaving operation at Forstmann Woolen Company.  Called the Provincial Designing Room, it was under the direction of Miss Margaret Swanson, and employed two hand looms on which weavers would interpret the ideas of designers working for clothing manufacturers. The designer could watch the fabric develop, and make changes if necessary. After the designer was satisfied with the sample, it would be processed by the mechanized looms.

I love the quaintness of the Provincial Designing Room!  In the photo above Miss Swanson is working with Ellen Brooke of Glenhunt (a suit and coat maker) and a hand weaver to develop the fabric to Miss Brooke’s satisfaction.

Brooke and Swanson, looking at how the newly developed fabric cuts and drapes.

The hand weaver, Alice Berman, making the sample worked out by Swanson and Brooke.

A swatch of the handwoven sample

And where the run of fabric will eventually be made, on the fully automated looms at Forestmann.

All illustrations are from the Fall 1949 issue of American  Fabrics and are copyright Reporter Publications, Inc.

8 Comments

Filed under Advertisements

Bernat Klein, 1922 – 2014

I’ve just today heard of the death of Bernat Klein, who in the 1960s and 1970s furnished the most wonderful woolen fabrics to designers from Chanel to Cashin.  I would imagine that most readers in the UK would recognize Klein’s name, but he never really gained name recognition here in the USA.  His death went unmentioned by the big fashion sites, such as Vogue.com and WWD.com, but it was news in Britain, and especially in Scotland where Klein lived and worked.

Several years ago I got an email from photographer Arthur Massey, who had worked with Klein in the 1960s and 1970s.  He sent along some fantastic photos, both of Klein at work, and of shots from some collections of Bernat Klein fabrics. To remember Bernat Klein, I’ve up-dated the post I wrote in 2009.

Klein studied art and textiles in Jerusalem and England, and in 1952 started his own textiles company, Colourcraft.  The company produced various woven fashion accessories such as ties and scarves,  but in the late fifties Klein began experimenting with producing tweeds.  These tweeds, based on years of color study and experimentation with dyes and weaving, were like nothing ever before seen.  They were so special that Chanel chose them for her spring 1962 couture collection.

That was only the beginning, as other couturiers – St. Laurnet, Cardin and Laroche – discovered the beautiful Bernat Klein textiles.   And thanks to the research by Jacqueline Field, it is now well documented that some of the fabulous mohair blend tweeds used by Bonnie Cashin were produced by Bernat Klein.  (See her article in Volume 33, 2006, Dress)

In the late 1960s Klein began working in polyester, developing ranges of color-coordinated separates in printed jersey knit, mohair tweed and wool twill.  Production continued throughout the 1970s, with the firm closing in 1981.  By that time, Klein had turned to painting, something he worked at until his death on April 17.

Please note that all photos are property and copyright of Arthur Massey, and may not be used without his permission.  That means don’t put them on Pinterest, please.

A mid 1960s fashion shot

Note Klein’s paintings being used as props in this shot.

Bernat Klein and his wife, Margaret

The remainder of the photos are from a 1970s fashion shoot showing the range of coordinating fabrics.

9 Comments

Filed under Designers

Ad Campaign – Hockanum, 1948

TROPIC SEA… the new blue with the sparkle of a holiday mood..by Hockanum, makers of beauty, quality and lasting wear.

If this East Coast weather continues, it looks like it will be coats at the beach this summer.  I love the Tropic Sea color with that touch of green at the neck.  I can’t help but wonder if the “sparkle of a holiday mood” is literal or figurative.

But what I love the most about this ad is how Hockanum bills itself as “makers of beauty…”  They really cut to the heart of the matter, because I think what people really want and need is more beauty in their lives.  And that includes the fabric of one’s coat.

11 Comments

Filed under Advertisements

Goodbye to Waechter’s, An Asheville Institution

Remember how just a few days ago I was bragging about the super fabric shopping situation in Asheville?  Just a few days later I got a most distressing email – Waechter’s Fine Fabrics was closing.

The store opened in 1929 as Waechter’s Silk Shop, and the name remained the same until just a few years ago.  It was first located in the Grove Arcade, but by the time I first visited the store, it was located on  Wall Street, Asheville.

My first experience there was with a friend whose mother was taking a tailoring class and was shopping for wool for a coat.  I was already sewing at that point, and was shocked by how much more expensive their fabrics were than the ones I was buying at Belk’s Department Store.  But the store was so enchanting, just like stepping back into the past with the old fashioned fabric meter, and the fabrics purchased being wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.

My first purchase there was navy Pendleton wool that I used to make a blazer.  I also bought my first Liberty Tana lawn at Waechter’s, used for a dress that I wore to my sister’s wedding rehearsal.

I started filling out an online order as soon as the email arrived, but I knew that I really needed to just drive over and have one last shopping experience at Waechter’s, to feel the fabrics and remember all the lovely things I’ve made from their fine fabrics.

And I did buy a few pieces of fabrics for spring – a Liberty Tana lawn print, some striped Italian cotton shirting, and some blue and white Italian linen gingham.

 

33 Comments

Filed under North Carolina, Uncategorized