TEXTILE PATTERN BOOKS WITH WOOL SWATCHES
European (probably English), ca. 1815–30s
Pattern books were an important business tool for both manufacturers and salesmen in the textile industry in the nineteenth century. Already widely used in the eighteenth century, such compendia served a variety of purposes: recording the development of individual designs and trends, the inventory of patterns ready for production, orders completed by warehousemen or shippers, and the selection of goods available to customers. As documents, pattern books reveal a wealth of information about textile design and changing taste, technology, manufacturing, and commerce.
These two books, dating to the early decades of the nineteenth century and containing over 1,000 swatches of very finely woven wool furnishing fabrics, present a staggering array of patterns and weaves. The swatches are glued to pages specially printed with blue border designs of stylized foliage-and-pearl motifs and overlapping semi-circles surrounding blanks and letter plates. This decorative presentation indicates that the books were probably used by salesmen to elicit orders. The handwritten numbers that appear in the margins of the pages or on small paper labels affixed to some samples are not always consecutive; rather than stock numbers used on a short-term, seasonal basis by warehousemen, they would have served as references for salesmen.
All of the designssome of which change in minor details onlyfeature stripes, either alone or in combination with geometric shapes such as diaper, zigzags and chevrons; floral and foliate motifs; or flame-patterned ikat. The pristine colors include subtle shades of beige, blue, peach, and pink; bright red, green, yellow, orange, and purple, often juxtaposed with black and white; and deep blue and plum. A number of designs have multiple colorways. The samples are grouped according to pattern, color and/or weave structure and identified in a mixture of primarily German and French terminology. Weisbodige
Croisé (white ground with crosses) describes a selection of swatches with alternating white and colored chevron-patterned stripes. Under the heading Rothbodige
Köper (red ground twill) are swatches with alternating wide bright red and narrow yellow, green and black stripes; Jacquard
Ramagé (branch motifs) refers to multicolored swatches with wide and narrow solid stripes alternating with delicate, stylized trailing floral vines. Geflammte
blau & rothbodige Köper (blue and red ground flame-patterned twill) applies to red and blue warp-dyed stripes, while Atlas
Croisé (satin with crosses) refers to solid, satin-weave stripes alternating with bold chevrons. The occasional use of the term Cuttni in the pattern books is intriguingit describes multicolored swatches with fine diaper or lozenge patterning. In seventeenth-century India, Cuttanee was a mixed silk-and-cotton export fabric, often striped and sometimes interspersed with flowers. Among the various techniques including supplementary warps, float patterning, diamond twills, and damasks, the most interesting are those with chevrons: plain weave with resist-dyed warps (ikat), satin damask and plain weave with floats of supplementary warps. While most samples are entirely wool, some have fine, narrow gold warp stripes that add a hint of glitter.