Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Exciting Vintage Fabric Development

In March of this year I posted about this fabric pictured here. Mom and I had discovered it in the bags of scraps Mom had brought to the city for us to sort through and cut into quilt squares. I didn't recognize this fabric and Mom thought it must be from Grandma Kerr's scraps.  There were some quite large pieces of it and it had obviously been used to make some garment.

I was fascinated with the fabric right away. It's a very high quality cotton to my mind and the design on it is so artistic and detailed and finely reproduced. 

And then, bonus, we found a piece of the selvedge that reads, ""A Signature Fabric, "Rubaiyat", created by Vincent Malta of Associated American Artists, copyright 1955."  I don't recall fabrics ever having information in the selvedge when I was a kid and since this fabric is from before I was born, I thought that alone meant there must be something special about it. I did some rudimentary Googling but didn't find anything. 

And then, On Oct 31, I got a comment on my blog post from someone named Ariele who wrote, "It is part of a large series created by other American Artists. Here is a link for more info. There is another I've seen from 1953 titled "Iliad", and she provided a link to a pdf article about this series of fabrics. My fabric wasn't listed in the table provided in the article so I Googled the author of the article, Karen Herbaugh, a curator at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachussetts. So I emailed her, sent some photos and asked her if it's of any interest or if I should just go ahead and cut it up into a quilt. She promptly responded that she would really rather I NOT cut it up into a quilt and that they would like to have some of it for the museum, which houses the largest museum collection of Associated American Artists (AAA) fabrics. She is currently working on a book about AAA fabrics in collaboration with Kansas State University and was unaware of the existence of this particular fabric, though there are some others in the series by the same artist, which explains why this fabric wasn't listed in the table in the article I read.

She writes, "Between 1951 and 1957 artists belonging to the Associated American Artists strayed into designing textiles prints as a means to make extra money so they could pursue their art careers."

In my email to Karen I speculated on where my Grandma might have come across this fabric. Karen wrote, "AAA fabrics were sold at high-end department stores around the country. I have seen pictures of store window displays including Macy’s in New York City. Maybe your grandmother did get it on one of her family trips. I haven’t seen it  advertised in Sears catalogues but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t."

So I'm going to gift the American Textile History Museum with the largest pieces of this fabric and the intact selvedge and the smaller bits that I keep will go into a very special quilt square. I really do wonder where it came from in the first place.

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  1. This is so amazing Heather! What a good eye you have to spot a quality fabric, when you could have just cut it up! The internet certainly helped preserve this gem, but so did your determination to find it's origins! Good job!

  2. That is a wonderful ending for this extraordinary fabric. Good of you to spot it and follow through with tracking it down.

  3. How exciting! It is so interesting to track down the history....great job!

  4. When you start down that road, you never know where you will end up. Thanks for the journey.

  5. What a fabulous story! ANd how proud you must be to be able to contribute to the American Textile History Museum!


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