Dating fabrics by eileen trestain

So, your divy instincts having performed admirably, you know you have something old, but exactly how old and and exactly what is it?Fabric identification without the aid of selvage markings, provenance or an expert can be tricky. But there are clues to put you somewhere in the ballpark.Voile with its raspy-tongue feel and frosty soap scum appearance is easily identifiable; however it is still being manufactured.Old voile had wide satiny selvages; most today are narrow.Although they have been replaced by the Italian super pimas of today, old percale is highly coveted and a quilter’s dream find.Organdy, lawn organdy and Swiss muslin are often mistaken for each other.Dots became smaller and closer together, small pox effect, on crisper fabrics in the 1940s and 50s; around the mid-50s to present flocking replaced dots on nylon, some blends and polyesters.

Identification of these two fabrics requires knowing what’s been on the market in the last several decades and using good textile-dating reference books with high-quality colored and black-and-white photos.

In most cases, all three fabrics will retain their original degree of crispness after laundering.

Swiss muslin and lawn organdy are no longer available.

Generally, by the early 1930s narrow widths were replaced by 36″ to 39″ for most all American dressmaking cottons and by the early 60s the standard was 42″ to 44″ though some 36″ widths cottons lingered on for another decade.

One notable holdout is Liberty of London lawn still being manufactured in 36″.

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In the British world of antiques, a divy is a diviner, one who can tell it’s the genuine article upon sight.

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