Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pretinted Piece

One of my areas of specialization is kit quilts and other household textile item kits. A sub-category of those household textile items is the pretinted pieces that were prolific in the 20's through the 40's. Around the 1950's we began to see the little paint tubes that were offered to color stamped pieces.  I remember how they had home parties, and the paint tubes were sold in large tin containers if you were lucky enough to buy the deluxe set.

The pieces common to find in the pretinted pieces are sofa pillow tops, laundry bags, card table covers, dresser scarves, potholders, and small household items.  Less common to find, though there were many made are the baby quilts or covers, aprons, and occasionally a child's sun suit or doll.

The piece above was never finished.  It's stamping shows that it was intended to be embroidered as well, which this one is not, but it does have its finished edge on it, and likely came that way.  These stamped kits were relatively inexpensive.  This one is most likely from the late 1920's - early 30's. I've shown a closer view of it here on the right side.

I believe these were colored one of several ways. I think many of the commercial kits were perhaps air brushed, and that method would have been available at the time.  Sometimes the shading is so subtle, it would have been extremely difficult if not impossible to produce such excellent shading with just crayons.  I have looked at all of the pieces I have now and had in the past, and I have definitely noticed a big difference in the ways these are done.  The pieces done with crayons generally have a light streaking in them and the color appears to be thicker.  There is a third way I have observed and that is hand painting. The painting is distinguishable because it is also heavier in texture, and also covers the surface more solidly. There is also often a very slight heavier edge as if they were working with a template. I suspect a sort of Japaning technique, where the paint is put on dry and thin, and it is often dried with another medium, but this part I am not sure of.  I am just sure that some of the pieces were indeed hand painted.
This next piece is a charming completed pillow I found. It is NOT a pretinted piece, but has that quality about it and it might have been a type that could have been colored with crayons instead of embroidered. I liked this one because it is a turtle, and I have had a desert tortoise for many years, so am attracted by any turtle or tortoise images; the tortoise is also one of my animal totems,
I will post more of my pieces separately later on. I hope you have enjoyed this mini discussion of the pretinted pieces. They represent a wonderful aspect of some of the cottage industries that existed at the time and that previously were not very well documented at all. My former appraisal partner, Beverly Dunivent (who now lives in another state, and hence we cannot continue to be appraisal partners) and I wrote a research paper on kit quilts and the industry as well as a full-length book.  The paper was published in the 1994 Uncoverings, the journal of the American Quilt Study Group.  The book is still unpublished and needs re-editing, plus I have some 430 slides to be turned into digital images, and then we might self publish the book as an E-book because of all the photos it would be nice to include.  I also want to note that our friend, Rosie Werner, has a web site about the kit quilts and has identified the manufacturers of a very large number of them.  It is a subscription site, but well worth it if you are a researcher.  I will likely continue to share more of our research material with her. Her web site is

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