The many shades of indigo dye are beautifully evident in this embroidered coverlet fragment. Probably dating to the early 19th century, the stitches used include tambour stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch and French knots. The individual flowers have varying shades, from the palest blue to the most intense deep indigo blue, along with intricate designs to given them even more depth and variety.

Indigo, because of its range of blue color and lightfastness, was easily the most popular natural blue dye for centuries, from the earliest known specimen of indigo-dyed cloth c. 3500 BC to 21st century art and craft. It seems likely that the threads for this delightful piece demonstrate the appeal of indigo.

What is a bit of a mystery though, is the piece itself. Made of pieces of white cloth seamed together, some of the pieces are irregular and the outer edge is totally unfinished. The central portion is done all in tambour stitch, while the outer border has no tambour work but a variety of other stitches. The flowers in the outer border echo the ones in the center, but are not exactly the same. Even the thread, while matching fairly well in color, seems to have a different texture and, of course, is executed differently. There are embroidered wedges added in the inner corners that were obviously embroidered before inclusion, as some of the embroidery is cut off. Perhaps these wedges (matching the center embroidery) and the outer border were added later by another hand in an attempt to save the fragment and make it larger. The overall dimension of the piece is 62” x 46”. It came to the Charleston Museum in 1927 with no explanation, so it is unlikely that the mystery will ever be solved.

This cover is on exhibit in Indigo: Natural Blue Dyes in the Lowcountry until September 2, 2013.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

Woman’s bodice, short-gown, or bedgown, early 19th century. A utilitarian garment, this indigo blue and natural checked cotton fabric has been pieced from fragments, indicating that it was either for every-day utilitarian wear or from working class clothing. To form the pattern, the sleeves are cut in one piece with the body – a T-shaped pattern, a trait typical for this type of bodice. This example has an attached pair of ties that wrap around high on the body, following the high-waisted styling of the early 19th century.

This type of garment may have been worn informally, before getting properly dressed, or when doing housework. Because it is unfitted, it could be worn without a corset, thus perfect for working-class dress or the childbed (or right after childbirth). It would be worn with a petticoat (or skirt), overlapped in front and pinned or tied. This one has a sewn-on tie. Not surprising for an everyday item like this, little information came with it when it was given to the Museum. When Cora Ginsburg, noted textile dealer and consultant, looked at it in 1980, she felt that it could well have been a slave-worn garment.

The fabric is linen or cotton, or perhaps a blend, with a woven check. Given the date and the color, the blue thread was most likely dyed with indigo.

This short gown is on exhibit in "Indigo: Natural Blue Dye in the Lowcountry" from April 27 - September 2, 2013.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

Light blue satin shoes with silver braid, c. 1770. The label inside one shoe indicates that these were made in London by Thos. Hose, Shoemaker, Lombard Street. They belonged to Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who was married to Charles Pinckney, lawyer, judge and member of the House of Commons. Eliza is best known for her perseverance and success with her father’s indigo crop, ultimately making it a most prosperous crop in the Lowcountry (South Carolina) until the war. Her two sons were educated in London; both fought in the Revolutionary War. Charles Cotesworth was a member of the Provincial Congress and signer of the constitution; Thomas became governor of South Carolina. Her daughter Harriott married Daniel Horry of Hampton Plantation.
Gift of Mrs. William Wallace Childs through Mrs. St. Julian Ravenel Childs in 1948
TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

Light blue satin shoes with silver braid, c. 1770. The label inside one shoe indicates that these were made in London by Thos. Hose, Shoemaker, Lombard Street. They belonged to Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who was married to Charles Pinckney, lawyer, judge and member of the House of Commons. Eliza is best known for her perseverance and success with her father’s indigo crop, ultimately making it a most prosperous crop in the Lowcountry (South Carolina) until the war. Her two sons were educated in London; both fought in the Revolutionary War. Charles Cotesworth was a member of the Provincial Congress and signer of the constitution; Thomas became governor of South Carolina. Her daughter Harriott married Daniel Horry of Hampton Plantation.

Gift of Mrs. William Wallace Childs through Mrs. St. Julian Ravenel Childs in 1948

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday