Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Indigo Blue Calico

Indigo blue calico, my favorite fabric, was printed in Amana from 1861-1917, 4500 yards a day in its prime.  The mill or "print works" was located on the site of the present Amana Furniture Shop, the smallest brick building to the west being part of the original factory that employed 30 workers.  Designs were random geometric, floral,borders, and repeated stripes with about 500 patterns documented. The fabrics were used for summer work clothes, upholstery, curtains, quilts, etc. Many families dressed alike in this fabric. Calico patterns were printed with hand carved blocks, paste and acid resist rollers, and discharge print blocks.  Dyes were special indigo plant dyes, when exposed to the air would oxidize and turn yellow-green to indigo.  These dyes were not fast int he early days so would often leave residue on the pine benches and hands, only to be bleached clean later. The Print Works mill closed in 1917 due to the lack of dyes and supplies so the German influenced, indigo calico dye art is very rare and much appreciated by collectors.  RS

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