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Fabric Friday: Mill engravings

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Workshops - specialty vintage topics' started by denisebrain, Apr 22, 2022.

  1. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    millengravings3.jpg

    Today's fabric is maybe not as useful to know as it is fun to know. Unless you work with quilts and day wear from the late 19th century, and to a lesser degree the first couple of decades of the 20th century, you are not so likely to run into ...

    Mill Engravings

    Very popular in the last several decades of the 19th century, mill engravings were intricate prints made by hand engraving small steel rollers ("mills"), which would then be used to emboss larger copper rollers by repeating the pattern evenly over the entire roller. Copper was not as durable as steel, but steel was hard and difficult to engrave. When the copper roller became worn, the original steel pattern would be used again on the smoothed-off copper roller, or a new pattern would be used.

    Intricate florals, and many whimsical patterns were made using this printing method. The number was staggering—as many as 300 prints might be produced by a single factory in one season.

    The prints are small, detailed, and with obvious repetitions—most often in one or two colors. White cotton was printed, and the fabric was used for women’s and children’s clothing, and quilts.

    I happened on this fabric to photograph for the Fabric Resource—

    _big_vintagefashion-new_7746.jpg

    The designers of these fabrics probably had a hard time dreaming up new prints, and perhaps took inspiration from their surroundings. I've seen buttons and pins for instance. This print is of fabric swatches—and they are mill engraving prints!

    millengravings4.jpg

    The most common colors were red and black.

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    The patterns could be whimsical bordering on strange.

    millengravings5.jpg

    millengravings6.jpg

    Anything and everything was printed so long as it wasn't completely tasteless.

    millengravings1.jpg

    Notice the fine definition of these small prints—this was possible with this printing technique, and when the technique was set aside, the detail was as well.

    millengravings2.jpg


    All but the second of these, my own photo, was scanned from:
    Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period Paperback by Susan Meller. This is a beautiful book, in case you haven't seen it.

    If you are interested, here is a link to the book in our fundraising shop (the VFG earns affiliate income when a purchase is made):

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/081092508...0925087&asc_item-id=amzn1.ideas.3Q8UFCRD6829Q
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2022
  2. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member

    Thank you Maggie!
     
    denisebrain likes this.
  3. poppysvintageclothing

    poppysvintageclothing VFG Board Member Staff Member VFG Past President

  4. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    Isn't it though!
     
    poppysvintageclothing likes this.
  5. Midge

    Midge Super Moderator Staff Member

  6. Vinclothes

    Vinclothes Alumni +

    These prints are so intriguing. Thank you for bringing them to our attention.
    Marian
     
    denisebrain likes this.
  7. vintagedevotion

    vintagedevotion VFG Member

    Amazing! Thank you!
     
    denisebrain likes this.
  8. Vintagiality

    Vintagiality VFG Treasurer

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