Indigo Challenge

By: Xenia Cord
Kokomo, Indiana

Glazed indigo quilts from 1750 – 1840, usually found in New England, have always interested me. No current research identifies their method of manufacture, but some researchers have ventured that the fabric and even the quilts themselves were manufactured in England, then shipped to the Northeastern United States and Canada for use in cold climates. AQSG members Deborah Kraak and Lynne Bassett have addressed serge and wool worsted textiles used in wholecloth quilts, but commercial sources have not been researched.

With no source for glazed wool available, I tried a number of surface treatments including egg white (historically suggested), waxed paper, and various starches. None created the desired surface. Early manufacturers glazed the wool with high heat and friction. The closest approximation was to use an old-fashioned mangle (ironing machine) that produced a slight sheen on the fabric surface. Its permanence is not guaranteed, however!

Another issue was how to mark and quilt a design through the heavy surface. The obvious solution was to quilt from the linen back. My linen was not as coarse as that on early quilts, so this solution may not have answered the question of how quilting was originally achieved. Nonetheless, making this replication was a challenging and interesting experience that consumed the winter months.