Research Paper Presentations

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Prickly Elegance: Identifying and Dating Disocactus Motifs on Early Chintz
Terry Tickhill Terrell

Early British and American chintzes from the period circa 1775 to circa 1850 include illustrations of an extensive array of floral motifs. Many, such as roses, lilies, morning glories, and honeysuckles were common garden flowers, but others were exotic species brought from the ends of the earth by botanical explorers. The Age of Enlightenment kindled a desire for explanations of natural phenomena and scientific information that burned through society. Exploration of the globe and the discovery of new lands such as the continent of Australia fanned the flames. Science became fashionable and an interest in science equated with good taste. By the late eighteenth-century people realized they could display their education and taste in collections, books, and textiles that recalled their interests. Textiles with natural history motifs, especially with realistic plants, became the height of fashion.

Cacti, exotic New World plants, particularly appealed to British and European tastes. The Rattail Cactus or Creeping Cereus (Disocactus flagelliformis) (Disocactus), first introduced to European cultivation in 1690, was a favorite because it was easy to grow and flower. Because of its popularity Disocactus was pictured in numerous botanical illustrations in garden magazines and botanical texts providing easily copied motifs for decorative art applications. Chintz designers were quick to capitalize on the plant’s popularity and the availability of images.

This research identifies fifty examples of the printed motif on textiles, gleaned from a review of about 4,000 period quilts and chintzes. Eight different Disocactus motifs are illustrated. The paper demonstrates how using dated examples, details of printing technology, and artistic style of illustration can be used to narrow the currently published date ranges for textiles bearing five of the Disocactus motifs. These new date ranges provide a basis for more accurate dating of quilts and other textiles displaying Disocactus motifs.

Terry Tickhill Terrell has a BS in Botany, a PhD in Ecology, and was an Assistant Professor of Botany at the University of Wyoming before embarking on a full-time research career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. In retirement she is pursuing various lines of quilt history research. She has given numerous presentations on textile history to a variety of groups including a presentation to the Denver Botanic Garden’s School of Botanical Art & Illustration describing the mutually beneficial connections between botanical illustrations and chintz textile design. Dr. Terrell is a member of the American Quilt Study Group, has published articles in both Uncoverings and Blanket Statements, and is webmaster and chief creator of content for the Floral Motifs on Early Chintz website (

Edmund Potter: Nineteenth Century Calico Printer
Katha Kievit

Edmund Potter was a British calico print manufacturer in the nineteenth century (and the grandfather of the famous Beatrix Potter). Potter’s early adoption of roller printing in his company, development of an early factory chemical department, and implementation of innovative employee benefits in his manufacturing plant, combined to make his company the largest producer of calico fabric in the world by 1873. This paper explores Potter’s life and works within the broader context of British fabric printing and manufacturing during the 1800s. Through the study of various primary and secondary sources—including contemporary newspaper accounts, design copyright records, and fabric sample books in England and the United States—this article highlights Potter’s various roles and legacy among other leaders, in manufacturing, political activities, philanthropy, and art education during the Industrial Revolution. It also examines samples of Potter’s fabrics to aid in their identification.

Katha Kievit is an independent researcher who received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, in French and English from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, after attending Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio. She received a post-graduate certification as a Reading Specialist from Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio. She worked as a commercial underwriter before leaving to become a private reading tutor.

Ms. Kievit attended two quilt restoration conferences in Omaha, Nebraska, before joining the first meeting of the Midwest Fabric Study Group in 2002. She presented programs for MFSG on Amish quilt history, 100 Years of Doll and Crib Quilts, and a history of British cotton manufacturing. She was co-chair of the Reception Committee for AQSG Seminar in Columbus in 2008, and co-chair of the Silent Auction Committee, Indianapolis, 2015.

Delaines: A Forgotten Fabric
Linda Welters and Margaret T. Ordoñez

Fabrics known as delaines enjoyed widespread popularity for women’s apparel in the 1800s. They also appeared in quilt tops. Yet today many curators, collectors, and quilt enthusiasts confuse them with challis, also used for women’s dresses at this time. The authors of this paper recognize the dearth of information on delaines that could aid in identifying and interpreting this fabric in American quilts. The purpose of this presentation is to educate quilt historians on the history and use of delaines and to show how to distinguish delaines from other similar fabrics in both quilts and women’s apparel. Primary sources include sample books, dye receipt (recipe) books, women’s dresses and wrappers, and quilts in addition to printed documentary sources. The presentation includes close-up views of delaines as well as delaines in garments and quilts to show how to identify the fabric. The most distinguishing visual feature of delaine is cotton warps that did not absorb colors as well as wool wefts.

Manufacture of mousseline de laines (wool muslin) originated in France in the 1820s. Production soon spread to England and the United States. The fabric name was shortened to delaine, and the cloth itself modified for industrial production methods. Cotton was substituted for the original wool in the warps. Dyers produced the cotton/wool mixtures in solid colors, but more often delaines had fashionable, colorful printed patterns. Printers originally used wood blocks, then also incorporated wood rollers and engraved cylinders. The popularity of delaine in apparel waned in the last quarter of the nineteenth century in the US, but the brightly colored fabrics appeared in quilts as late as 1920.

Linda Welters is Professor of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design at the University of Rhode Island where she teaches courses in historic textiles and fashion. She has published articles and books on fashion, European folk dress, archaeological textiles, and American quilts. She directed the Rhode Island Quilt Documentation Project and co-edited Down by the Old Mill Stream: Quilts in Rhode Island with Margaret Ordoñez. Her most recent publication (with Abby Lillethun) is Fashion History: A Global View (Bloomsbury, 2018).

Dr. Welters has received a number of honors including the University of Rhode Island Foundation Scholarly Excellence Award and a Legacy Society Award from the University of Minnesota. She was named a Fellow of the Costume Society of America in 2004 and the International Textile and Apparel Association’s Distinguished Scholar in 2002. She is an Associate Fellow of the IQM where she received an Othmer Faculty Fellowship.

Dr. Welters earned her PhD from the University of Minnesota, her MA from Colorado State University, and her BA from the College of St. Catherine. She became interested in quilts as a graduate student after writing a paper on their history. She both makes and collects quilts.

Margaret T. Ordoñez, PhD is a Professor Emerita of the University of Rhode Island where she taught textile conservation, history of textiles and costumes, and textile science classes for twenty-nine years. Earlier she taught at the University of Tennessee, Florida State University, and Kansas State University. In 2017, she left her dry-erase markers and snow blower in Rhode Island, moved to Tennessee, and set up the Ordoñez Textile Conservation Service.

Dr. Ordoñez has published book chapters and articles as well as given presentations on textile conservation, archeological and ethnographic textiles, care of textile and costume collections, and historic quilt fabrics. These subjects remain her major areas of research and publication. She is the copyeditor of Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America—so she has not put up her red pen yet. Dr. Ordoñez and her co-presenter Dr. Linda Welters were the co-editors of Down the Old Mill Stream: Quilts in Rhode Island, based on the Rhode Island Quilt Documentation Project.