By: Erma H. Kirkpatrick
In 1853 the Alamance Cotton Factory on Big Alamance Creek in Alamance County, North Carolina, became the first cotton mill south of the Potomac River to produce commercially dyed cotton plaids. This cloth, modeled after the imported wool tartans, was widely distributed as “Alamance Plaids”. Interrupted by the Civil War, production resumed after the end of the war in this factory and others in the area. By the late 1880’s Alamance plaids were a glut on the market and at that time were used as a backing for quilts and, less frequently, in pieced tops.
I have traced some of the history of this fabric and its use in quilts through research at the Alamance Historical Museum in the town of Alamance, the North Carolina Collection and the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the textile library at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, interviews with local residents, and data gathered by the North Carolina Quilt Project.