By: Linda Welters and Margaret T. Ordoñez
Fabrics known as delaines originated in France, with production quickly spreading to England and the United States. During the nineteenth century, delaines enjoyed widespread popularity for women’s apparel, and they also appeared in quilt tops. Yet today many curators, collectors, and quilt enthusiasts confuse them with challis, another fabric used for women’s dresses at this time. The purposes of this paper are to remedy the dearth of information on delaines, to aid in their identification, and to educate quilt historians on the history and usage of delaines in quilts. Through the use of primary sources including sample books, dye receipt (recipe) books, women’s dresses and wrappers, quilts, and printed documentary sources, the authors of this paper show how to distinguish delaines from other similar fabrics in both quilts and women’s apparel and to contextualize their use in quilts; and they offer recommendations for appropriate care and conservation.