Thursday, July 4, 2013

Vintage Fabrics Swatch Book

I've been collecting old/vintage fabrics for some time now. I use them as inspiration for work and enjoy simply re-folding and re-stacking them on occasion while the lovely colors and patterns make me smile. After looking at images of antique textile sample books in the online digital collection of one of the major museums (I think it was the Met, but I can't remember), I decided I should create my own book of swatches. Since they have no monetary value to speak of, mounting them in a book seemed like a fine option to me.

i love books + i love textiles = i love love books of textiles

I began by hand sewing them into an acid-free sketchbook, but that was taking far too long to hold my interest, so I've settled on using acid-free glue to mount them. I thought I would share a few pages with any fellow fabric lovers out there.

Vintage Fabric Swatch Book Pages
I'm sorting them by color.

Vintage Fabric Swatch Book Pages
At first, I was going to nicely square up and pink the edges of them all, but many are so small that I would loose a part of the pattern (or repeat if it existed)  if I cut any portion of it off, so I decided to mount them in whatever shape and edges would preserve as much of the pattern as possible. 

Vintage Fabric Swatch Book Pages
Initially, I thought I would just mount all the 30's, 40's, and 50's fabrics together, but then I decided to include the 60's and 70's. Now I'm just calling it my collection of 20th Century Fabric Swatches.

Vintage Fabric Swatch Book Pages
Some of these fabrics I purchased, some were given to me or passed down from others, and I've also taken many from old "cutter" quilts I've found at the flea market, antique malls, and thrift shops. 

Swatch book pages
I still have many fabrics that I've been unable to bring myself to cut, such as whole flour/feed/sugar sacks.

Vintage Fabric Swatch Book Pages

Vintage Fabric Swatch Book Pages

Vintage Fabric Swatch Book Pages

Vintage Fabric Swatch Book Pages
This is one of the cutter quilt tops I've taken some swatches from. It's not in the greatest condition, but it has a wonderful assortment of  un-faded fabrics. I have taken swatches from old quilt pieces and it's amazing how colorful the fabrics were before the quilts were used and washed again and again. The original color hidden in the seam allowances is a fun surprise!

Fabric Charms
One of my favorite recent finds was this shoebox of 2" fabric squares which have been hand cut and were obviously destined for some lovely project. There is an assortment of fabrics, but the all appear to be early 1970's and older. They aren't quite big enough to use in my Hexie Charm Quilt, but I won't be able to resist turning them into a postage stamp quilt after I take one of each fabric out for my swatch book.

So, that's what I'm doing with my old fabrics. I've got hundreds of additional bits and pieces I need to press and mount, but I'm just going to take my time and enjoy the process.


Annette - MyRoseValley said...

OH! This is a great idea. Pure color and pattern fun. Heaven! I could flick the pages in your Swatch book back and forth forever and never get bored of it!!! I need to make my own swatch book. This is such a great idea. Thanks for sharing.
My Rose Valley

Junette said...

Love this idea!

Unknown said...

Excellent idea! Thanks for the inspiration. I am never bored looking at my collection of fabric, and this is sure easier than going through my containers.

Minka said...


Jayne said...

Brilliant idea!

Andrea said...

I really do love this so so so so much! I have actually seen some of those prints in person as my grandma (the lady that taught me to sew!) has some in her stash. Some made their way to my first quilt, a very wonky nine patch that I'm still hand quilting :)

Carol said...

What a great idea--fun to look at too! I have many old pieces/scraps of fabric that were my mother's and grandmother's. This is a good way to be able to see them.

http://thankfullga447 said...

I love your book, I started doing the same thing and then stopped - I should keep it up. What a joy to browse through a beautiful book like that.

Anonymous said...

What a great idea! I think I'll be doing this with all my left scraps from from dress making. Makes alovely memory book