Textile Tuesday: Red Edition: June 

Join us once a month during 2022 on the CDMC Stories blog for Textile Tuesdays: Red Edition! Students in the UW-Madison Design Studies class “History of Textiles” (Fall 2021) wrote these posts, choosing the color red as the theme through which they explored the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC). While of course red holds particular resonance for the Badger community, it also has a special place in the history of textiles. We can chart the development of textile dyeing and printing through the use of madder plants, cochineal insects, synthetically-produced alizarin, and other substances. Focusing on the color red allowed the students to feature a wide range of textiles from HLATC in terms of chronology, geography, use, and cultural meaning. 


Pillow Cover 

Embroidered pillow cover, United States, 1900s-1920s, silk on cotton, 19 x 20 in, E.A.US.0096, Gift from the Estate of Professor Helen Louise Allen

This piece’s intricate details truly allowed for its inner meaning to shine through. The pillowcase was white with roses all over it, had a June flag, and many intricate details within the design. But what really shone through about this piece for me was not its design, but rather its words. “As each rose that unfold, seemest fairer than the last, so may every birthday hold something sweeter than the past.” This quote holds so much significance; it conveys the process of aging by comparing it to a rose. As one ages, they only become wiser and more beautiful. This is such a strong message that needs to be heard. Many people struggle with the idea of aging and this piece challenges both individuals and society as a whole to embrace it through the comparison of a rose, something that has been deemed perfect by society.It is a very progressive message for its time that really makes one ponder who made it and for what purpose. Made during the time that women were fighting for their right to vote, this could have been made by a brave suffragette, someone who was progressive, inclusive, and forward-thinking. It was also made by hand, showing the care the person put into conveying this message. In empowering people to embrace the idea of aging, opportunities become limitless. 

 Hannah Van Pay is a junior majoring in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies with Certificates in Sustainability, and Textiles and Design. 


Copperplate Printed Fragment   

Fragment, France, 1805-1809, copperplate printed cotton, P.D.E.0950, Purchased with HLATC Funds

Weddings today are an exciting time for many people, not just the bride and groom. This cotton copperplate print allows us to take a step back in time and see what weddings were like in early nineteenth-century French society. The piece is made up of four repeating patterns, all showing the process of a couple getting married. The first pattern, located on the bottom left and right, shows a man and a woman getting married in a church. By showing the cross, priest, bishops as well as other various religious symbols we can also assume that getting married was a religious event. Located in the bottom middle is France’s beautiful and mountainous landscape with a musical celebration being held at the base of the mountain. In the upper left and right corner is yet another musical celebration. Here, the people are the center of attention and can be seen dancing, drinking, and socializing. The celebrations show that marriage in 19th century France was a monumental and exciting event in an individual’s life. The craftsmanship, detail, and settings depicted in this fabric allow the beholder to comprehend the significant role marriage played in family and community life. This type of design with repeated patterns in a single color, depicting local landscapes and contemporary events, became known as toile, a shortened version of the phrase “toile de Jouy,” or cloth from Jouy, which was the center of copperplate printed fabric production in the early nineteenth century. 

 Jessica Keller is a senior majoring in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies with Certificates in Sustainability, and Textiles and Design. 



Huipil, Guatemala, 1940-1945, woven and embroidered cotton, 23 x 48 in., W.L.CA.2912

This artifact is a traditional huipil blouse made in Patzun Guatemala in the 1940s. Mayan women have been making these blouses for centuries and passing down the technique to each generation. Today, huipiles are still worn by Mayan women to retain a part of their culture in everyday life. The construction is rather simple and therefore easy to teach. Two panels are woven on a backstrap loom and joined at the center and side seams with a whip stitch. The backstrap loom or belt loom operates with the maker’s body at the center of the process. The warp is attached to the hips, with artisans using their body weight to hold the fabric in tension as they weave. Red was often chosen as the predominant color as the dyestuff, crushed cochineal beetles, was abundant and produced a beautiful result. Over time, the rich tone of red became an identity marker for the Mayan women of Patzun. The wider stripes of red are broken up by the addition of thin stripes of alternating colors. But the most compelling and time-consuming aspect of a huipil is the heavily embroidered neckline. A fantastic array of colors and patterns tells us a lot about the artisan who made each blouse through their aesthetic choices. The chevron design on this huipil represents landscape, mountains and homeland, and the color red evokes the blood of ancestors. This specific huipil is rather simple and was probably made for everyday wear, but the same techniques were used to create occasion huipiles for holidays and weddings. Mayan huipiles offer a historical significance as many aspects of Mayan culture, religion and symbolism were lost with the invasion of Spanish colonizers. Traditional textiles are one of the few physical objects remaining that depict these symbols and retain a memory of ancient beliefs. 

Kelsey Voy graduated in May 2022 with a degree in Textile and Fashion Design; in the fall, she will begin an MFA program in Book Arts with a focus on hand papermaking at the University of Iowa. 


Cushion Cover  

Cushion cover, Morocco, embroidered cotton, 27 x 26 in, 1992.08.204, Gift of Mr. John & Dr. Ruth C. Morrissey

The design and techniques of Moroccan textiles are the result of the country’s rich and complex history; multicultural influences from Africa, Europe, and the Arab Peninsula have come together to produce a unique approach to form, color, and pattern. This intricate cushion cover is composed of repeating motifs that have both geometric and natural elements. The pattern is achieved through highly-skilled embroidery that saturates the surface of the cushion cover. This style is known as the Fes or Fez style of Moroccan embroidery, named for the city of Fes or Fez; this style was actually introduced during the French military occupation of Morocco and popularized during the World War I era, but it is now considered part of Moroccan textile heritage. Although we do not know the specific maker of this artifact, this textile would almost certainly have been embroidered by a woman. Textile techniques such as this dense embroidery was taught to girls from a young age and in particular the Fes or Fez style was linked to embroidery schools in the early twentieth century.  

Marlee Halbach is a senior majoring in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies with Certificates in Entrepreneurship, and Textiles and Design.