I’m going to admit right up front that seeing an Izannah Walker style reproduction doll, or worse still, a re-dressed antique Izannah, wearing a dress made of fabric that does not fit the style and age of the doll is something that sets my teeth on edge. Ok, that means that I’m really, really picky. I find even the most beautifully made dress very distracting when the material used is obviously wrong. It takes my attention away from the doll itself. So I’m on a one-woman crusade to help doll makers find antique reproduction fabrics that will blend in with the style of their dolls and act as a perfect finishing touch to all of their hard work.
Finding a good selection of mid-1800’s reproduction print fabrics appropriate for dressing an Izannah Walker doll is very easy, due to the current popularity of quilting. Even better news for those of us interested in Izannah type doll making is that reproduction Civil War era quilts are very big with quilters right now, so there are a lot of different fabrics to choose from.
When looking at reproduction fabrics, remember you can always pick fabrics from an earlier time period than your doll, as people saved and re-worked the fabric from used garments. Doll clothing, like quilts, could easily have been made from someone’s stash of worn out clothing.
Locate a shop in your area that sells quilting fabrics and supplies. Give them a call to make sure that they have Civil War era fabrics, and then treat yourself to a field trip. Browse through the shop and enjoying imagining your dolls dressed in all of the interesting prints you will find.
If you prefer armchair shopping, I would like to suggest one of my favorite online sources for reproduction fabrics and one that you will find really easy to remember, www.reproductionfabrics.com . One of the best things about this site is that it is divided into time periods for you, which makes picking the right fabric a sure thing. Make sure to sign up for Margo’s newsletter. She shares very interesting textile tidbits and often has special sales for newsletter subscribers.
If you are looking for very fine white cottons, both plain and white on white, www.mini-magic.com is the place to go.
Some books on the subject that I find helpful are:
Dating Fabrics A Color Guide 1800-1960 by Eileen Jahnke Trestain
America’s Printed Fabrics 1770-1890 by Barbara Brackman
Two quilt books that have some great close-up photographs of antique fabric are:
American Folk Art Quilts by Maggi McCormick Gordon
American Quilts and Coverlets in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Amelia Peck