My personal blog is named Calico Trails: “Calico” to honor our pioneer women and “Trails” to capture the flavor of the pioneer and cowboy era. So, of course I wanted to know more about the origin of calico.
Many of you are probably familiar with the fact that pioneer women preferred calico to make dresses, curtains, quilts, and shirts for their menfolk. But where did the name calico come from? And why was it so popular with the pioneers?
Calico is a coarse brightly printed cotton fabric generally printed with two-color patterns. The cloth is usually woven in the gray (natural) color, then bleached, dyed, and printed. The background color, if any is desired, is dyed into the cloth, then the design pattern is stamped on with wooden blocks in different colors, or in a more sophisticated method, using a revolving cylinder where the design has been cut. How often the pattern repeats itself on a piece of cloth depends on the diameter of the wooden block or cylinder. The intricate carving below is of a wooden block used to stamp cloth in the 1900s in India. The detail in the stamp is stunning in and of itself.
History says that calico originated as a fine weave in Kozhikode, also called
Calicut, in southwestern India. Europe saw the earliest imports of calicoes during the Renaissance, and later Europeand and American textile mills began manufacturing their own versions of the hardy material.
|Photo Credit: Hubertl, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0
|Drawing for block-printed fabric Tulip and
Design 1873 by William Morris. Public Domain
|Blue sprigged Calico Available
The terminology became a bit muddied when the cloth crossed the pond to America. In the
UK, Australia, and New Zealand, the term calico
generally refers to the simple, cheap weave of the fabric in white or off-white
unbleached cotton. In other words, the cloth itself.
the term became synonymous with the small, all-over floral design printed on the
fabric. To the right is an example of blue sprigged calico available from a company called Recollections in Hawks, MI. I haven't actually ordered anything from them, but their styles are lovely and look very authentic to the time periods portrayed. The Industrial Revolution and mass production of the cloth contributed to its popularity among pioneer women.
|Girl's Calico dress from Recollections
Lovely, isn't it?
And simply for the adorable factor, here's a girl’s Calico dress, also made by Recollections. Now, how cute is that?
I feel the sudden need for a calico dress! How about you?
Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in
and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In
those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning
and a radio, so Pam drove the Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her
if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay
doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making
up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream
Mariah is her second novel. www.pamhillman.com Mississippi