Rosebank Mill ‘dairy book’ of fabric samples and notes, 1832

Lancashire, Great Britain

Date: 1832

Origin: Lancashire, Great Britain

Venue: Lancashire Textile Industry Collection, Lancashire County Council

This book comes from Rosebank Mill in Lancashire and dates from 1832. The inside cover features the name Bennet Greig and the name of the mill and the date 25th September 1832. It contains an array of printed dress and furnishing fabrics along with detailed notes about their production.

Within the pages are examples of experimentation with colour including several vibrant shades of green. Dyeing and printing green in one step; as opposed to applying the colour in two stages using layers of blue and yellow, was still something being experimented with during this period. There are also examples of lilac or mauve backgrounds with finely detailed black patterns that may be examples of dress prints intended for use in half mourning when greys, lilacs and mauves were appropriate.

This book is part of a small collection of similar books featuring printed and dyed fabric samples alongside accompanying notes detailing the methods used to produce the samples. They outline the recipes used for the dyes, method of applying the colour and specific details about the treatment of the fabric at each stage of the process. They cover an exciting and highly experimental period of great technological innovation in both printing and dyeing methods, with manufacturers striving to perfect new combinations of pattern and colour in a bid to outdo their competitors.

Books such as these would have been an incredibly valuable record of what methods had been tested. as well as how successful they were. They are an amazing snapshot of the variety of patterns and colours available for use in both garments and household furnishings and also showcase the skill and ingenuity required at every step of the process. From weaving high quality fabrics as a base for the patterns, to designing the print itself and then working out the best combination of printing and dyeing processes to achieve the desired effect – each step of this process required expertise and experience that would have been developed over a lifetime.

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