Barbara Brackman: A Fabric Designer Profile!

14 Apr 2011

Barbara Brackman has come out with a line of fabric called “Civil War Reunion”.  Read on to see the inspiration behind this line, and learn a little about Civil War quilts in the process!


You have recently put out a new line of Fabrics with Moda entitled “Civil War Reunion”. Can you tell me a little about this line?

I wanted to have a collection of Civil War era fabrics for the 150th anniversary available this month, so I thought that it might be a good idea to call it Civil War Reunion to emphasize the best part of the Civil War, which is how the country came back together afterwards. The prints are named for veterans' organizations and other late-19th century groups. One of them copies an antique print with the word "Union" on it. The figures range from a large scale paisley to small scale calicoes, the kinds of prints popular from about 1850 to 1890. The colors and color combinations echo natural dyes such as madder root, which produced browns, reds and a plum-colored purple.

Can you explain what reproduction fabric is?

 A good deal of printed fabric IS reproduction fabric as there are very few new ideas in fabric design. Even the most up-to-dateprintsare often interpretations of fabric from several decades earlier with a new color palette. Reproduction fabric, as such, acknowledges that it echoes the past, not only in the prints but in the color combinations. I only do reproduction cottons, and range from reproductions of early 19th-century chintzes to the apron prints of the 1930s and '40s. I tend to focus on Civil War (mid-19th century) prints and designs by William Morris from the late 19th century. 

I see from your website that you are a Quilt Historian. How did you get involved with this?

 I am an amateur historian with no academic background in any history but art history, which is very helpful in looking at trends and influences on quilt style and looking at how quilts influence other style.  I was interested in making quilts and then collecting patterns, then where the patterns came from. I just kept getting more interested in the past.

You also study women’s history. Has this shaped your appreciation of quilts?

I think it's the reverse--- quilts have shaped my appreciation of women's history. I realized you can tell history through needlework and fabric production, not just women's history but the history of trade, technology and taste.

How has your work as a historian influenced the fabric patterns that you create?

To do a reproduction with accurate coloring and timely companion fabrics I have to be able to recognize when the antique swatch was printed.  By reading about technology and looking at quilts I have learned things such as how to distinguish between a color obtained from a natural dye and a synthetic dye, when certain themes were popular, such as French Provincial style prints, and many other clues to date.

Are there particular patterns that work well with your fabric, any Civil War quilt patterns that you had in mind when creating this line?

 I've been posting a block of the week for free on my Civil War blog, selecting vintage patterns that were in use at the time of the Civil War (few) or those named for Civil War events like Fort Sumter (again-not too many), but also blocks with traditional names that can symbolize the weekly events of the first year of the War. Any of these blocks as a repeat block quilt would be a wonderful period piece.

Thank you Barbara!

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Jeannie EVH wrote
on 14 Apr 2011 4:51 PM

Barbara is a wonderful teacher if any have an interest in the history of quilts. I was fortunate to take a class from her many years ago and I learned so much. She is an outgoing, generous, and fun instructor.

on 28 Jun 2011 3:20 AM

This is an amazing information being shared. The civil war people have used quilts as their weapon to fight the war.