Textile Trends Trivia – the Answers

Yesterday I gave a little pop quiz.  I’m a former teacher, I can do that.  Let’s go over the quiz and see how you did!

Q 1) The French artist was named Trouvelot and he released gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar).  His story is here at the U.S. Forest Service website.

Spread of gypsy moths, 1900 – 2007. By US Forest Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Q 2) Cheney Brothers Silk Mill began business in 1838.   In 1916, they published a 61-page company history, where they described their participation in the American Civil War thus:

The Cheneys took a rather important part in the War of Secession.  C. M. Spencer, who had been employed at the mills since 1847, had, even before the war began, conceived the idea for the Spencer repeating carbine.  He had constructed one in the machine shop of the mill, and had taken out a patent on it March 6, 1860.  When the war came, the Cheneys arranged with him to manufacture it.  Charles Cheney, after exhibiting it in Washington, got a trial order from the Navy Department for 1,000.  The Cheneys… leased part of the Chickering piano factory at Boston for the purpose.  A great deal of difficulty was experienced in convincing the War Office of the practicability of a repeating rifle.  General Ripley, the Chief of Ordnance, had little use for what he called such “new-fangled jimcracks,” while one of the secretaries declared it a “damphool contraption to use up ammunition.” ….

A rifle was presented to President Lincoln, personally, by Mr. Spencer, who, at the President’s request, took it all apart and put it together again with only a screw-driver….The Government ordered practically all the rifles the company could make.  Some 200,000 were completed by the end of the war, after which the plant was sold to the Winchester Arms.  It was not a profitable venture.  (p. 41)

So that is how the Cheney company described it.  But what company publication gives the whole story?  Consulting Arms and Equipment of the Union (1996, Time-Life Books), I could only find evidence of the Union Army and Navy buying 20,000 rifles, not 200,000.  But individual combatants, militias, or states might have bought them, so maybe that number is accurate.  The Cheney Brothers were indeed involved, and there is a fascinating account of the machinations of the business (including cronyism, taking orders without having equipment to fill them, and two failed product demonstrations to Lincoln before the one related here)  here.  There is more about Spencer at the blog of the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Q 3) The song “I am a Little Weaver” OF COURSE does not mention a loom.  It mentions a spinning wheel.  Twice.  You weave on a loom after you have spun the thread on a spinning wheel.

Q 4) Berandine sadly never took off.  You can read about it here.  It was originally in Baldwin’s Textile Designer magazine, which has the most beautiful typeface on its cover.  (Scroll down after you click on the link to see the cover.)

Q 5) The American Silk Journal exclaimed that “1931 is to be a silk year!’  in an article entitled, “Fashion Says More Silk, Price Says More Yards.”   Here are some quotes:

Fashion, wearied of the hoydenish, tom-boy type of dress that has been peculiar to the fashion age, has again turned feminine… Her dress for all occasions around the clock is now to be distinctive for the liberal yardage of the material and amplitude of the drape as formerly it was conspicuous for the scrimpiness of the material and the skinniness of the fit.

The style czars who proclaimed … what the latest changes are to be like, heralded a revival of street-sweeping dress lengths….

The dress that was considered recherche in 1928 made out of four or four and a half yards of silk, would not reflect the latest idea in fashion today, made up of not less that six and a half yards material.

Nice try, American Silk Journal.  They were only two years into the Great Depression, and were trying to put a good face on the situation.  Their optimistic attitude was not enough to turn the Depression around, and they ceased publication in 1933.  I would like to bring back the word “scrimpiness” though.

So the answers are: gypsy moths, repeating carbines, a spinning wheel, peat moss, and street-length dresses.

Most of the questions were based on great publications found at Handweaving.net.  Another treasure I found there was a series of beautiful illustrations of the silk trade in the 1911 Silk: Its Origin, Culture, and Manufacture published by Corticelli Silk Mills.

Another great website for images is the New York Public Library.  It has over 800,000 images.  There are 180 for weaving!  150 for knitting!  16,239 for costume!  I am hoping for a rainy day so I can sit and look at lots of them.

I love finding these little scraps of history, be it for a quilt or a story!