March 1, 2013 - 9:32 pm

Finished Soft for the Needle

A few years ago, my stepmother, Mary, gave me three quilt tops. She wasn’t a quilter, but a friend of hers had given them to her, and she had put them away and kept them for sentimental reasons.

bolt stamp isdale company1I have avoided quilting one of the tops for years. There is a portion of a blue stamp on the reverse side of one of the setting blocks. I could figure out what most of it said, but there were a few too many letters missing for me to come up with the company name. And, to make matters just a little more difficult, I mistakenly guessed wrong on a letter that only was partially showing.

I began trying to discover information about that stamp and its significance when I brought the quilt top home, but to be honest about it, I didn’t work very hard or diligently on the search. There was too much going on in my life at the time, so the quilt and all the questions it raised was put on the back burner.

Last week, I got the top out again. This time, I took pictures of the one block that has the partial stamp on it and posted it on the Quilts-Vintage and Antique page on Facebook.  I also sent a copy of my photos in an e-mail to Kirsten Hammerstrom, Director of Collections at the Rhode Island Historical Society in Providence, R.I.

I quickly had answers about the blue stamp. Who knew it could be so easy?

My first answer came from Sandra Starley, who saw my post on the Antique & Vintage Quilt page. She thought the piece came from the Lonsdale Bleachery & Dye Works in Lincoln, R.I.  And, bless her heart, she sent me a couple of links so I could read more.

It wasn’t but a few hours later that Lynn Miller also responded to my query about the blue stamp. She owns a piece of the fabric lonsdale mill label_blogthat shows the entire stamp. I was amazed to find out how much fabric the entire stamp covered. You can see Lynn’s fabric, complete with the stamp, to the right.

I now had the answer to who made the fabric, but that raised some other questions. Where did Lonsdale and the Hope Co. put that large piece of printing? I am accustomed to seeing the manufacturer’s name on the selvedge of my fabric in small print. The stamp is huge in comparison.

The answer to this question came from Ms. Hammerstrom. She sent information about the stamp itself as well as the Lonsdale factory. According to an article published in the Maine Antique Digest in July 1963, the trademark stamps were supplied to the bleachery by the owner of the cloth. The mark was stamped on the outside of the bolt in blue dye right before the bolt was packed for shipment. It was used for identification purposes by the dry goods stores that purchased the fabric.

Sometimes, along with the trademark, the name of the manufacturer was included, as well as a little tidbit of information, such as “Finished soft for the needle.”

All the while, I had been thinking the stamp indicated the end of the bolt, so I was quite surprised to find that the reverse was true.  I was looking at the very beginning.

So now I have my answers, but one huge question remains: Do I quilt it or do I not?

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