“Weaving” History in the Research Center

A recent visit from a researcher prompted a trip to retrieve some of the Warren book collection at CHS. She was looking for definitions relating to wool processes, and immediately I thought of the “Warren books” as a point of reference.

Acquired in 1974, the collection of 56 titles was assembled and given to CHS by William L. Warren, former CHS curator, assistant director, and advocate for topics including needlework. The Dyer’s Companion in Two Parts includes instructions for creating colors such as “Prussian blue”, “drab” (requiring three ounces of the flour of brimstone), “madder red” and more. Part two of the companion features many useful recipes, including how “to make varnish for leather”, “to color feathers”, and even the strange but useful “recipe for the cure of the hydrophobia, or the bite of a mad dog”.

Aniline Dyes: What they Are and How to Use Them includes instructions for “coloring over other colors”, and features a list of dye shades, including mauve, scarlet, blue, magenta and solferino (a shade of pink). The monthly Journal of Design and Manufactures includes fabric patterns and engravings. Chintzes, flannels, moultan muslins, and paper hangings are among the fabric swatches included within the six volumes in the collection.

From the Quarterly Journal of the Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers to the Treatise on the Mulberry Tree and the Silkworm, there are a range of publications that may prove useful to researchers. Select manuscript material was also given to CHS, including a calico printer’s recipe book by George Haworth. The recipe book (over 200 pages) features fabric dyes and corresponding fabric samples, as well as a helpful index. Select records for the William Warren Book Collection and weaving-related references can be found online at HistoryCat.

Thankfully, the researcher in question found some helpful references to wool processes by day’s end, proving that working in the Research Center can be both unpredictable and rewarding.

Sierra Dixon is a Research & Collections Associate at the Connecticut Historical Society

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