Friday, July 08, 2005

Pioneer women and the origin of calico cloth

I have always been fascinated with the westward expansion, especially the pioneer woman’s role in it. Traditionally, we think only men had the wanderlust to explore the west and “go where no man has gone before”. But I’d like to think that some of the women were as anxious to "go" as the men were!

I named this blog “Calico” to honor our pioneer women and “Trails” to capture the flavor of the era. Then I got to thinking about the origin of calico.

Many of you are probably familiar with the fact that pioneer women used calico cloth to make dresses, curtains, quilts and even shirts for their men. But where did it come from? Where did the name calico originate from? A little research was in order!

Calico is a coarse brightly printed cotton fabric generally printed with two-color patterns. The sturdiness and bright colors helped the cloth to hold up to long, hard wear, something that was sorely needed when money was hard to come by, not to mention the fact it might be hundreds of miles to the nearest bolt of fresh cloth.

History says that calico originated as a fine weave in Calicut, India. Europe saw the earliest imports of calicoes during the Renaissance, and later Europe and the United States textile mills began manufacturing their own versions of the hardy cloth.

In my research about calico, I ran across the Riverpoint Lace Works, Inc. in West Warwick, RI. The history page describes the early textile industry in the New England states. It doesn't specifically mention calico, but it's got some great pictures of the industry and very interesting reading!

Oh…one more link! It’s just SO cute. I wanted to show you some pictures of calico dresses and found this on ebay. Darling! I’m not sure how authentic the pattern is, but I’d love to have the dress myself!

That's enough for today. Soon, we'll dig into the past and learn about some of the women who were brave enough to go where no pioneer woman had gone before!

Happy trails!



Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pam, I'm looking forward to finding out bits and pieces of western lore through your site.

Saves me (yawn...) a whole lot of research on my own, LOL!

Calico Trails is a wonderful name for what you're doing here. Keep up the good work.

And stop beating me in contests...

Camy Tang said...

Hey there Pam! Nice name for your blog. Also very appropriate considering your writing genre!