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Saturday, February 1, 2020

19th Century Prairie Pocket as Design Inspiration

I hunt antique stores and shows for vintage quilts and fabrics to reproduce in my fabric collections and you never know where inspiration may come.
I spotted this antique Prairie Pocket under a pile of linens.  First, I love the old pockets, and they're very hard to find, so I was immediately interested.  Closer examination of the fabric had me hooked!   The fabric is paper thin and very faded, but the design is wonderful!
I used this sweet fabric in my New Circa Essentials collection which is in your local quilt shops right now.  When I'm about to design a fabric, I have to think about every aspect of the fabric motif.  Do you see the honeycomb background texture?  Do I want to keep it or remove it?  What color(s) should it be?  How about the little vine? And the unusual motif itself....It has up to five colors...what should they be?  How many more versions of this print do I want?
Then, I have to ask the same series of questions to guide the Marcus Fabrics art department.  I settled on two colors; the green and the brown.  It's such a quintessential nineteeth century print and I adore it.  Hope you like it, too!  What other colors would you have created?  Do you think it would look good in any/every color?  That's all part of designing fabric, and you have to imagine it all done.... in your head...before you can even begin to create it.  
I wanted to examine the pocket more closely to see what it could tell me about the Prairie Woman who made it.  

From the photo above, notice it has one opening for the drawstring, not two (meaning an opening on both sides of the pocket.)  Had it had two openings, and a longer drawstring, I would assume it was worn underneath her skirts.  Back then, there were no inset pockets in dresses and skirts, but there would be an open slit in the skirt to access the pocket worn underneath, to keep money, handkerchief, glasses, etc.  

This pocket was likely tied to a bedpost where she would keep her brush, glasses, anything she wanted next to the bed.  Maybe even some stitching?  Could be anything.
A look inside reveals it was hand pieced.  Don't assume until you look as the treadle sewing machine came along in 1848.
The pocket has some holes....
And she did some rudimentary mending.
There's even some hair and fibers left inside from way back when.  

I hope you liked seeing just one item that served as design inspiration for my New Circa Essentials collection.  
Here are all the New Circa Essentials prints.
Here are the companion New Circa Shirting prints.  Both are available in yardage here.
I also have a few Fat Quarter Bundles still available here.  

If you like the fabrics, this collection is already sold out at Marcus, so get to your LQS or buy here.  Soon, they'll be gone, gone, gone.


  1. How interesting! I always wonder about the process of recreating a vintage fabric. The details are what make it, imo, as they give the print more dimension, and an "older" vintage feel. Thanks so much for sharing this, Pam!

  2. I really love this line of fabric, and I enjoyed seeing one of your pieces of inspiration.

  3. Your circa prints are just beautiful. Very interesting to learn about the pockets. I had no idea people would tie them to the bedpost!

  4. These Circa Essentials are so pretty.... I especially love the shirtings! :-)

  5. I really enjoyed hearing about and seeing your design process for your fabrics - very interesting. I really love your New Circa Essentials and Shirting collections! I like every one of the fabrics, not just a few. I really wish that I could pick up one of the fat quarter bundles as there is so much that could be done with them, but I am so overloaded with fabric right now. But, I am drooling!

  6. I love reading about your process with this. I am so drawn to your fabrics and now I know why :-) Well thought out beauty!

  7. Pam ~ I really enjoyed reading about your fabulous find. You are so lucky, I hardly ever find anything as special as this. I miss meeting with you for Prairie Women's Sewing Circle and learning from you about the women in the 1800'S.
    Thank you for showing us all the little details of your Prairie Pocket. It must have been very special to her to have mended it so. I love your new line for the Circa quilt and will be working with some this week making more blocks for my quilt.

  8. Enjoyed reading about your process for fabric design.

  9. The prairie pocket is very interesting and a find! I visit antique shops frequently and always when traveling and would love to catch something as interesting as that.
    Circa 1880 is a fabulous quilt and the shirtings are so quaint. The process will be interesting and of course fun!