Understanding Quilt-Specific Colors: Turkey Red

Each of these color galleries represents a color given as a value for “Quilt-Specific Colors” in the Quilt Index Comprehensive Fields. Very specific “quilty” colors often reveal specific fabrics, a specific historical time period, or a particular quilting method. The quilts pictured in these galleries range from the late eighteenth century to the 1940s, and illustrate a wide variety of fabrics and techniques. Some quilts contain examples of more than one of these colors and thus appear in more than one gallery. In addition to these galleries, a good reference for learning more about quilt-specific colors is Eileen Jahnke Trestain’s book, Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide, 1800-1960.

Turkey Red
Turkey Red (named for the country, not the poultry) is a highly colorfast dye made from the roots of the madder plant, also known as rubia, and was used in quilt fabrics throughout the nineteenth century.  Turkey red was highly prized and is differentiated from madder red, a similar color made from the same plant, by its superior dye-making process.  Colorfast Turkey red dye was made with oil, while more fugitive madder reds were made with water.   In the mid-nineteenth century, Turkey red often appears in prints which also contain chrome yellow or indigo blue.  Around the turn of the last century and through the 1920s, Turkey red thread was used in redwork, red embroidery on a white or cream-colored ground.

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