1930s Arts & Crafts Fabrics

Written by elly turner
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1930s Arts & Crafts Fabrics
Despite the North American availability of cotton, 1930s textiles ranged from fine manufacturing standards to misleading "sized" fabric made to appear high-quality with the presence of starch. (Hulton Collection/Valueline/Getty Images)

The Arts and Crafts movement spanned several decades, bridging the late-19th and early-20th centuries. An international trend, arts and crafts textiles included multiple design aesthetics that reflect the scope of time and cultural influence. Along with these factors were sweeping changes in the North American textile industry -- from the advent of the Draper Northrop loom to new federal regulations on labour, labelling and materials -- 1930s arts and crafts fabrics reflect the cumulative influences of nearly 50 years.

Botanical: Natural Motifs

Still in use in the 1930s, botanical designs made popular by William Morris in the late-19th century decorated many domestic interiors. Often in colours like rich reds or indigo, these natural motifs included famous patterns like "mistletoe and peony" or "lotus spear." Other botanical inspiration like willow trees and thistle also brought in the outdoors. From these botanical origins sprang lighter, contemporary interpretations of the 1930s, with small, simple floral patterns popular on curtains and tablecloths. Both botanical representations may be found in 1930s arts and crafts textiles, though the latter may be more popularly associated with vintage arts and crafts fabric in the United States.

Cheering: Light and Bright

Beginning in the 1920s, the colour palette of arts and crafts fabrics began to lighten, introducing the popular pastels of 1930s textiles. From coral and light teal to pale yellow and soft pink, these hopeful shades can be seen in vintage quilts from the era. Simple silhouettes kept the pastels naive and versatile. Both antique fabrics and reproduction prints are available for those who enjoy the casual cheer.

Deco: Modernist Design

Along with the soft, bright palette of 1930s arts and crafts fabric, the influences of international geometric motifs are seen in the resulting art deco designs. From Moorish and Egyptian motifs to southwestern or Native American patterns to the Celtic knot design, many arts and crafts patterns bear latticed patterns, simple repetitive shapes like circles, rectangles or squares. Aside from the art deco designs, even the arts and crafts popularity of quilting encouraged repetition of easily manipulable geometric shapes.

Chubby Cheeks: Childrens Prints

The soft pastels and bright shades abundant in the 1930s were present in children's prints as well. Popular subjects in these textiles include frolicking kittens and playful puppies. Also common were simple outlines of bunnies or ducks, or a basic zoo pattern featuring outlines of giraffes, elephants and lions. This unpretentious innocence continued in prints portraying idyllic childhood scenes like toddlers enjoying soda fountain sweet treats or boys and girls playing golf.

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