From handkerchiefs to swimming costumes, petticoats to table cloths, Turkey red dyed and printed cottons had many different uses for British consumers.

Introduction

Turkey red manufacturers had always sold some of their output in Britain and as export markets came under pressure, the development of new fabrics and designs for domestic consumption increased. The market for Turkey red cottons and prints grew with rising living standards, new types of housing and new aspirations for domestic comfort. The dark red colour schemes favoured by Victorian householders that the wealthy created using costly velvets and damask, were made possible for the middle and working classes through curtains, upholstery or cushion covers made out of Turkey red which could be printed in ways that imitated the more expensive fabrics.

Turkey red cotton was also used for homemade clothing, particularly for children, or for work wear, and the fabric could be purchased relatively cheaply from remnant warehouses, departmental stores and drapers throughout Scotland. The invention of the domestic sewing machine made home dressmaking popular, but many ready-made clothes were also available for purchase in Turkey red fabrics, including swimwear and underclothes, as well as the ubiquitous bandannas, handkerchiefs and shawls. Certain firms were famed for their Turkey red goods, the best known being McLintock and Sons of Barnsley, who made quilted petticoats stuffed with Russian down and colourful bed quilts.

  • Cockerel and yellow flowers

    Cockerel and yellow flowers
  • Intricate paisley pattern

    Intricate paisley pattern
  • London-Manchester post, horse and carriage

    London-Manchester post, horse and carriage
  • Page of home order book

    Page of home order book
  • Paisley shapes in zigzag lines

    Paisley shapes in zigzag lines
  • Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee

    Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee


Next: Clothing and home dressmaking >

Text © Stana Nenadic and Sally Tuckett, ‘Colouring the Nation: Home markets.’

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