18 May 2017

Fabric samples book review

Quite some time ago, I mentioned a new book of mid-18th century fabric samples, intending to write a review of it. And now I've finally completed it.

This book is written in Swedish only; there is no parallel text in English like in "18th Century Textiles". This makes sense, as the samples are all from Swedish factories. Still, it includes a lot of samples from fabric types that may not be published elsewhere. E.g., many of the fabric names below are mentioned in "Textiles in America 1650–1870"—but without pictures.

"Från kläde till silkesflor", Swedish book of 18th century fabric samples
Front cover, featuring some samples from 1751
Three period collections of fabric samples are included in the book, dating to 1744‒1746, 1751, and 1766 respectively. Together they comprise about 100 pages with a total of 1,500 fabric samples. The original photographed pages of mounted samples are always on the right-hand page, while the left-hand page lists the samples' fabric names as well as fabric widths or prices obscured by the samples, and provides further information about the manufacturer, from current research.

Roughly 30 % of the sample pages are broadcloth (mostly dull colors, for menswear?), 30 % are other woolen and/or worsted fabrics, 25 % are silks, 10 % linen and/or cotton, and 5 % ribbons (some are silk, others linen). The distribution varies between the three different collections:


35 pages of samples, mostly broadcloth (sevaral pages), woolens and worsted fabrics—including a few samples of boj (bay), rask (rash), caffa (caffoy), schagg (shag), schalong (shaloon), droijett (drugget), stamett (stammet), camlott (camblet), sarge (serge), as well as a few patterned linen weaves. There's also a single page dated 1737 with samples of silk velvet (short nap) and silk plush (very long nap). All samples are arranged by manufacturer. Note that some of the broadcloth samples look like black in the photo, but the explanatory text says they are green, so they must be really dark green.


Cotton samples, 1751
31 pages of samples, with a good representation of the different fibers, arranged by manufacturer. The most spectacular page from this year has flannel and worsted samples with printed or woven patterns (featured on the front cover, above).

My favorites this year are the samples of striped cotton/linen fabrics, by four different manufacturers. They really give you an idea of period colors. One company's samples are striped in shades of blue on white, while another uses red or pink too, and a couple use several colors. Symmetry seems to have been very important—the wide stripe near the bottom left corner is the only asymmetrical stripe in the entire book.


About 35 pages, including 20 pages of silk samples, and several pages of mostly worsted fabrics. The samples are arranged by type rather than manufacturer.

Some of the silks are really nice. There's silk velevet (cut, or uncut with patterns), droguet, patterned silk satin, bordaloux (shagreen), gauze, damask, checked taffeta, and other taffetas patterned with floats of contrasting colors forming stripes or largish square dots.

Shagreen (left) and other silk samples, 1766

Further contents

This book is really a sample collection combined with an anthology on the Swedish 18th century weaving industry and its fabric production. The anthology is probably only of interest within Sweden, which justifies the decision to publish the book in Swedish only. But I can't help thinking that a lot of the samples would be interesting to people elsewhere too, so it would've been nice if they'd included English fabric names as well!

All in all, I really like this book, and use it about as often as "18th century Textiles".

Ordering information

This book is available from Swedish online bookstores—but international bookstores don't carry it as far as I know. If you're interested in this book, but live outside Sweden, please contact the publisher and ask if you can order from them directly. At first, their website said the minimum order was three copies, but that text has now been removed.

And, if you live in Sweden, remember that you can always take a look at the book through inter-library loan before you decide whether you want a copy of your own!

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