Recently I was in a local thrift store and came across two quilts featuring Sun Bonnet Sue and her companion Sam. Both quilts were hand appliquéd and hand quilted in circles. Nothing unusual about that! What was unusual was the clothes they were wearing: These weren’t your traditional 1930s Sues and Sams in their cherry small prints: Nope! These were decked out in darker colored larger designed prints. I knew right away they must be from the 1950s or very early 1960s, but how was I to know for sure?
When I got them home, I had more time to inspect them. First thing I noticed is the maker did not turn under the edges before she appliquéd them. She simply blanket/button-holed stitch over the raw edges and that is where I found my answer.
On one of Sue’s arms a selvedge was exposed and D.B. Fuller & Co. was written on it.
Online I didn’t find much about the company, but what I did find was pretty fascinating.
The D.B. Fuller & Co, Inc. received its trademark for “Fuller Fabrics” on November 12, 1948. On December 20, 1955 the company filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a trademark on their brand “The Hampton” that covers applying a crease, wrinkle, soil and perspiration-resistant finish to textile fabrics. So not only did they manufacture fabrics, they developed technology to protect them as well.
The D.B. Fuller & Co. is probably most famous for textiles they produced in the mid-1950s that were designed by some of the top artists of the day: Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Raoul Dufy, Ferdand Leger and Joan Mirro. These fabrics are fab! Dan Fuller did not ask them to create new art but rather assisted them in finding inspiration in their body of work to determine what pieces could be by their body of work would be suitable for fashion wear. The patterns were roller printed rather than the more expensive screen printing method so it could be sold at an inexpensive price for the garment industry and housewives alike.
The artist inspired prints were called the Modern Masters Series and it debuted in the Fall of 1955. There was a huge marketing campaign that included a documentary that featured the artists, their original piece of art that inspired their fabric and the finished fabrics. A museum exhibit first opened at the Brooklyn Museum and then traveled the country. Life Magazine featured fashion designer Claire McCardell’s women’s wardrobe that she designed using the Modern Master Series fabrics in a photo essay.
Go to www.pinterest.com/scousesusi/modern-masters-fuller-fabrics/ to view some of these gorgeous dresses.
I have reached out to vintage clothing textile experts/enthusiasts to see if they can determine whether Sue’s dress and arm are from one of the Modern Master’s fabrics. I also sent them photos of other Sues and Sams clothing to see if any of them might have been inspired by famous artists of the day. Perhaps the person who donated them to the thrift store will recognize them from the photo and could shed light on their maker.
I have a feeling there will be more to report. I know the D.B. Fuller & Co. went out of business, but not when or why. Stay tuned!
Happy National Quilting and St. Patrick’s Day! You are all invited to stop by Saturday, March 17 from 10-5.