A Celebration of Joan Kiplinger 1933 – 2009

This is the evolution of our Vintage Fabric Expert.

Joan Carol Reed Kiplinger was a 1955 graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and history. She first worked in corporate communications with Blue Cross of Northeast Ohio then was the office manager for the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District, retiring in 1998. But above all, Joan loved fabrics and research.

As her own bio states on her Vintage Fabric column, “Joan Kiplinger is an antique doll costumer and vintage fabric addict who learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle and has been peddling fabrications ever since.” She was a collector and professional costumer of antique dolls and helped develop a national doll newsletter, NOMAD, by mail for persons who had no access to local doll guide.

Joan first contacted our Ask Andy columnist, Andy Weinstock, in September of 1999 with the following question: Is there a fabric reference book available which describes all or most of the following: names of and dates when various fabrics appeared; which fabrics are no longer being made and what would they have most closely resembled to today’s fabrics; what fabrics are known by a different name today; charts of the various fabric family trees– i.e. muslin is the parent of voile, batiste, lawn, organdy, nainsnook; a list of trademarks and did they denote a single fabric or a collection of fabrics–i.e., quadriga cloth, cloth of gold, Indian Head, Trevira; which fabrics dominated each decade; illustrations of various fabric weaves.

I have a small collection of fabric books which don’t begin to answer these questions and have searched the internet without success. Perhaps a college textbook(s) may furnish the answers. Would appreciate any help you can give me. Joan Andy’s reply: Dear Joan: I don’t have a lot of experience with books. I will call some of my friends in the fabric business that are more into books than I to see if they can recommend something to me. When I’m at the fabric show in New York in October, there is a magazine/book seller that always exhibits there.

Will show him your request. If what you are looking for doesn’t exist, you might want to think about writing the book yourself. Will keep you advised. Andy Judith’s answer on Fabrics.net: Hi Joan, There are several books that I would recommend; one in particular is “Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles”. However, the type of book that you are looking for in a “fabric tree”, I haven’t seen. Would be nice! The Fairchild’s book does go into dates, etc.

Like Andy said, maybe you could use several textile books and make one of your own. My college textbooks didn’t cover all that you were asking. I am looking forward to hearing Andy’s answer after the textile show. Judith With all of Joan’s interest and with questions equalling that interest (as was Joan’s style), Judith asked her if she would be interested in writing a column for Fabrics.net. She said yes and submitted her first column in December of 1999.

She named her column “In Search of Warp Ends“. After writing several columns, Joan started an email discussion group on www.Quiltropolis.com “Vintage Fabrics”. As Joan’s knowledge grew, she wrote a book with Judith and Jessie of Fabrics.net entitled “Vintage Fabrics – Identification & Value Guide”. Because Collector Books lists the authors’ names alphabetically, Joan’s name wasn’t the first author listed. But make no mistake, Joan Kiplinger was the heart and soul of the book; Judith and Jessie were contributors.

Joan loved mysteries and jumped into researching vintage textiles with enthusiasm and purpose. When Joan became ill, she had been working on an unpublished book on Indian Head fabrics. Part of her research on this book can be seen at Indian Head Remembered – Revisitung An American Institution. We have received many messages from her friends, below are just a few: She is unique….not only for her great knowledge in her field, but her wonderful outlook on the world and all that’s in it.

Her beloved family, her huge circle of friends and followers, and the academia of textile history, will never forget her contributions…..material, emotional, educational and the personal way she dealt with us all. Dori, New York, USA This is such sad news. I have always stood in awe of Joan’s knowledge of fabrics and her generosity in sharing with us on this list. Prayers are winging from Australia to Joan and her family. Janet, Melbourne, Australia Joan- I met you only a year ago, but already knew of you and how much you have contributed to our knowledge of fabrics and the myriad of details regarding textiles that you share with everyone.

I remember helping you set up your workshop in the room that had lost its power, as everywhere in the hotel had! You were so well organized and had so much to present to the class! I was glad when the power returned just as you were ready to go on with only the light from an opened door to the outside. My husband remembers visiting with you as he was enjoying a Scotch at the hotel bar.

Since that meeting, I have learned how energetic you have been, how loving you are to your family, how great a shopper you are, and how you love your flowers. Your photos of your garden with its bright colors always provides a lift to my day. It’s fun comparing your royalty with my nobility. Have to admit that in your genealogy, you are much closer to royalty than I am to nobility. Your generous nature gave me some special fabrics and, yes, I am now ready to “dress” the “paper” dolls and appliqué them onto the quillows.

I will tell my granddaughters that the dolls are a gift from a very special lady. With love to the Prinicipessa from the Contessa. Carol, California, USA She is a great intelligent, funny and loving person. Her legacy in her beloved great grand and grand daughters plus all she left to the work of fabrics, etc. will live on for a very long time.

Judi, California, USA I did not know of your more recent fight against cancer sooner. I just want to say THANK YOU for being my online friend and for helping me get my spool carvings out to the world! Thank you, too, for keeping us in “stitches” in the GREAT BLANKET on Earth. Your words gave me giggles as well as good thoughts. BJ, Spool carver Dear Joan, I had the great honor of taking your class in Columbus last year. I had your book and had been reading your website for years but it was so wonderful to actually listen to you first hand.

Your class was the most inspiring and my favorite at the conference. I started a vintage fabric notebook after your class and am ready for a second binder. There is something about you that immediately captured my heart. Kindness is just a part of your manner and you really put me at ease. Thank you for your gentleness and enthusiasm and for taking the time to explain parachute fabric to someone as green as me. Michele, Pennsylvania, USA I remember the first time I met Joan Kiplinger. We had developed a friendship over the internet and we thought it would be great to get together and talk fabric.

She would stay at my itty bitty store/home and we would visit people and places and fondle fabrics. I would meet her at the bus drop-off and after a week I’d take her to the bus station to go home. I waited as the bus pulled up, wondering about this highly intelligent and enthusiastic powerhouse who was coming to visit. Would she like my meager collection of antique fabric and lace? Would she be ok with my crowded and minimal living space? The bus door opened and out stepped this petite, gray-haired sprite with twinkling eyes and contagious grin! Surprised the heck out of me.

And she DID like my antique fabrics and lace and tools. And she WAS ok with sleeping on a cot in the kitchen/library. And she didn’t mind riding for hours in my pickup truck. And we had great fun. We visited my fabric jobber, a quilt show in a museum (and got to see pieces that were published in “Rural Pennsylvania Clothing”) and several list members in southeast PA. We visited Old Mill Village in northeast PA and identified fabrics and fashions.

We’ve shared our passion and swatches and information..our ideas and plans. I was supposed to visit her for a week the next year but something always came up..an unexpected expense, a bad year at Pennsic, something or other. We were going to visit Kent State and collections and libraries. I’ve always been surprised and humbled to be considered a professional in my own right, concentrating on medieval textile study. I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t have done quite so much if I hadn’t known how much Joan was doing.

Thank you again, Joan, for checking out that article I wrote! And knowing that even as a ‘vintage textile expert’ she stays current with modern textile production made me realize that I need to stay current too so I can relate modern with ‘ancient’ and help explain it all to my students. Joan, you have made a big impact on me. And someday I WILL make it to that library. Love ya. Linda in NEPA The arbitrary cut-off date for this Vintage Fabric column is 1960.

To stay within the scope of this timeframe, reference materials published up to that date are the prime source of information to more accurately capture actual thoughts of the time.

Joan Kiplinger is an antique doll costumer and vintage fabric addict who learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle and has been peddling fabrications ever since.

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