History of Cigarette silks
In the Victorian era new embellishments were available, small "tobacco silks" or "cigarette silks," printed in a wide variety of motifs, and offered as premiums in cigarette packs. Women wouldn?t be smoking cigarettes ? God forbid! - but they would encourage the menfolk to smoke a certain brand so they could get the latest actress or bathing beauty silk.
The item that started the entire fabric fad, wasn't intended as a marketing tool. Cigar manufacturers used brightly colored silk ribbons imprinted with their brand names to tie bundles of cigars.
The colorful ribbons which came in yellow, orange, black, blue, green, pink, purple, red and white appealed to collectors and to women, who fashioned the ribbons into table coverings, quilts and pillows.
Cigarette companies wanted to distinguish themselves and develop brand loyalty much as they have in recent decades.
Zira Cigarettes, for example, developed a "prize-in-every package" advertising campaign designed to differentiate itself from other cigarette
brands and encourage brand loyalty. While many of the fabric swatches were given away, larger premiums were obtained by mailing in coupons. Some featured a series of items such as baseball players or flags, to promote collecting. One of the most popular promotional campaigns that the companies devised involved free fabric swatches depicting images of sports figures, actresses and more.
The tobacco companies encouraged women to make things using the fabric, and women obliged with quilts, pillow tops and table covers. The companies believed giving these items away would encourage smokers to chose one brand over another."
The advertising gimmick worked. In parlors of homes everywhere, men smoked while their wives fashioned the colorful fabric swatches into quilts, comforters, table scarves and clothes, this shows a marketing technique that is still used today.
For example, an inventive seamstress fashioned a Turkish dancer's costume in the 1920s from cigarette silkies. The colorful skirt and vest ensemble is a one-of-a-kind example of the domestic craftswoman's creativity.
A Michigan woman, Lena Searing Bergman, created a lounging robe using more than 700 printed velveteen and jacquard-woven miniature "rugs" with silk fringe obtained as tobacco company premiums. She hand-stitched each one onto a flannel base and lined the garment in red silk.
Other women used the designs of presidents, flags, and collegiate and professional athletes to create pincushions, table scarves, parlor throws, bed comforters and quilts.
cigarette silk of a Victorian child
Unfortunately the original "ciggy silks" are much to delicate and too pricey to use in our projects today and therefor today's Crazy Quilters like to use reproductions of Victorian silks to embellish their creations:

Victorian Ladies

Victorian Children

Oriental Images

Victorian Actresses

Victorian Advertising


Native Americans

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