Stroudcloth, list cloth, saved list cloth, all these terms appear commonly in inventory lists during
the fur trade.
To name just a few :
An 1835 inventory of goods sent to the Upper Missouri Outfit lists 10 pieces saved list indigo blue
cloth, 5 pieces black list scarlet cloth, and 3 pieces saved list green cloth.
An invoice from the Rocky Mt. outfit 1836 under the charge of Fontenelle, Fitzpatrick & Co from papers
of the American Fur Co lists 1 ps [piece] fancy list blue cloth, 16 ps saved list blue cloth, 3 gray list blue
cloth, 3 black list scarlet cloth, 1 saved list scarlet cloth, 3 saved list scarlet cloth, 3 saved list green cloth.
In 1825 Ashley made a cache, in it were included 2 pieces scarlet cloth and 2 pieces blue stroud.
Trade list of John Mcnight, 1822[partner of General Thomas James], lists 5 inferior blue strouds, 7 saved list
blue cloth, 2 red stroud, 1 scarlet stroud, 5 scarlet stroud.
These lists could go on an on, so common is wool, or broadcloth, in fur trade inventories. Documentation is easy.
Now just what is the meaning of these terms stroud, list, and saved list cloth? The Oxford English Dictionary
defines stroud as: "A cheap kind of cloth, made from woolen rags, exported to the North American Indians".
Rags meant wool from dead sheep, & wool from factory waste. Rag material was finely carded or "deviled" then
carded with new coarse wool for spinning. It seems from references to fancy and to inferior stroud that there may
actually have been better grades of this wool.
"Davis Schmid has found that aggressively fulled 100% woolen coating is virtually indistinguishable from existing
artifacts of stroud owned by the Minnesota Historical Society. This would indicate it is a nicer fabric than the
[personal communication from Thomas Swan]
The term stroudcloth makes reference to the town of Stroud in Glouchestershire County, England, famous
for its stroudwater red.
The river water there was reported to have some quality which produced outstanding color from the dying
process. This district was known for its fine quality broadcloth which was used for the uniforms of the king's army.
List refers to selvedge, where the edge is tightly woven to prevent any fraying. List, or selvedge,
is cut away and not used in the construction of European clothing so manufacturers often used a
different fiber such as mohair or a coarser fiber for this edge since it was waste anyway.
Carolyn Corey has found in her research that England had laws that lists be certain widths to show
the various gradesof broadcloth. The gray list and black list cloth noted earlier in the trade lists refer
to those colors used in the selvedge warp instead of white.
Some lists have a stripe or two of color running through the white.
Carolyn in her book shows women's leggings with a gray list and the white saved edge above it,
from the book "Art of the Great Lakes Indians".
Saved list refers to the list or selvedge being kept white during the dying process. This white edge
was much desired be the Indians of N.A. and used in their clothing for decorative effect. Now why did
the practice of leaving a white selvedge start?
As mentioned earlier, trade laws in England governed the width of lists to show the quality of the
broadcloth, so that may be a part of why, but even more plausible is this excerpt on dying by William
Portidge, which was originally published in 1820.
"ON COVERING THE LISTS OF CLOTH WITH WEBBING TO PREVENT ITS TAKING COLOR.....
Cloth, intended for scarlet, or any other cochineal color, is always girt-webbed, to prevent the lists from
taking the dye, as it would, being heavy and coarse, absorb much of the cochineal. This operation is
performed with thick cotton, or linen webbing, which, being doubled to half its breadth, is then wide enough
to enclose the list when rolled up. The webbing is put round the list, so as to enclose it all, and is sewn on
with small twine, passing through the cloth close to the list, and drawn tight over both. The stitches are
about one-fifth of an inch apart, when the list is covered, merely to save cochineal.....Soon as a scarlet
cloth is finished coloring, and has been partly cleaned by the steamers, it is put on a slatted scrave,
that has been covered with a clean white cloth, and the girt-webbing is taken off. This is performed by
women, who draw the threads out with hooks.
After it is taken off, both the thread and the webbing are well washed and hung up to dry for further use."
This method then, was first used to save dye, and makes good sense when we recall the coarse goods used
in making the lists. From his description it is actually a tie-dye method that most of us are familiar with.
Now lets take a look at the use of wool during the fur trade. Native Americans had fine clothing from their
brain tanned hides but this wool cloth that traders were bringing was new and different. Besides the pretty,
bright colors it had some advantages.
This is from David Thompson writing March 25, 1810, at Saleesh House: "We now plainly, as well as the Salish
Indians, see in this climate, the great advantage of woolen over leather clothing, the latter when wet sticks to the
skin, and is very uncomfortable, requires time to dry, with caution to keep it to it's shape of clothing.
On the contrary the woolen, even when wet, is not uncomfortable, is readily dried and keeps it's shape,
which quality they admire. The Indians now fully appreciate the use of woolen clothing, and every one is glad by
means of trade, to change this leather dress, for one of the woolen manufacture of England." we can see from
this quote that it soon became a coveted item for those who could afford it, and thus it also became somewhat
of a status symbol.
An important Blood chief was painted by Bodmer wearing a red saved list war shirt with buckskin sleeves.
Native Americans used the white edge of saved list wool for decorative effect instead of cutting it off and hemming
as the Europeans did. It seems they were quite fond of it since photographs even into reservation times show
Native American women of the Northern plains and plateau still wearing saved list dresses, but as early as 1739
a HBC employee wrote of the Indians fashion to wear the list at the bottom or even the side of the garment.
Here's a trapper, Joe Meek, describing his beautiful wife's dress….
"She wore a skirt of beautiful blue broadcloth, and a bodice and leggins of scarlet cloth, of the very finest make."
In summary, it has been believed that stroudcloth meant the white edged wool, but seeing these different
terms in the same inventories, now I can only be sure that saved list has the white edge.
Stroud cloth and list cloth may or may not be. I also heard stories that stroud was a cheap wool used to blot up
excess dye from fine fabrics. I could find no reference to anything like this, besides, wool has to be immersed
and stirred and kept at a hot temperature to take the dye well.
I experimented for a long time on just how to make this, and even tried other methods when my
wrapping didn't work. Over time and lots of wasted dye and wool, I found a natural dye company that
gave me good information , such as the fact that wool needs an acid dye, and that it needs to be gradually
brought up to the dying temperature. Trouble was, they wanted to sell me 100 pounds of each color at a time!
I also found that the wool edge and webbing needs to be soaking wet or the dye seeps into the edge.
If you want to try making saved list yourself, or if you want more detail of its history, I have just touched the surface
and Carolyn Corey has written an excellent book on the subject. I would definitely recommend it to anyone
wanting to make or use saved list. She even gives her sources for dye!
The name of her book is, The Trade cloth Handbook.
You can get it from,
Four winds Trading Post
P.O. Box 580
St. Ignatious, Montana
Or email: email@example.com
Go STROUD! And Happy Dyeing