The Powerhouse Museum has an Swatch Book online. The wonderful thing about this site is that you can magnify the images right up to examining the actual fibers of the textile.
Swatches or small samples of fabric have been collected and compiled in the form of swatchbooks for at least 300 years. The Powerhouse Museum has several volumes containing thousands of bright, unfaded samples of fashionable fabric designs, braids and laces ranging from the 1830s to the 1990s. This site contains samples from the 1890s through to the 1920s.
Swatchbooks were made and used for a variety of purposes: Fabric manufacturers, agents and merchants assembled large swatchbooks to record and promote the latest fabric designs to markets at home and abroad. The books were also prepared by pattern services who sold fabric designs by various manufacturers. With the increasing variety of fabrics available in the early 20th century fabric shops also held swatchbooks from which their customers could choose the fabric lengths they would like to order.
Some of the swatchbooks in our collection have come from textile factories where they were used by generations of printers, weavers and designers as a continuous source of inspiration. Through this site we are providing access to this rich resource for future generations of designers.
Anyone interested in the history of fabric print or textile desing will find these fascinating. Of note is the statement that the patterns on this site are in the public domain in Australia.
Thank you Sharon for posting this on your blog this Swatch book is fantastic especially the 1920’s, I have downloaded a couple of designs so I can get a better look. I have a feeling I will be using these as inspiration for future projects.