The name “cheddar” came from a shade of yellow that resembled the color of cheese.
Baum Textiles website says:
“In the early to mid 1800s, “poison” greens and “cheddar” yellows were very popular colors, a pleasant diversion from the browns, indigos and turkey reds that were previously used in both garments and quilts. The contrast of the wonderfully bright colors afforded dress makers and quilters more creative possibilities than ever before. Although it wouldn’t be until the 1870s for synthetic dyes to enter the market, these particular colors, achieved with natural dying elements, were overdyed to yield bright, intense hues.”
“One of the staple colors of quiltmakers of the 19th century was that strong, deep yellow we call “cheddar” today. Cheddar was used by Pennsylvania German quiltmakers in a number of variations. As a solid color fabric, it was used both in backgrounds and in highlights, particularly in applique quilts. Less common were the cheddar calicos, a double print similar to the blues and pinks, and one seen more often with a cheddar lattice with a black and red figure overprinted.”
Fabric colors can be used to assist in dating a quilt. “In general the acid greens, natural turkey red, chrome yellows and antimony orange were around from about 1825 to 1890 in America. Chrome or antimony orange solids continued on into the 20th century. The same chrome yellow and red & black prints re-appeared in the teens and again in the 1940s.”