Aug 26, 2012

French Textiles - From 1760 to the Present - book review

I've had several email from readers asking which books I would recommend for learning about textiles or as good reference and research books.
There is a list on my website, but I'll use this opportunity to show some of those books in more detail. If you'd like to see the list, it can be found at the bottom of this page:

One of the best general books on French textiles is French Textiles - From 1760 to the Present  by Mary Schoeser and Kathleen Dejardin, published by Lawrence King in 1991. This book is currently out-of-print, but copies can be found on used book websites.

French Textiles - From 1760 to the Present, as the title indicates, focuses on the two hundred years since 1760, a year after France lifted the embargo on printed textiles. The embargo had been ordered a century earlier by the king in order to protect French silk producers from competition from imported chintz and other printed cottons from India and the Far East.
French Textiles gives a chronological history of the French textile industry, organized by blocks of time as indicated in some of the chapter titles:  "Enlightenment (1760-1790)"; "Upheaval (1790-1830)"; "Industrialization (1830-1870.)"
Each chapter has many pictures to illustrate the text, including images of textiles from the epoch as well as pictures of household interiors that show how the textiles were used. French Textiles - From 1760 to the Present is an excellent book, both as a general survey as well as a solid reference.
The first picture below, from page 41, shows a typical late-18th century bed that used several different toile patterns on one bed. The second below is the book open to pages 52-53 and shows typical 18th century floral prints.

Feb 10, 2012

Fragments of yellow toiles

Although there are many plants that produce a yellow tint for dyeing, all the natural yellows are light-sensitive and fade quickly. As a result, until color-fast yellow dyes were created in the 19th century, very few textiles were dyed in shades of yellow and only a very few of those have survived.
When looking at old French toiles, it's easy to notice that the early yellows had a wide range of shades that are not at all the color we traditionally think of as yellow. Instead, the natural dyes created tints that ranged from gold to orangish-yellow to apricot-yellow to near-brown. Below are pictures of several fragments of early yellow toiles from the late-18th and early-19th century.

Jan 9, 2012

French fabrics and the indienne flower

French textile designers took inspiration from the colorful printed textiles that were imported from India by traders and overseas trading companies in the 17th century. The Indian motifs and colors were re-interpreted and modified in order to more easily sell to French households. These French-designed and French-produced textiles in the East Indian style were called indiennes.
Some of the more popular motifs were of large-headed fantasy flowers and were often incorporated into wide textile borders as well as in wallpaper friezes and borders.
Here are several large indienne floral prints from three different 19th century wide cotton border prints from the Alsace region of France. These borders measured about 10-12" wide and the oversize flowers were almost the full width.

As can be seen by the printed cottons below, the same sort of indienne floral motifs were used in curtain and drapery fabrics as well, but in a much smaller scale. The third below incorporates the popular Indian tree-of-life motif in a slightly modified version.