Jan 29, 2010

French fabrics with unusual motifs

Most motifs in textile design reflect popular taste. Many of the design elements are used year after year because of their enduring popularity. For example, roses, tulips and indienne flowers have been used for decades as central motifs.
Sometimes a textile design presents a motif that is not often seen as shown below. These fabrics are traditional in color and overall design, but the motifs are unsual.
The first example is from the mid-19th century and presents oak leaf clusters and acorns.  Although oak tress are common in France, the use of oak motifs in textiles is rare. The second fabric, from the 1930s, uses the seldom-seen pine cone motif.

Next, on a white background, is a butterfly bush or buddleia.  The motif even includes some butterflies!
The second one below, a 1920s fabric with a pale yellow background, features wisteria (in French it is glycine. ) This vine is grown all across the south of France, but is a rarely use as a textile motif. 

The last two pieces are both early 19th century and both feature feather motifs rather than floral. The first depicts stylized peacock feathers and the second features exotic ostrich plumes.

Jan 22, 2010

French mattress tickings

In many French homes, mattresses were handmade until well into the 20th century. Sturdy and decorative thick cotton fabrics were manufactured to be used as mattress covers. The methods for constructing the mattress varied, depending on the household. The most common method was to stitch a large 'sack' from the ticking. This sack was then stuff with a soft cotton or with rags. Once the mattress was stuffed, the end opening was stitched closed and the mattress was tufted with heavy cord. Another method, often used for smaller beds, was to tack a single layer of mattress ticking to a wooden frame before stuffing it.
Across much of France, the most most common ticking was a practical and relatively inexpensive stripe pattern as seen here.

But mattress tickings were also done in decorative damask patterns that resembled silk and in surprising and unusual color schemes as seen here:

Damask floral motifs combined with stripes were elegant and the patterns were beautifully designed.

Occasionally, there are very unusual motifs as in the chinoiserie pattern below which features climbing floral vines on a trellis. My all-time favorite is the last one seen on this page featuring the gallic rooster (le coq galois), the national symbol of France. This rooster is perched on a branch of an oak tree for added emphasis, the oak being a symbol of strength and fidelity.


Jan 14, 2010

Color schemes in 19th C French textiles, part 8

As discussed in a previous post, indigo and woad produced beautiful shades of blue. Blue was widely used in porcelain patterns, in toiles by Jouy and was a favorite in rustic ikat woven linens.
Besides the better-known dark indigo blues, paler shades were also used as a background color in printed textiles. Here are a few pieces with pale blue or aqua background. The first is a fantasy print from the Art Nouveau era with water lilies and tsunami waves. The other three pieces are all late-19th century, but with a wide variety of motifs.

Jan 5, 2010

A peek at Art Deco fabrics

By the mid-1920s, textile printing had become a very efficient industry. Thus, more yardage in an ever greater variety of designs was possible.
The Paris World's Fair in 1925 - Exposition Internationale des Arts D√©coratifs et Industriels Modernes - showcased the new 'modern' style that had developed in the post-WWI era.  The streamlined, avant-garde look was the theme of the exhibition and became a world-wide sensation that dominated decorative arts until WWII. Here are a few 1930s stylized floral interpretations for a first short peek at the Art Deco textiles:

This last piece is parasols, but is similar to the middle floral above.