Jun 26, 2010

Same pattern, different colorways

In the second half of the 19th century, as printing techniques improved with roller printing becoming increasingly automated, French textile manufacturers began to occasionally print a popular pattern or motif in more than one colorway. Over the years of buying French textiles, I have seen very few examples of this, so I believe it was not a common practice.
Below are several swatches from the second half of the 19th century. The first two are designed by Georges Zipélius and printed in Alsace. All are high-quality prints from finely-engraved rollers and would have been costly textiles when new.

Jun 19, 2010

The Indian boteh or Scottish paisley

The boteh, called palmette in France and 'paisley' in the English world, has been one of the most durable motifs in textile design. The leaf-shaped motif from the Middle East and India gained popularity in Europe with the import of shawls, textiles and other Oriental products in the 17th century. Luxurious Kashmir shawls, woven of the highest quality fibers, were worn by the Empress Josephine and most upper class women. The demand was so strong that the importers could not keep up.
By the early 19th century, Scottish weavers in the town of Paisley began copying the Indian shawls and producing them in fine local woolens. The town produced so many shawls that the boteh or palmette motif came to be called 'paisley.'  The French textile companies produced variations of the pattern on printed cotton shawls that resembled the most expensive woven examples. They also created endless variations of the paisley as the theme for home furnishing fabrics.
Below is an 1870 French fashion plate showing a day dress with a paisley-patterned hemline.

Next is the large-scale pattern on a French printed cotton shawl, early 19th century:

The next group of paisley prints all happen to be 19th century quilts, but the paisley pattern was used in draperies, bedding and clothing and is still popular today.

Jun 12, 2010


While looking through some of my photos, I noticed that I've taken many pictures of signs. Although there are new and larger signs in France, old ones are often still serving their original purpose. This sign is on a stone bridge over the Canal du Midi near Capestang.

Next is a street sign for a narrow laneway in the village of Puisserguier. It commemorates Saint Clementine, the monk who, according to legend,  brought the clementine oranges from North Africa to France. Puisserguier was on one of the main medieval pilgrimage routes to Saint Jacques de Compostelle (aka St James Way.)
Somehow, old rusty street signs seem to be more forceful in their message than their more modern replacements. The first below says, "No parking" and the second indicates a one-way street.

Each of the two signs below was nailed to a plane tree some years ago. The tree grew around the sign and now looks like it's eating it!  One sign was found near the river in Puisserguier and the other about 60 miles south, in the Pyrenees.  Beware of sign-munching trees!
This last sign is no longer useful, but has not been removed.  It carries a notice from the town of Puisserguier that dumping anything on the river banks is forbidden.

Jun 5, 2010

Les mouchoirs de cou - printed scarves

The printed cotton scarf has a long history as part of ladies' clothing in France and was for decades considered an indispensible wardrobe accessory. Called mouchoir de cou - neck scarf - the squares usually measured about 36-40" each side and were made of light-weight, fine-quality cotton. These scarves were usually folded in a triangle and worn around the shoulders like a shawl.
At the beginning of the 19th century, as the textile companies of Alsace came to international prominence, they sold the mouchoirs de cou by the hundreds. These printed cotton squares were produced using the newest colors and stunning designs in order to serve as both a bread-and-butter product and as a sample of what the company could produce.
Below are a few examples of the kinds of scaves that might have been found around the shoulders of genteel French women and young girls.