Thursday, January 26, 2012

Toiles de Jouy - French Printed Cottons

Toiles de Jouy, the distinctive wood block and copper-plate printed textiles manufactured between 1760 and 1843 in Jouy-en-Josas, a small village between Paris and Versailles, are some of the most easily identifiable 18th and early 19th century textiles. 

Swatches from a textile sample book, dating to around about 1810 in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Albums of textile samples, bound in gilt embossed leather wallets, were the marketing tool of the fabric sales representative.  The French fabric mills produced thousands of different fabric motifs in the 18th and 19th  century.

It is the extraordinary freshness of the colour that enthralls us and the perfect state of preservation of the fabric - just as it came from the factory! 

Seeing these pristine textile sample swatches challenges us to imagine that the dresses in old black and white daguerreotypes can be scarlet, red or russet! 

The early quilts now faded to brown, tan and grey were once vibrant with madder reds, violets and oranges.

And we can once again see all the beautiful fabrics, long ago eaten by moths, but now returned in contemporary fabric collections - after more than 200 years, the toiles printed in Jouy continue to inspire designers.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Paris Green, the Fashionable but Deadly Regency Colour

Once upon a time a highly fashionable green fabric dye literally killed people. 

In the early 1800’s a pigment and dye made with copper arsenite was developed.  The beautiful bright green color became an instant favorite with painters, wallpaper designers and fabric dyers.

It was also used in other industries such as candy making, cake decorations, soaps, wallpaper, children’s toys and of course it was a highly effective rat poison! 

Yes, its main ingredient was arsenic!  This highly toxic pigment came to be called Paris green for it’s popular use in the French city to kill rats.

Because it was cheap to manufacture, Paris green was used not only as a fabric dye and an artist’s paint but also as a household paint and it was widely used on wallpaper. This made damp rooms death traps.

When Napoleon died in 1821, his doctors recorded the official cause of death as stomach cancer but trace amounts of arsenic were found in Napoleon's hair. Could this arsenic have been absorbed naturally or was he intentionally poisoned?  Towards the end of Napoleon's life, he spent increasing amounts of time indoors, where his home was decorated with Paris Green wallpaper. 

The French painter Cezanne had an affinity for using paris green pigments in his oil paintings, and it might have been no coincidence that he suffered from severe health problems.

Even with scientific evidence of its highly toxic nature, production of Paris green paint was not banned until the 1960’s. 

Same Center Panel Medallion in Another Quilt

This very early, 1820's quilt is documented as being made in Vermont and is in mint condition including the original fringe. This is a generous quilt sized 121 x 120 inches and is not quilted, nor does it have batting.

What is most amazing is that in the center of the very early, splendid fabrics is the exact same center medallion panel that is used in the quilt in the previous post from the Victoria and Albert Museum of London.

Center Medallion Panel Quilts

Early in the nineteenth century printed center medallion panels for quilts became popular. These were manufactured throughout the first few decades of the century, and were widely used in quilts and other needlework projects. Some of the medallion panels celebrated military victories and America's newfound Liberty, but others were ornate decorative designs of fruit and flowers often in vases or urns that fitted with the trend for dense fabric patterns and bright colours.

The particularly large example at the center of this quilt was probably printed in England the 1800's  at a time when the surrounding prints would also have been highly fashionable in middle class homes.
Quilt of printed cottons with center medallion square. Circa 1830s. In the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The center medallion panel shows a basket of fruit on a white ground. This is surroundedby nine patchwork borders of varying widths, including a border of hexagon rosettes, and a border in the design now known as 'flying geese'. Most of the printed cottons date to the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The quilt which was most likely made in England has a reverse of hand-woven white linen and is quilted in a herringbone pattern. The initials 'A.E.W' are worked in cross stitch in the upper left-hand corner, and the initials 'I.K' in the lower right - were these the women who worked on the quilt or was this a Mother's gift for a daughter who had married and moved away?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Bed Runners" = Easy 1812 Quilts!

Are you still undecided about how to design your Cot to Coffin size War of 1812 period quilt for the upcoming 12th annual Great Lakes Seaway Trail Quilt Show?  Looking for an easy pattern idea?  Need a little help from precut fabrics?  Then you need to seriously consider checking out this book at your local library or quilt store:  "Bed Runners Using Precut Fabrics" by Kathy Brown published by the well known House of White Birches.

In case you have not seen them yet, bed runners are a rather new concept in the world of quilting.  Decorative and functional, bed runner quilts have a range of uses. When stretched across the end of the bed in winter, a bed runner can give an added bit of warmth to cold feet. In the summer, when the weight of a quilt is too much, a bed runner placed over the sheets at the end of the bed will keep feet and toes just warm enough! If you have the habit of sitting on the end of the bed when putting on your socks, a bed runner will provide an extra protection for the beautiful quilt it covers.  

All of the bed runner quilts in this book are quick and easy to construct using the popular precuts found in all the quilt shops today. Whether using Fat Quarters, Layer Cakes, Turnovers, Jelly Rolls or Charm Squares,   

The book includes patterns for ten different bed runner quilts and every one of them can easily be customized to fit the needs of the beds in your home or (…drum roll please) to the size requirements of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail War of 1812 Quilt Challenge – 30” by 70”. 

Each quilt pattern in this nifty little book is totally appropriate to the 1812 time period and all but a couple are even pictured in the correct 1812 colour-ways!  One quilter even said she made her bed runner (minus quilting) in an afternoon!    Talk about easy!