Sunday, 30 June 2013

In a fit of Pique

Cushion of woven pique with m.o.p. buttons Hand-stitched quilting,                                                           Provencal costume

  I first came across French cotton pique when I opened a small suitcase at a French Fair and found it contained over 25 different examples of white cotton pique. The stallholder told me he had cleared it from the household of an old lady who had been a children's nurse and had obviously saved every scrap from the layette of babies' clothing.. Pique is a delightful and decorative cloth woven from strong white cotton (usually from the port of Marseille where it came in from Egypt as well as the Far Eastern cotton fields,) and it was woven in highly complicated repeat patterns, mostly diaper, to imitate some of the quilted cloths of Provencal dresses and underwear, which of course were stitched entirely by hand. The patterns are very distinctive and different and vary from the little 'partridge eye' (l'oeuil de perdrix), a tiny diamond with a central spot, to elaborate bunches of flowers which come out in a soft raised pattern, not unlike the marcella (you can see connection to Marseille) bed covers which were so popular in this country with elaborate oval or round centres and borders with long fringes. In France it was much used for all babies clothing, warm and washable and it was also used (to show) for petticoats under the hooped skirts of Provence with scalloped hems, and for ladies' bedjackets, often with the underside brushed up for cosy warmth. Personally I love it and buy cot- linings and canopies to mix with Toile de Jouy for four poster bed trims and for bed cushions - well, anyway it's all been used, every last bit. Excusez-moi, pique should have an accent aigue, but I must learn how to do!

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