Wednesday, 2 July 2014


This shows the charm of slightly irregular patterns
Afine example of a French bed dressed in ikat weave cotton

A mix of late 18C. indigo-dyed fabrics.

Examples of indigo dyed fabrics -  mattress tickings, feather bed, pillow and bolster covers, Vichy toile for mixing with Jouy, gingham for simple beds, chairs, all re-used for useful articles 
 Ikat dyeing is an ancient Eastern method of dyeing which was much copied in France in the 17th and 18th centuries and  was used in weaving linen, hemp and cotton cloths for curtains, pelmets and bed-hangings.  It is done by tie-dyeing small groups of threads dipped into indigo dye, before they are threaded on the loom and, during the weaving, these threads move a fraction so that each star-shaped undyed design is imperceptibly changed and your eye is attracted by the slight variations of the pattern.  Every piece I have owned has been different - both in the width of the stripes and the spaces between.  I have used the damaged pieces for decorating shopping bags and cushions and have mixed them with blue and white bits of indigo dyed ticking and the pretty blue/white check Toile de Vichy which was popular in the 19C. for mixing with the rare and expensive Toile de Jouy and making it go further!  French sewing ladies were very economical in their handiwork and did not care about matching repeat patterns and cutting across large designs, so you quite often see mis-matched bed curtains and wall hangings.  Everything was woven on very small wooden hand-looms and there had to be many joins and seams.   I have one bit of 18C. toile where the pattern has been put in upside down!
very rare ikat pattern with pinky-red (rose madder dye) stripes
These examples show how varied the uses of Ikat were - occasionally there are other shades worked across the main stripes, but the dyes were rather unreliable and were likely to 'bleed', while indigo and the pinky red Rose Madder were less likely to spoil. It was only in the 19c. that the chemists were able to produce dye-fast colours and they are often labelled 'grand teint' on the selvedge to reassure the customers.  Even so, you need to wash old fabrics in very gentle temperatures and with mild soaps.  "Bio" is to me a rather poisonous product which damages fine fabrics and clothes and is very bad for your skin.                  

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting writing on Ikat weave Elizabeth .I love the photograph of that rare blue one with the pink madder running through.Yvette