Tuesday, 18 November 2014


   French  ikat weave.   It was very popular from the 18th century for dressing  important beds with long curtains hung from the tester head or sometimes from a corona fixed to the ceiling and called ciel de lit .
The scallops and edges were often trimmed with a bright red piping or border, which gives a very attractive finish
The old French linen and hemp coloured bedding materials are now rare but worth searching for as they are so attractive and can be used in many 'recycled' ways.   Most are blue and white - natural linen interwoven with indigo blue or woad-dyed threads - the most eagerly sought are the flamme, where natural white linen is tie-dyed and then placed in the loom in a regular pattern, but because this cannot be completely accurate, you get the beautiful ikat weave, with flame-like outlines at regular intervals.  This was often known as 'Siamoise' as it was copied from the ikat weaves of that country and a lot of small factories in France were able to copy the techniques, so almost every example I have had and sold is in a different scale and pattern.  The cotton used is very fine so it is quite difficult to get large pieces in good condition and most of mine ended up as cushions or tote bags.
    Other materials were all kinds of checks and stripes in wide patterns sometimes quite coarse and thick,  and these were used to make mattress covers, or drapes hung from a simple pole above a bed placed sideways against a wall.  You may not know that in early times the roof was often not plastered on the inside, so apart from the cold that came down, there was a continuous rain of dust and debris from birds, bats and other rodents which might drop on your head, so the overhead protection was rather essential.
   The tote bag I made from these remnants (mostly very damaged pieces worn in the centre) is a simple machined patchwork of  18c. bedding fabrics.  I lined the bag with a bit of old sheeting that happened to have my own initials on it in red cross stitch, and made the long handles with treble folded gingham to sling over my shoulder.    It takes me 2 1/2  hours to make these bags, every one is different, on purpose, and I use up every scrap of old material I have in my antique re-cycle box.   Or if they are too small, I pass the scraps on to friends who use them for quilting or making mini collages on cloth backgrounds, so not an inch of old fabric is wasted.  These bags have been much copied and sold for far more than I charge, but no-one else seems to use 18th C. linen and hemp! and many are made from so-called 'vintage' fabrics, which are not much more than 1970s. remnants, pretty as they may be!  It's very flattering to be copied but I am not keen on poor replicas which do nothing to enhance the reputation of genuine antique fabrics that have a history and are collectable in any size or shape!

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