Sunday, 17 May 2015


attractive frilled door curtain, as new
sturdy French ticking
   This scan shows a very old form of mattress used in France by the peasants, made of ticking and once filled with feathers, hay, straw or maize husks.   There is a long slit half way down the centre and this was used to hand-fill the inside with whatever material was available and cheap to replace.   With minimal hygiene, outside privies, and the usual leaks of children and sick people on them, the fillings were burnt when too bad to use.  The maize husks were ideal as they were curly and flexible and sometimes they were mixed with horsehair for greater comfort and support.  I have had some of the horsehair from the Northeast of France where many cattle and horses were used and reared, and it came in the form of a 'dreadlock' twisted round a stick.  I thought they were part of a wig, but was told by my good friend Bryony Thomasson who knew everything about the old customs of the farmers, that these 'curls' were cut up in short lengths and mixed with the other fillings to give a good bounce to the bedding.  The contents were stirred round every day and plumped up and hung out of the window to clear them of their insect life and then returned to the very rigid slatted wooden beds, two matresses below and one on top of the sleeper and sometimes a small 'edredon' to keep the feet warm!  Pillows and bolsters were made in the same way, with slits and no buttons or ties and I used to see a lot of them in the old brocantes when I first trawled  the South West and was searching for tickings.  The tickings were usually in brown shades with odd red lines, and often in a linen herringbone weave.  If they were filled with feathers, they had to be sewn in with tiny stitches to stop the feathers going everywhere;  the tickings themselves were down-proof and very strong.  The German tickings came in wonderful mixes of colours but the French are fairly sober, or in indigo blue wide stripes or checks    Chicken feathers were the cheapest, but duck feathers were curled and much superior - goose feathers were reserved for bolsters as they were fairly stiff and solid.  It seems that in England we only had black and white fine striped tickings during the 19C. quite classic and smart, but very utilitarian and I think they were made somewhere in Lancashire, perhaps Bolton?   Correct me, please.
Quantity of traditional indigo/white striped mattress ticking - all unused.   SOLD.

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