“Like the sirens calling to Ulysses, the French are drawn by the lure of fabric,” writes Cheryl MacLachlan. “No single element defines the character of the French home more than the abundance and variety of its fabrics.” In Bringing France Home, MacLachlan identifies the the “four quintessentially French fabrics"--toile, jacquard, petit point, and the provençales.
The French girl in me adores toile. Properly identified as toile de jouy, this fabric originated in the village Jouy-en-Josas in 1759 when a new process for printing on cotton was invented. Traditionally printed in red or blue, toile is now printed in all colors—green, violet, yellow—and is not limited to fabrics. While I have a beautiful blue and white toile boutis on my bed, I also have a yellow and blue toile Thibaut wallpaper in my powder room.
Even more colorful than toile, are the indiennes provençale fabrics we associate with Provence. Originally block printed in India and imported to France, these fabrics were once banned because of the impact of their popularity. After the Revolution this fabric fell out of favor, until the 1930s when it was manufactured again by the Deméry family in what is now the world famous company, Souleiado.
Jacquard, named for its inventor Joseph-Marie Jacquard, refers to the woven designs created on a special loom. Jacquard weaves are appreciated for their intricate and complex designs, which often result in rich, heavy, elegant fabric used in draperies, upholstery, and bedspreads. However, one of my favorite jacquard textiles are lovely cotton tea towels, woven by Tissage Moutet.
Once a craft practiced by only men, petit point later came to be associated with noblewomen and a proper upbringing. Following the Industrial Revolution, more women had time on their hands and petit point grew in popularity and was most often used to fashion pillow covers or cushions for a chair.
Fascinating histories, lovely fabrics, and another way to add a touch of France to your home, n’est-ce pas?