2009 Weave of the week #38: French quilt fragment

French quilt fragment

French quilt fragment

This week’s weave (shown above) is a mounted fragment of an early 18th century child’s quilt from southern France that was given to me by one of my nieces, who has fabulous taste (doubtless genetic).  Even before I knew anything else about the piece,  its quiet charm won me over.

The piece is made of homespun and handwoven linen.  I did some research into blue dyes in Paul Rodier’s book The Romance of French Weaving, and although the soft blue color could have come from indigo — which was being imported into France well before the 18th century (from “Bagdad”) — I think that it probably came from “the powder made from the leaves of the [woad] plant which grew — which still grows [1936] –– around the Mediterranean and as far north as England.  We call it pastel, because during the Middle Ages it was always solid in little patties (pâtés).”  Sharon Mrozinski,  owner of The Marston House,  whence my textile came, e-mails, “The pastel is still grown and can be purchased in powder form in little sacks.”

The quilt’s white flowers were woven using a supplementary warp weave, with the tabby areas sett at 50 x 50.  It seems to have been woven on a multi-harness shaft loom,  because under magnification the flower design looks as if it uses approximately 16 harnesses, and many treadles.  The white warp ends almost stood out well enough on the blue ground (see detail) for me to be able to analyze the weave,  but there was no way to do that without taking the fabric apart,  and even then, the quilting — and the fabric’s frailty — would have made analysis difficult.

Quilt flower detail

Quilt flower detail

The Marston House is a store that specializes in French antiques,  textile and otherwise.  It’s lucky for my budget that it’s located in Wiscasset, Maine, but they have a lovely website with an attractive, impressive display of tantalizing textiles.

I rarely repeat the subjects of my “weave of the week” articles, because my aim is to make them as different from each other as possible,  and yet,  here I am writing about woven flowers,  natural dyes,  and France in the Middle Ages,  only a week after writing about those same subjects in the context of an article about the Cloisters.  I doubt that it’s only because of free association;  more likely  it’s because I’m just not ready to re-enter the 21st century yet.


5 Responses

  1. I found rodier’s ‘romance of french weaving ‘ in a town in wa…..mt. vernon…it has me captivated! and now look at that ‘ dotey’ (irish slang) white flower…the detail of the weave is exquisite! ..i am generally besotted with textiles…will come back to your site!! live in dublin so that shop is luckily too far to tempt me!! Joan…

  2. Sue, If you go, I hope you’ll blog about it, since you’re bound to get there before I do. It looks like a dangerous place for textile lovers ; )

  3. Oooh – thanks for telling me about Marston House!! I have a friend who lives up that way. I’ve been meaning to visit her. Now I have even more incentive!


  4. Thanks, Eva, I appreciate your comments.

  5. Fern, I like the subtlety of the flowers and enjoyed reading your personal and historical comments about this unusual piece.


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