Quilt History 
Today's Quilt Historians
Underground Railroad
Women at Work



New Pathways into Quilt History written by Kimberly Wulfert, www.antiquequiltdating.com

Reproduction Fabric Review by Kimberly Wulfert, PhD
A Season of Toiles
18th Century reproduction prints of toiles 
from the Allentown Art Museum and by P&B Textiles

(This is a picture heavy review and it may take a little time to download if you don't have DSL. There is a book and contest for this line; scroll down to the end.)

Ooh La La! This new line includes three scenic toiles, a medallion toile border print, an overall medium scale flower and stem toile and one small scale coordinating print of leaf shapes. 

Toile prints are prevalent in the US fabric markets in recent years. There are those made for quilters (aren't we all glad about that), with some based upon actual toiles prints. Often the size would be smaller or the design detail might be simplified and they came only in dark on light colorways as the originals ones would have been made. Non-traditional colorways, available later in fabric history, we have seen reproduced in furnishing fabrics. This new line combines good reproductions of actual toiles with furnishing fabrics colorways. Traditionally toiles had white or crème grounds of linen, cotton or fustian, printed with madder dye. Depending on the mordant used, madder produced sepia (brown), red, and purple toiles. Madder could make black too, but this was rarely done in a toile. Green was a two step process and was not likely to be made into a toile, yet I own a green on white floral toile from 1825, so it was done, but rarely. In places the yellow has faded and the print appears more blue, which was probably Prussian blue, not indigo (Brackman, 2004) Blue toiles did exists, but indigo was the ground color and lines were white.

By 1797 cotton became fashionable for bedrooms because of the "antique" look toiles and other classical design could bring to cotton via print, which could not be achieved through weaving of silk. (Laure Hug, Antiques Mag., August 2002) Oberkampf and Huet took notice of this and began to design their plates and rollers accordingly.

The first toile is reproduced from The Four Seasons. The original manufacturer is unknown but it was made in England after 1793 and based upon English paintings. Although similar in title, this is not the toile designed by Huet for Oberkampf's factory in 1785 called Les Quatres Saisons or The Delights of the Four Seasons. This spring and summer season toile design was adapted from Charles Catton II's painting by the same name. He got his inspiration from a popular poem written by James Thomson titled The Seasons. This Scottish poem influenced many English and French designer's work in the mid- 18th century.

The Four Seasons
is printed in 4 colorways: red on pale yellow, navy on light blue, medium yellow-green on a pale celadon green, and black on white. White is used as a third color in each of the first three colorways. This is an overall print, with no empty regions. The scenes glide into each other. The people are fishing, washing and working on the farm, picking berries, and sitting as a family. The repeat is about 13.5". Roller printed toiles of the day would have repeats about 15". Copperplate prints would produce larger repeats, 20" to 36" up to 36" square..

This next toile was reproduced from an early Huet design at Oberkampf's factory, Jeu d'enfants or Children's Games. It was adapted from an English design. The English led the design front in the textile industry from approximately 1750-1785. After  Oberkampf hired Huet in 1783, his toiles became more sought after and recognized as the finest.  

Children's Games is printed as a reverse toile in five colorways. In three, white figures are on a black, navy, or red background. The other two have green grounds, one is an olive green with white and dark red figures, and the other is a more yellow green with  darker green and white figures. The children are playing on see-saws, in trees, with bows and arrows, and riding dogs as if in a race with a lady in a single-seat carriage also led by a dog. The repeat is about 13.5". This toile is less dense than the first one, probably because the scenes of of varying sizes. The backgrounds on all of these prints are not mottled or patterned, but solid as they would have been made then.

The third scenic toile is more delicate and the least dense of the three scenic toiles. It features a winding and cascading floral vines with stems and roses and carnations, separating the scenic images. The stems meet at a bouquet with love birds perched on it, and birds are flying about. The scenes are of various sizes and show people enjoying leisure life activities. The variety of images and sizes make this a compelling toile. 

Le Jardin d'Amour, The Garden of Love is original source for this toile. The manufacturer is unknown and it was made in Nantes, France, circa 1790. It comes in four colorways: gray on light blue, indigo on pale yellow, black on crème, and red on white. White highlights are also on the first three prints.

When the neoclassical theme began to predominate decorative arts, it coincided well with the burgeoning roller printing process for fabric. The next print is a medallion border print, c. 1795, made in France. Six borders per yard's width. The narrow strip dividing them is also the design on the coordinating print that comes with this collection. There are three different medallions inside the stripes, each with a wreath of leaves around them. An additional style of print strip borders the print, which can be used separately as an inner border or sashing.

The coordinating print comes in 5 colorways of
a white leaf print on medium blue, black, gray-green, red & celadon. 

The last print in this group is a small to medium size monochrome floral, with tossed flowers of different shapes and sizes interspersed between tiny butterflies and birds. These prints coordinate well with all the other prints in the group. They are delicate and unique to the reproduction fabrics available today. This is also a stand alone fabric for many types of quilts. Very nice!

There are six colorways with three of them on white grounds; red, black, and medium. The other colors have white highlights with nay on medium blue, black on crème and red on olive green.

The Museum is having a Quilt Challenge using 100% of this line. The entry deadline is May 13, 2005. For guidelines, form and prizes go to: http://www.allentownartmuseum.org/gallery/exhibits/quilt_prospectus.pdf

A new book based on the current exhibition of toiles at the Allentown Art Museum, by Starr Siegele, the adjunct curator of prints, is titled "Toiles for all Seasons: French & English Printed Textiles," Bunker Hill Publishing, 2004, the museum's press.  I have not seen it, so I can't comment, but it is available through Amazon.com.
The exhibit ran through February 27, 2005.


* Fabrics & Dyes

© 2002 - 2016 Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. Absolutely no copies, reprints, use of photos or text are permitted for commercial or online use. One personal copy for study purposes is permitted.

Fabrics & Dyes
Rugs & Textiles
Books & Reviews
Resource Links

Visit my
online shop ...
for quilt history lovers! 

* Gifts & Jewelry,
* Books & Stationery,
* Archival Supplies, 
* DVDs,
* Quiltmaker Supplies.