Saturday, 25 September 2010

The sculptural beauty of an old, incredibly damaged French quilt. Part 1

Some of you may remember when I first started this blog, I posted pictures and musings about the deconstruction of a wrecked antique French quilt as the different layers and unique intricacies of its construction were revealed. It was like a kind of textile archaeology, revealing about five or six different fabrics (including patches) below the original, distressed outer layer.

Today I visited one of my favourite French dealers; she has very similar tastes to me, and also, like me, a real passion for old fabrics, irrespective of how worn, patched, darned or full of holes, we still ooh & aah over the tattiest of scraps! After selecting some delicious curtain panels, 6 huge hand painted church banners and othe miscellaneous treasures, I spotted a heap colour and texture in the corner of the storeroom. On closer inspection, it turned out to be two ancient, tatterdemalion French quilts with multiple fabrics and patches, with more holes and exposed fleece than you could shake a proverbial stick at... My friend hadn't been able to resist them, just for the pleasure of looking at all the different layers - her husband thought she was mad and that they were unsaleable in this condition...

Needless to say, I couldn't resist them either, the colours are still bright and fresh with a glorious patina of age. Laid out flat, they really do look too damaged to do anything with, but carefully draped against the right background they have become quite wonderfully sculptural, as the worn outer layer exposes the one below.

Here is my favoutite side of the first quilt, it looks a bit Japanese to me, the first layer is the deepest indigo blue ikat linen dating somewhere around the late 1700s to the early 1800s, a perfect foile for the tattered pink and black roller printed fine cotton that has been tacked on clumsily over the ikat. This most likely dates to about 1860, and the faded patch of black and aubusson-toned cretonne from about 10 years later.

I shall post about the other side next, it is very different, but equally as fascinating. Please click on the photos to see the supersize detail.


  1. OH MY!!! Such a beauty. I, too, would never be able to resist this piece. So much in terms of spirit is here. Nothing new or perfect could ever compare to the beauty so evident here.

  2. I agree, it is a piece of treasure indeed. I sometimes wonder how many textiles in poor condition, but still filled with beauty are tossed aside and thrown away...