Vintage and Antique French Quilts
French quilts have their own magical place in this patchwork of textile history!
A Brief History of These Textiles
Quilting is a very early practice, evidence tracing it's origin back thousands of years. This process was used for bedding, curtains, clothing and even armor. In France, quilt production truly came into full bloom in the seventeenth century making excellent use of the gorgeous intricately printed or plain dyed fabrics coming out of the French colonies in India, however, quilt making would have been a practice in France for centuries before this time. This process is basically sandwiching batting or cording between two layers of fabric with lines of stitching. The lines can be quite intricate or plain, and the decorative pattern possibilities of this art are nearly infinite. Most often in France quilting was done by women at home or at the textile factory.
Qualities of These Textiles
Quilts come in many shapes, sizes, condition and tones! I have a wide range of quilts dating from the late 18th to early 20th century. The batting (the layer in between the two outer layers of fabric) is typically wool or cotton, sometimes very thick and sometimes thin. In America, one often finds quilted pieces made from a large variety of fabric patterns cut into small geometric shapes; not so for French quilts. Often these pieces are what are called “whole cloth”, made from one or two fabric patterns, and occasionally there are a few more included but they are not usually cut and laid out in a pattern. Sometimes these quilts are made from very delicate fabrics and I do not recommend home washing (and some would say don't wash them at all), other times these pieces can be treated like any modern quilt in terms of cleaning.
Obviously these antique and vintage French quilts can be used exactly as they were intended, however they can also be deconstructed for use of the fabric in other projects. Quilted pieces can also be cut into squares to make decorative pillow covers. Some of my quilts are worthy to be hung, folded or even framed for display--they are real works of art!