Monday, February 18, 2013


I love toile!

Always have.

I know that I always will. It's such a classic.

I have sold so much of it over the years in my shops...

I have always regarded it as the ultimate enduring classic; after all...if the French have been okay decorating with it for nearly three hundred years, we should feel confident it won't become outdated in our own homes for a few decades yet...perhaps even into the next century!

Nearly every room in my home features toile...with only one exception. My son has banned it from his bedroom. But I did notice that he does pull the red and white toile quilt out of the cupboard quite frequently to wrap himself up in. 

Perhaps it is because our home is a little drafty, or maybe because it is irresistibly and comfortably soft (as it has been washed countless times).  And perhaps, just maybe, it reminds him of me... 

Mom and Toile intertwined forever-more in his mind...

I think it is a combination of all, as there are four or five quilts and throws in that cupboard to choose from...but it is always the toile he pulls out.

I really got to indulge my love for toile at a museum in Jouy-en-Josas, near Versailles, France  The museum is located in an 18th century chateau near the original site of the factory. The term toile de jouy comes from the place it was made - Jouy-en-Josas. It is now commonly used to loosely describe a style of toile but originally meant that the toile came from that French factory.

Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf, an engraver and colourist from Germany, established the factory for printed cottons in Jouy-en-Josas in 1760 and eventually employed up to fourteen hundred people in the area. Due to the very high quality of the cotton and its printing, the factory and area become famous for its toile. It began with block printing and soon after adapted copper plates and then copper rollers. I loved seeing all of the exhibits of old blocks, fabric swatches and rollers; I was quite captivated...I spent the whole day in that place...longer than I spent in the Versailles palace!

The painting below is from the museum's website and depicts the factory in 1807.

It was fascinating to me to see how the process worked. The rollers were gigantic! Some of them were 6 or 8 feet long and up to 3 feet in diameter! The larger the roller, the more distance there was between pattern repeats. Each roller was intricately carved with landscapes, people, and animals. Much of it, I learned, was influenced by the Indian cottons prints that had been imported previously, but the beautiful toiles soon replaced the Indian ones and France began exporting the fabrics around the world. The monochromatic toiles began at this factory and reigned as a luxury fabric for over a hundred and fifty years.

The factory closed down in the mid 1800s. It is pretty amazing to think that they are still influencing major design houses with their toiles over a hundred years after they closed down!

If you are travelling to Paris in the future, I have no doubt you will include the Palace du Versailles in your sure to make time to see this museum that is only ten minutes away from the is a definite Must See if you love toile...

Au revoir!