Toile de Jouy

Oh, the love of Toile! Especially in fabrics. I see a pretty toile fabric and I just want some! Even if I have nothing to use it for.

Since toile is one of my favorite fabric patterns and I just got a new (to me) set of beautiful red and gold toile placemats, I thought this would be a good feature to write about for several weekly parties this week.

First let me get to the good part and show you my latest linen finds. Then we can continue on with a little history lesson!

I just love them. They are a heavy fabric and the colors are gorgeous. I got the set of four for $1.50 at Salvation Army.

The word "toile" refers to any of the printed fabrics pioneered in the town of Jouy (pronounced zhoo-E) in France centuries ago and now undergoing a resurgence in the home fabrics and home decor markets, particularly in the United States.

The story of toile is the story of the development of the printed fabric industry in France and in the West in general. In the Middle Ages in Europe it was rare to find clothing with decorative images. When the Portuguese explorers opened a sea route to India in the late 15th century, they were able to introduce Indian painted cottons to Europeans.

These "Indiennes", as they were called, were brightly-colored, block-printed cotton fabrics that were light-weight and washable. By the end of the 17th century they had gained a substantial market throughout France and all of Europe.

Concerned that these lovely Indian imports were destroying the French fabric industry, King Louis XIV placed an embargo on the importation of Indian fabrics. Despite the embargo, demand was so great that Indian fabrics continued to make their way into the country, leading the French monarchy to aid in the establishment of a factory, right in France, that could compete with the foreign imports.

As a result, in 1759 a program was begun to recruit foreign fabric manufacturers and specialists, particularly from Switzerland and the German state of Wurttemberg. The following year the Manufacture Royale de Jouy was established in Jouy-en-Josas, a little town near Versailles, just southwest of Paris.

This "Royal Factory of Jouy" was founded by a man named Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf, the descendant of a family of dyers in Wurttemberg. By 1806 the factory employed as many as 1,300 workers who printed literally miles of fabric using the Indian block-printing method which allowed for repetitive designs printed in single colors.

Over the years Oberkampf refined the technology of block printing and replaced it with the use of copper sheets that were mounted on rollers, producing a continuous image. Oberkampf's lead artist, Jean-Baptiste Huet (1745-1811) created images based not only on oriental subjects but also on the lovely fields, flowers and scenes of Provence. These "cameos", as they were called, eventually became known as "toiles de Jouy" (Jouy fabrics) or "Provence fabric." Many of Huet's designs are still in use today.

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in "toile" images and Provence fabric, and basic toile designs have had an enormous impact in the marketplace, particularly in the United States.

Typically, the images were scenes that told a story. Drawings might retell a myth about Roman gods, or chronicle ships' sailing adventures, or simply depict days in the life of a French farming family.

The triumph of toile as today's decorative darling is far from simple, however. When Christopher-Philippe Oberkampf opened a print shop in France in 1760, reverse images for toile prints were carved into wooden blocks. Ink was applied to the blocks and then transferred by hand to un-dyed cotton. Only the rich and the royal, including Louis XVI, could afford the results of this painstaking process.

Later, in a stunning example of industrial espionage, Oberkampf discovered in England the secrets of etching designs onto a copper-plate roller. He and his brothers wrote the directions for this process on cotton percale fabric, using an alum solution tinted with red dye, and then dipped the fabric in vinegar to render the writing invisible until after they crossed the Channel. By utilizing their stolen information, the Oberkampfs significantly expanded both their market and their fame. Napoleon himself bestowed on them the Legion of Honor.
Source: Homeandgardenmakeover

Now, I just had to include some historical American Designs.

Colonial Williamsburg's restoration in the 1930s created popular interest in Early American history and design. Williamsburg's buildings and people - from slaves to gentry - are featured in this multi-colored chintz with an unusual dark blue ground

This 1942 honeycomb-weave toile, "Treaty Elm," is based on the 18th century Benjamin West painting of Penn's Treaty with the Indians. Note the fabric being offered the Indians in trade for land.

A traditional one-color toile, the "Spirit of '76" by Percy Kent, depicts scenes from the American Revolution, highlighting the lives of George Washington and Betsy Ross.

"Benjamin Franklin," a 1952 Waverly Bonded Fabric, uses green floral borders to add interest to the simple drawings of Franklin and his inventions.

The Bicentennial Celebration in 1976 triggered another revival of interest in toiles and colonial history. Waverly's "Philadelphia Toile" depicts scenes of Independence Hall and other landmarks, while Schumacher's "Newport Toile" includes people as well as places.

Source: fabricmuseum

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  1. Diann, you're a girl after my own heart! I adore toile and I have it in almost every room of my home. I use the red but I love all the colours and patterns. I love the story behind it too. Thanks for sharing your wonderful find.


  2. not familiar with this fabric. i think the history info. was great. rose

  3. Well what an interesting lesson on toile! I didn't know much about it but that so many in blogland love it. Only some of it appeals to me. Your placemats are very pretty and such a bargain! I have seen black and white toile I really liked!

  4. Love your toile! That looks a lot like a Williams Sonoma pattern I have been eyeing for a long time. You got a great deal! Love the American toile patterns. Those were really fun to see.

  5. Honestly Diann- I want a SA!! Great deal and, as always, a great lesson
    xoxo Pattie

  6. I love toile also! Especially black and white! Beautiful fabric

  7. Thanks for the information and history. I love all the patterns, but I think red may be my fav.

  8. Thanks
    was great to see, read and learn.
    Diann, you are very competent.
    Tina (Dream and Conduct)

  9. what great work is put into your finds..

  10. Diann, I enjoyed the history of toile, thank you! Toile is one of my favorite fabrics, the others are plaids and florals.
    Love your new linens...can't wait to see how you use them...will it be yellows or reds?

  11. Very interesting, it has not caught my attention up to now.... I will be on the lookout. Great post.

  12. Love me some toile! Any color, any pattern! It's timeless.

  13. I'm not particularly fond of toile, but I enjoyed the article and the photos. Some of the designs are fascinating but I probably would never use any of it. Excellent T post!

  14. I just simply LOVE toile! Thanks for the history lesson...I knew nothing about it, but I do k=now! I love the Spirit of '76 one.

  15. Amazing the different patterns you have shown! Those are so pretty, and the history is interesting too! Hope your summer is going great so far!

  16. Very informative! I learned a lot.
    Pretty, too.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  17. Fascinating! And a great post for ABC Wednesday! I didn't know that was what toile was, or how it got it's name. I particularly liked the espionage story! Clever!

  18. Pretty, pretty toile. Just something about it...I love it. Happy REDnesday~

  19. I saw this the other day but just didn't have time to post. SIGH SIGH SIGH..1.50! I've been on a hunt for my favorite red and white toile for years least two years...I'm looking for material, plates in that type of pattern. I just ADORE it,,I think EVEN more than my favorite red

  20. Diann,
    What a SA find! The info is really interesting-I didn't know anything about toile. Really pretty.

  21. Who doesn't love toile, it never goes out of style. Thanks for the education.

  22. Cool! thanks for the history lesson!

  23. Simply gorgeous fabric especially the first toile one!!


  24. Oh, I love toile, too. You have a s=nice collection!

  25. Toile is my favorite print on a fabric! Thanks so much for the great lesson about it. :)
    I really enjoyed reading it.
    The Tattered Tassel


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your ideas. If you ask a question, I will answer it here in a comment back to you. Please check back! Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful day! Diann :)