Charming Chintz

The term “chintz” has come to imply a broad range of products bearing a vintage floral pattern—most commonly associated with porcelain china and polished upholstery fabric. Favorite patterns were comprised of delicate rose motif with meandering sprig stems connected by tiny hand-painted “spots”. The earliest records indicate that French cotton printers arrived in London in the mid-1600’s. They were known as “Calico Printers,” having mastered the craft of rendering colored patterns in layers upon silk and cotton. The process consisted of stretching a length of cloth upon which an engraved wooden block is stamped at even intervals in a variety of colored inks. With one hand the stamp block is precisely positioned while the other hand strikes the block to entrench the colour deeply within the fibers.

I came across an early document published in 1912 by a chintz-loving authority on the subject:

…It covered the peasant’s chairs and draped his windows, giving warmth and wealth of colour to the otherwise barren appearance of his cottage. Further, it reflected his simple horticultural tastes, for the brilliantly coloured roses, pansies, and convolvuluses which shine prominently on the glazed surface of the cloth are those flowers which were always to be found in his garden. Chintz or printed cotton was, in the old days, the only decorative fabric known to the village upholsterer. When persons of wealth hung their windows with silk brocades and covered their chairs with costly needlework and damasks, the rural cabinet-maker was supplying his modest clientele with these homely patterns printed upon common cloth.

These unassuming fabrics were as much cherished by the cottagers as anything which they possessed…

Its homespun, pastoral appeal renders chintz a inexhaustible classic, one we return to again and again.

Wishing you all the floral glory this summer has to offer!


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