Les Toiles de Jouy!

07Feb11

When I studied textiles, I started by learning about toile. So, we’ll kick off our month with a brief history of Toile de Jouy. At the bottom of the page is a fun little video that gives a brief history (sorry, it’s in French) and shows some interesting examples of how toile has been modernized by certain designers… recoloring, adding modern elements or text.. Check it out.

Toiles are a great example of traditional printed fabric. The process of creating the toile fabric came from the manufacturing house Oberkampf, in Jouy-en-Josas in France. Here, a technique of printing a pattern via an engraved copperplate cylinder was born.

Originally, the toile fabric was created by hand using 10” wooden blocks with carved images. This not only limited the scope of the design but also was a costly and time consuming process. A new method was needed… copperplate printing, recently developed in Dublin, proved to be the perfect solution. The copperplate rollers measured 45” wide and could offer a design repeat of up to a yard. This was also a speedy process, meaning the toile fabric quickly grew in popularity with the upper classes. Soon, entire rooms were being done in toile.

Oberkampf only used the finest cotton as a base. Typically white or cream, a motif was then printed in red, blue or black. Often depicting bucolic pastoral scenes from picnics to marriages, the patterns represented an idealized view of life. Also very popular were Oriental scapes, showing life of the Chinese and often caricatured views of the Chinese people. A boom in Chinoiserie fabric began.

Since toile is so traditional, and many designers want to give a nod to the past without recreating something exactly like their grandmother may have had, reinventing and modernizing toiles continues to be popular. Handcolouring a monochromatic toile, adding off-beat elements such as text, modern figures or objects or even creating “faux-toiles” keeps the tradition while adding a bit of spunk.

A handmade pillow – toile + pink shoes.

A modern day textile company – a very traditional interpretation – by Manuel Canovas

Marquis de la pailette designed by JC Castelbajac for Boussac. A tongue in cheek take on toile!

And for my francophone/francophile friends, a little video treat:

VIDEO Un objet, une histoire : La Toile de Jouy.

Hope you enjoyed this (very) brief history. Are you using toile in an unusual way or mixed with something contemporary, share with us! Would love to hear about your projects!

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One Response to “Les Toiles de Jouy!”


  1. 1 Les Toiles de Jouy! « BOURDON DESIGN | Wholesale Fabric Buying Guide

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