Toile – What IS it?

Toile. When I first heard this word that was referring to a fabric I’d purchased, I was mystified. The person who spoke of it pronounced it as “twall”. Now, I had not seen the spelling at that point, but I thought to myself, what a dumb name for a fabric.  My enlightened friend told me that it was a very popular fabric. I, myself, was not that wow-ed by the fabric but was so very delighted with my good fortune of the purchase.As I began to use the fabric, I became more intrigued by this toile. Specifically, I wanted to know more about the scenes that were depicted on the fabric I had purchased. The edge of the fabric shows that the design is an exclusive to the manufacturer and that the scene is called Rosewarne. I researched Rosewarne on the internet and found a manor in England named Rosewarne and I presume this to be named for it for some reason.

 

But I wanted to know why the fabric was called toile, what made it a toile, and where did it originate. Merriam Webster defines it as “any of many plain or simple twill weave fabrics, especially linen”. I went back to the internet and researched toile.  The term toile appears to refer to the type of fabric, the type of printing on the fabric, and the designer who originated it.

 

Check out my toile tablecloths at my studio, UniquelyHandmade on ArtFire.  I hope you enjoy reading what I have extracted and pasted below about toile from some interesting articles on the internet.

 

From the Design Sponge ( http://www.designsponge.com/2010/03/past-present-toile-de-jouy-modern-toile.html ) I read:

Cotton Banned in France Before we can get into the nitty, gritty of the pattern, we really need to start with the fabric. When cotton was first imported from India to France in the 16th and 17th century, the light, colorful, and easily washable fabric was a wild success. It was used for everything from clothing to wall coverings, curtains and bedclothes. It was so much in demand, that the French government became concerned about the financial impact that this competition would have on French manufactures of silk, wool and cloth. So in 1686, all cotton was banned in France – production, importation and use. Even with the threat of arrest, the fashion continued – clandestinely. Finally in 1759, when the ban proved impossible to enforce, it was lifted and French factories sprung up to satisfy the demand for printed cotton.

 

From AJ Moss, The Bedding Blog (http://www.ajmoss.com/blog/2011/12/16/origins-of-toile/), I think is a very pictoral description of toile:

Origins of Toile

An Oberkamp Toile

Toile designs, more than any other fabric designs, connote luxury, opulence, and aesthetic sophistication. The scenes depicted on toile fabrics are always pastoral and ancient, often European and always pleasant—they generally present idealized visions of common life. In these visions, peasants dance to flute music and carry baskets over-laden with produce. Farmers rest by brooks, and children frolic with farm animals, while in the background flowering vines wrap around the columns of crumbling temples.

The visions depicted on toile fabrics are distinctively rural, but they are intended for urban applications—for the salon, not the stable. Toile designs are most commonly printed on fabrics, and these fabrics are used to construct comforters, pillows and drapes. However, toile designs are often found on wallpaper, as well, and on plates and upholstered chairs and couches. Recently, designers have used toile designs to decorate lampshades, dresses, handbags—and even boots.

In medieval France, the word “toile” was used to describe “a canvas” or “linen cloth”—fabric one might paint upon. In the 1770’s a Bavarian block printer named Oberkamp, who had moved to a small village near Paris called Jouy-en-Josas, produced his first toile prints. His prints soon became very popular, and they were called “Toile de Jouy” prints, after the town in which Oberkamp settled. These detailed wood blocks presented agricultural and hunting scenes, Oriental and Persian themes, and Classical scenes—Roman and Greek myths and historical events.

Overall, Oberkamp’s toiles reflected the style favored by King Louis XVI (1774-1792)—his court, after all, was in Versailles, very near Jouy-en-Josas. Louis XVI, reacting against the excesses and even bizarre fancies of his predecessor, Louis XV, preferred classical themes and ideals. One can easily see the classical aesthetic in Oberkamp’s toiles. His characters and scenes resemble the pastorals represented on Greek Urns. The toiles show a longing for days-gone-by and celebrate the divine simplicities of manual labor and earned leisure. They also eternalize a moment—a summer day or harvest day—an immortalization of physical vitality that is almost bitter-sweet in that it represents an unobtainable perfection.

eHow (http://www.ehow.com/facts_6764854_history-toile-fabric.html) also has some interesting info about toile:

Origin

  • The popularity of Indian printed cottons in the 17th and 18th centuries led the French monarchy to create a program to recruit foreign specialists who could compete with the imports. German-born Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf founded the Manufacture Royale de Jouy the following year, in 1760.

Early Method

  • Workers at the factory initially used the Indian block-printing method. Early toile designs were floral.

New Technology

  • The invention of copperplate printing in 1752 allowed easier fabric printing that used a cylinder system to transfer images to cloth. Images produced with this method were more precise and detailed.

Toiles de Jouy

  • Oberkampf’s lead artist, Jean Baptiste Huet, created images based on both Oriental subjects and nature scenes of Provence that came to be known as “toiles de Jouy” (“Jouy fabrics”) or “Provence fabric.”

Characteristics

  • The famous toiles produced by the Oberkampf factory are monochromatic, printed in red, blue or black on a white or cream background.