Some of the characters in Solomon’s Puzzle peaked an interest in me about France and Switzerland. I began researching and dreaming about these countries and had the privilege of traveling there accompanying my husband on business trips, as a school choir chaperone and finally on vacation. I feel like a sponge when I travel, thirsty to soak in the culture, to sample the food, to try to identify what it feels like to be a resident.
And of course, when I travel anywhere, even one town away from home, I look for fabric shops.
In France I became fascinated with the fabrics, their breath-taking whole cloth quilts and with one method of quilting that is more like a trapunto skill. The cloth is marked with a design and joined to a backing with a slightly looser weave. Cording and bits of stuffing are inserted through the back to create intricate texture and design. The resulting work of art is known as boutis. My fascination with French quilts became a parallel journey for me; I was writing about Laurie MacBride, the skilled quilt shop owner and so it suited me doubly well to try to make something in the French style. I made a little boutis cap for my granddaughter and I’m working on a matching jacket for her baby sister. The art is delicate, hard to do (for me anyway) but wonderful. And I’m still learning.
I have yet to make a whole cloth quilt, though in Solomon’s Puzzle, Laurie’s shop has an entire collection of these made by her and the artisans who work for her. The French began designing fabric long ago. I love all their styles- Toile de Jouy which is the sort of fabric with scenes on it. Some of my favorites are called Indiennes because they were distributed around Europe by a company based in India. These cotton prints are distinguished by bright colors, paisleys, flowers and other distinctive motifs. Soulidado is another familiar word associated with French fabric and is the name of a company that distributed these treasures. I love the pattern that is named for the wind that sweeps across Provence: La Tramontane.
Part of the problem with trying to duplicate French style boutis or just to obtain the French country or Provençal style is that the fabric is not readily available in typical fabric stores such as Jo-Ann Fabrics, nor is it easy to find in the wonderful quilt shops I frequent. Every once in a while one might see a print reminiscent of the wonderful Indiennes and prints typical of the region of Provence.
But I found a wonderful business who sells French style fabrics at reasonable prices. A few years ago i found them at the Lancaster Quilt Show. Every time I trek to that quilt show, their booth is at the top of my list.
Some of the fabrics are printed as ready for a whole cloth quilt or a tablecloth. This means that the piece is woven to be wide enough and the design fits the size and shape of its purpose. It’s a wonderful convenience to buy a piece of cloth designed to make a round table cloth with a lovely border right on the edge where it should be!
Their color choices are typically French country delicious in intensity, faithful in quality. The women present to help in the booth are friendly and don’ t mind that you want to run your hand over the soft, colorful fabrics. They help you pull pieces out and hold them up for you to see. They are like talking about ways to use the whole cloth fabrics, which tablecloth prints are new and which are the most popular. The samples hung in the booth display the rich colors and the traditional prints in simple quilt patterns.
Each time I’ve visited the booth, I’ve had a comfortable, productive, shopping experience.
French Connections also sells fabrics online. Visit them and see wonderful pictures of their shop, browse their excellent and easy to use website and enjoy their speedy response to your orders!
Below you can see one of the tablecloth pieces in blue. I love the look and the convenience.
I’m looking for an opportunity to visit the shop in Pittsboro, NC! I’ll let you know how wonderful it is!