You Made That Outta What? A Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Fabric – Part 2 Toile

Genevieve Gorder Gotham Chinoise Inked Toile Drapery Fabric


Welcome back! Thanks for following the series. To be honest, I’ve learned a lot just in my research. I really thought I had a handle on fabric weave, type and design. Apparently I was mistaken! Last time, we (including me) learned about Dupioni Silk, a beautiful high end silk from India often used in formal wear such as wedding attire. We’re going to switch gears and go the opposite direction and dive into the world of Toile. And no, it’s not pronounced like foil or even close to that. Although, please don’t feel ignorant if you did. Potato/Patahtoe I always say.  My new Alabama friends find it amusing that I called the neighboring town Gwen, spelled Guin. Looked right to me. It’s pronounced Gyou-in with a hard “g”. I am usually very good with names. So in my defense,not my first offense. I  lived in Illinois a great deal of my life and called a town near by Shuh-bone-ah. The town of Shabonna is pronounced sha-buh-nuh, with a short “a”. I called it that from 1976 until about 2005.

Imagine my embarrassment.

Well, while you’re reminiscing about you own pronunciation faux pax, read on to learn more about Toile, pronounced (twal). Now ya’ll can feel fancy with this new French word!

Muslin or “toile” of Princess Diana’s wedding gown

Toile means literally linen cloth or canvas and has been used for painting on.Recalling that Dupioni is a favorite among wedding designers, Toile was historically used to make a practice garment.  We sometimes call that making a “muslin”. In other words, when a garment or home decor project such as a fitted slipcover is to be undertaken with a delicate or very high end fabric, it’s common practice to make a mock up of the finished product in order to check and fine tune fit. This way, any challenges can be worked out, tested and corrected on cheap fabric rather than the expensive stuff!

Toile dates back to 1760. It originated in a textile factory in Jouy-en-Josas, a village southwest of Paris near Versailles. The name Toile de Jouy literally means cloth of Jouy. Most of the patterns printed in toile were pastoral scenes, inked in black. You’ll find toile available today in a wide range of colors and éclatant scenes. While a middle of the road type of fabric, it has a very distinct look and is hardly bourgeois. The original scenes were typically of the French countryside. As tastes became more sophisticated, more exotic themes as well as historical vignettes began to emerge (I’m going to try and wrap as many French words as possible in to this post!) . Those elaborate, curvaceous scenes were drawn and carved on to wood blocks, inked and hand pressed on the fabric. While used mostly for garments and garment making, Toile has been used even as a wall covering.

BFS has an amazing selection of vintage and contemporary styles in toile. Check  them out!

Bosporus 137

Next time, I want to see what you want to learn about. So keep those comments coming! You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Feel free to comment anywhere. Heck, post it on a billboard!


Sew ‘n piece my friends!