Saturday, March 6, 2010

BARKCLOTH: Don't You Just LOVE ....

BARKCLOTH ??   Don't you just love it?  I think I am addicted :))

If you didn't grow up in the 40s-50s, maybe you haven't had the chance to love it!  YET.  There is just something about the rich heavy cottony textures,  intense colors,  bold designs,  amazing palettes.   Yup, just like any good vintage, it's being imitated today as reproduction cloth..  But it absolutely isn't the same fabric.  Original vintage barkcloth is simply Un-Duplicatable.

If the term "barkcloth" doesn't ring a bell, let me try to describe this scrumptious fabric.  It is a heavy, coarse textured cotton, with the texture said to resemble bark.  (I don't see it, but that's what they say...) Well, most often it was long staple cotton, which gives a cushy soft feel; sometimes rayon was added for sheen.  The fabrics were robust,  and put to every conceivable use in the home.  If you remember tropical fronds in sherbet colors in your grandmother's living room, bright roosters or coffee pots in the kitchen, cowboys on broncos in your grandfather's den, or '50s geometric shapes in odd overlapping layers in your great aunt's dining room, that was probably barkcloth!  It has a heavy, soft drape, and the textured weave gives the design a unique sense of depth.  This pretty denim-blue tropical floral shows a bit of the texture.

I've recently begun collecting this rare fabric, which once was very affordable and found everywhere.  I get a big, warm, happy feeling with each discovery of a new (to me!) old print.  How can this rich farm scene not make anybody smile??

The most fun (and the rarest) are the "atomics"! Yep, that's what they're called.  Layered abstract shapes evoked the very "modern" era of the 50s, defined by fascination with the edges of technology and outer space.  This fascination influenced every aspect of design, and naturally, barkcloth atomic fabrics were very modern and popular!

Once you learn to recognize these marvelous vintage fabrics, you might spot them anywhere.  Especially if you frequent flea markets, junk shops, yard sales, antique malls -- like me! Be warned though -- you may fall in love!!  Even though they are  likely to be the faded and worn remnants of an old curtain or sofa cover emerging from somebody's attic oblivion, and maybe stained and smelly, you'll find them irresistible anyway!

You'll also recognize the happy, innocent feeling they evoke.  In the 40s and 50s personal computers and instant connection to the global community with all its pressures and distractions was barely imagined.  Instead, new technologies on the horizon suggested peace and perfection just might be within reach.  Don't we all long for that hope, that possibility?  These invaluable textiles, these rescued pieces of barkcloth, remain full of PASSION and LIVELINESS and ADVENTURE and HOPE.  I can't wait to begin creating with them, and bring them back to life and purpose.  Come along and visit in my studio, and enjoy these unique fabrics reborn!

                  In stitches,

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