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French Vintage

Collecting vintage linens seems to be becoming a "hobby". At home in Vancouver, I have many linens, laces and embroidered works that I have inherited from my mothers family. Here in France, where I have no heritage of my own, it is possible to find vintage linens and laces at the "Marches aux Puce" (flea markets), as well as the larger "Brocantes" and Antique Fairs. Over the past 7 years, I have collected a few pieces that have caught my attention. When I look for antique fabrics, I look for something that can be reused in a new piece of my own, so they must be clean (without any stains) and in good condition.

Here are a few of the vintage pieces that I have found at these markets.

19th Century Toile de Jouy  and raw cotton muslin. Both pieces were found in the town of L'isle sur la Sorgue, which is well known for it's large antique market, held every Sunday in the central town square.
On the wrong side of the fabric the old quilting lines are still visible.  Some loose threads are still clinging to the fabric from a previous era.
100% linen tea towels in pristine condition. I found these in Barjac a few weeks ago.
The handstitched blind hem as well as the hand embroidered monogram were sewn on with great care.
100% linen napkins with a hand stitched rolled hem as well as pulled threadwork detailing the border.  Found in Arles at their monthly Marche aux Puce.
Cotton hand embroidered table runner in the French national colours. ( Found in Arles)
Detail of the embroidery.
Lace cuffs from the Cevennes region of France from the early 20th century.  They are a gift from our dear friends Gigi and Gilbert. The cuffs once belonged to Gilbert's grandmother.
Gilbert, Gigi et moi enjoying some pre lunch "nibbles" on our little balcony.

Here is the completed piece of boutis that I started in Madame Born's class this past summer. It must still be set into a piece of linen to finish it properly.

These antique "boutoirs" were found at the market in Barjac. "Boutoirs" are the tools used to tuck in the ends of the cording after it has been pulled through the stitched channels. One is a silver boutoir, the other three are made from bone.


  1. That toile is beautiful. I am surprised that it is still in such good shape after being quilted and unquilted. Stern stuff! Do you think it is linen?

    Great job with your boutis project! What is going on in the centre? Has the cording been woven? Looks tricky.

  2. That toile is incredible! And those embroidered pieces are beautiful, especially the table runner. Your boutis is amazing... I've never seen anything like it! I'll have to do some googling to learn more about the technique! :)

  3. The toile de jouy is cotton, and in excellent condition. I only have about 1 metre of it, so I have to think carefully as to how I will use it. The piece of cotton muslin that I found at the same time, is of the exact colour as the background in the toile de jouy, so the two pieces can work together.
    The centre of the boutis is a stitch called "point de vauvert". Madame Born, who has been my teacher this past summer, was the person who found the stitch in an antique quilt, and along with her mentor, Madame Andree Gaussen, named the stitch for the village in which the quilt came from.

  4. When I first saw boutis in a quilt about 12 years ago, I was blown away. It is a very specific technique, unlike quilting and unlike trapunto. The workmanship in the quilts that I have seen, both antique and contemporary, is intricate and amazing in it's perfection. I am just beginning to grasp the subtlities of the technique, but I am totally engaged in the challenge of learning more about it. Most of the information that I have found is written in French, which is still a serious challenge for me, but I am persuing it. I will continue to post blogs about boutis as I learn more about it.


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