If you've got a soft spot for vintage fabrics then you've probably come across barkcloth at some point. I often see it at vintage fairs and on vintage fabric websites, but have never used it or indeed owned any. So when I saw that Annie from The Village Haberdashery was stocking a new collection of organic cotton barkcloth I really wanted to get my hands on some. The collection is called Time Warp by Jessica Jones and is made up of four mid-century-inspired retro prints. I love the patterns she's chosen for the designs, I think they look very Orla Kiely-esque and the colours are great.
|Sunburst in blue|
|Loop in pink|
|Quadrant in pink|
This is the one I've fallen for:
|Ripple in navy|
Annie has very generously gifted me a metre of barkcloth to review, which I'm ever so slightly excited about! Before I start working with it, I thought I'd do a bit of research, so if you're interested in a potted history of barkcloth, read on!
What is barkcloth?
Barkcloth in its original, primitive form was made from the inner bark of trees found in the South Pacific and surrounding areas. The bark was soaked, then beaten into a paperlike fabric which was then dyed, printed or painted.
The barkcloth we're familiar with today is a cotton fabric made from densely woven fibres. It’s the texture of the cloth, rather than the fibre of the fabric itself which gives it its distinctive appearance. Barkcloth doesn’t appear to have a wale (rib) or distinct weave effect, which results in a rough, textured appearance reminiscent of tree bark.
|From SportSuburban on Flickr|
An early incarnation of the fabric we now know as barkcloth was produced in France in the 1920’s using cotton mixed with rayon. This woven cloth with a rough, nubby texture was known as Cretonne. By the late 1930's barkcloth was being manufactured in America and was especially popular in Hawaii. GIs and sailors stationed there during the Second World War often sent barkcloth home after seeing it used in home furnishings and shirts. Common designs were florals, botanical prints, tropical prints (especially hibiscus flowers and other native plants) as well as geometric and abstract 'atomic era' prints.
The dense weave and durability of barkcloth made it a popular choice for curtains, cushions and upholstered home furnishings from the late 1940s to the 1960s.
|Cushion by Carol Seatory|
|Cushion by Carol Seatory|
The vibrant, bright designs and durable texture and weight also make it a perfect choice for accessories.
Barkcloth is less commonly used for garment making, but some of those awesome prints are just crying out to be made into clothes. I love this beautiful barkcloth dress…
…and this skirt worn by Emma at The Fiercest Lilliputian is the perfect showcase for an amazing print.
I fully intend to use my bark cloth for clothes making - a skirt to be exact. The fabric actually has quite a nice drape to it, it's just the textured appearance which makes it look stiffer than it is. I'll keep you posted on my progress.
Have you ever made a garment from barkcloth? Or do you have an amazing vintage piece in your stash? Please tell! x