This was our first time visiting the Pour L’Amour du Fil Quilt Show in Nantes, France. Held annually every April, it is a showcase for all things Quiltmania (publisher of quilt books and magazines) and more. I was teaching a workshop in the Netherlands shortly before the event, so we drove down to see the show and cross an item off of Kay’s bucket list. Plus, the quilt show theme was of particular interest to us. Spirit of the South focused on Pique de Marseille and Boutis, which is a chapter in our next book “Hidden Treasures.”
Monique Alphand, a well-known expert on Marseille and Provencal textiles was having an exhibition of her private collection of chintz and boutis. (Yes, even though we were really there to see the boutis, Kay and I weren’t going to miss the opportunity to see some more chintz.) The collection spanned from early 1600s to 1800s and was amazing to see. Monique was also there for the entire quilt show, giving presentations and willing to answer questions about her amazing collection.
It was the first time we’d seen that many boutis is a single exhibition and it was a wonderful opportunity to learn. First, whole cloth quilts are notoriously difficult to date, let alone white quilts. There are no prints or colors to guide your timeline. Instead it requires that you rely on the technique used as well as any historical representation or decorative trend. Do you know the trends for the Charles X period compared to the Empire era? How much time lag from the decorative furniture to quilts, which tended to mirror other decorative arts, but require creation time? Second, after much study Monique was able to identify certain styles and themes used by the professional workshops, which were composed of primarily women professional needleworkers. Placing a quilt in a workshop can also aid the dating. Finally, the type of cloth, linen or pure cotton, can also be a guide to dating the whole cloth quilts. A special thanks to Monique Alphand for her willingness to share her collection and her knowledge.