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11 January 2020

It’s Curtains

Yes, they’ve shot the French General.

That fabric collection from Moda has drizzled to a trickle for original sale in online fabric shops (because brick-and-mortar ones are long gone). There is a puny collection to be launched in February, but The General is a shadow of his glorious past. It shouldn’t happen to a bolt of fabric.

And, for me, it was a bolt out of the blue. It’s curtains, at least where vintage designs of Old-World fabrics are concerned. There is a decided rebellion against marketing those 18th- & 19th-century reproduction textiles that date back to Early American history. I, quite naturally, found this commercial rebuff of classic European motifs to be appalling.

I just hadn’t been paying any attention to cloth-world. Too many other things were going on during the past six months:

Moving into The Dream House, unpacking boxes, putting the items into their long-awaited spaces, recovering from the dust exposure, translating a novel, writing essays.

I neglected one of the most vital and telling portions of my womanly life — until this morning.

Yesterday, the Curtains Phase of Moving-Into-the-New-House commenced. With anticipation, I started the hanging of the curtains on the naked windows. Enough of those expansive and never-ending views of forest, flora, fauna and field. Privacy does have its moments!

Usually, I do not iron on a Sunday, but I charged right through that childhood prohibition, and I ironed two sets of long, heavy, sumptuous, lined curtains. Oh, how I’ve missed them!

Dear Husband has been informed that my love of fabric is an affinity, not an affliction; and that fabric is a leading indicator of where fashion and the marketing of tangible goods are going. He very readily agreed with my market analysis. The fabric love, however, he deems an unusual adoration.

My love of fabric is a long-standing sensibility that hearkens back to my childhood; it may even be genetic. That passion really blossomed, developed and deepened during my adolescence. For me, walking several miles, in hot, humid summer heat, from the raggedy domicile to the Rag Shop in Hawthorne, New Jersey, was a vastly preferred use of my time, to yet another dismal date with a dud dude.

Textiles and romance are consequently intimately intermixed in my creative mind, heart and soul, much like hand-in-glove, and bearing the force of that inexorable ocean rushing to the shore. It’s a force much bigger than myself, and so I yield to it. In fact, I’ve been ecstatically surrendering to that powerful aesthetic élan vital all of my life.

I lovingly identify my curtains by their feminine names. They receive the tender touch and dulcet tones from me that former boyfriends never did. My first three suitors all had the same first name. That way, I did not get them confused, although, basically, they were the same person: The Prototype of Cad, albeit with different shades and types of hair. I opted for that variety within my variations upon the louse-theme.

My truest love aspires toward the arts, and textiles are a true art form. The search for textiles and pelts of fur compelled many an explorer to the New World; it even obliged Magellan to circumnavigate the globe. The Spice Route (not the Spice Girls), and the Northwest Passage (that did in Henry Hudson) were also key motivators, but a great many of the intrepid explorers were mercantile-led by the lucrative lure of fine silks for an aristocracy, which formed the only social class allowed to wear fine fabrics. The beaver pelt fur trade alone paved the way to the founding of vast regions of nations, as well as an entire continent. I therefore follow in the paths where previous explorers blazed trails. That trail has come to very revealing fork in the road.

My tastes in decor, in home design, in fashion, even in cooking, have always tended to a rather unique blend of old and new, traditional and trendy, forgotten threads and cutting edge. This morning, I found myself in need of locating Domestic Fabric for purchase online. During my digital search at my most trusted websites, The Fat Quarter Shop (FQS) and Missouri Star Quilt Company, I determined that the French General has been banished to history.

Someone, somewhere, has shot the General. There is no going back now . . .

Any fabric line or collection that smacks of Old Europe, New Europe, the Euro-zone, the EU, has been replaced by prints, designs, emblems and weaves of Hearty Americana. Quilters just are not thinking beyond the borders and outside the USA box. Which is a good thing, because I certainly was never the target market of these retailers, of any retailers!  Inputting “Floral Pattern” into the Search Box at FQS, and coming up with only digital images of SUCCULENTS was a rude slap-in-the-morning face.  I had a hard time drinking my Scottish Breakfast tea!

I nonetheless still needed to find some English cabbage roses, or English country garden florals, and, yes, French toile de jouy — in order to sew swags to supplement curtains that I purchased decades ago. The windows treatments of yore are getting treated to windows of the future!

Online retailers of quilting fabric (who offer the highest quality material) had absolutely nothing in the way of vintage-y looking threads. I was compelled to journey to a couple of corporate-ripoff-the-seller Selling Platforms. There, I discovered the uncanny and canny merchandising of Fabrics-From-The-Past by Individuals who have scarfed up all kinds of cloth goodies from Bankrupt-Brick-and-Mortars, from the women who just could not control The Fabric Love, and from — ahah! — FQS.

Jelly Rolls and Charm Packs galore. The French General was there. From out of the past, he emerged, with misty memories and sighing reminders of those Moda designs and lines from 5-7 years ago. There were so many of those heart-pounding yardages, that my heart truly began to battre la chamade, to beat the chamade . . . just at the thought of holding, once again, those textures of what was, and what will be.

You see, all of my material is still safely stored in boxes, in the Garage. There cannot possibly be more than a dozen of them. I stiffly hold the hazard-a-guess count-line to ten. Those precious threads possess the vintage stories of my life, tales from previous eras, awaiting their missions toward the future.

The prices to purchase, anew, Mon Général were, I am sure, what the market is bearing. And the market is bearing a hefty return on those tangible remnants of the past! Among my squirreled-away souvenirs are those instant classics that so many foreign fabricators presently lust to counterfeit!

But, let us return to Virginia. Heaven knows she has waited long enough for her time to hang on the curtain rod in the Dream Home.

Virginia initially entered my life as a pillow, a test purchase from a now-bankrupt family business in Massachusetts whose name shall not be mentioned. The cloth was gorgeous, and I knew from the first time I saw her, that the day would come when Virginia would be mine, in curtain form.

That day did come, not long after I’d moved in 1998 from the crassly materialistic suburbs of Roseville, into the Fixer-Upper (that was forever getting fixed up) in Newcastle. Yes, I rejected vulgar materialism to achieve the exquisite feel of 100% cotton material, made into curtains, Made In The U.S.A. And Virginia never disappointed me.

After Dear Husband hung Virginia on the New French-Doors, I realized that two windows in an adjacent wall were in need of a softening of the line. Not a wall of fabric, or a silly valance added as an afterthought. I decided a swag OVER each window would justify hammering a nail above each end of the window, into the pristinely painted wall. Just as soon as Dear Husband locates, for his purchase, the proper Stud-Finder, which, I laughed, sounds like a Jackie Collins novel!

Thus began my Fabric Odyssey of Digital World today. I can now safely conclude that yardages offered online for American Quilters are vigorously, vibrantly, and irreverently American. The Search-Engine-Optimization tags pretty much say it all, as far as the response, online and in The Real World — to shoving Patriotic People of the USA down a road they do not wish to go.

There is a definite yarn being spun by Americans bolting the sight of alien, offshore commodities that have the unnaturally coarse grade of imported anything. This auto-correct in the unnatural course of human events has unfortunately sunsetted my French general, but that sun will rise again, one day. L’aube is the term for that renaissance.

My beloved Virginia is an English country garden floral if ever I saw one. That kind of material is now labeled:

— Mrs. Miniver Fabric

— Old Country Roses (which brought a lot of gold-rimmed teacups into the mix of those Search Results)

— Laura Ashley Vintage

— William Morris print.

This last one I strongly derided as historically and materially inaccurate. I own enough Reproduction William Morris yardage to qualify as an expert in that design-on-the-bias artistry which, if looked at too often, can really induce dizziness. Judging by the Discontinued and No-Longer-Available oddments of that odd William Morris fabric, even on evil-bay, I’d say the Strawberry Thief has run out of strawberries to steal, and the Golden Lily is no longer gilded. Billy Boy was a ripe old socialist, so I am sure that the misanthrope would have keenly understand the 21st-century capitalist robber barons who got rich off of his 19th-century designs.

The French General from Moda has been nearly reduced to the status of an unknown colonel, perhaps even consigned to the dustbin of history, at least in terms of availability, something that direly translates to dwindling market-demand. I still have My Colonel, and, as an American, Arthur Boucher Carmichael refuses to be reduced to anything!