The Art of John Piper in Fabric and Textiles.

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John Piper (1903–1992) is one of the most significant British artists of the twentieth-century.   An official war artist during the 2nd world war, he came to prominence soon after, known for paintings, tapestries and designing large scale glass windows, such as those in Liverpool and Coventry Cathedrals.


The ‘rerados’ tapestry in Chichester Cathedral 1966


Many of his bold designs were printed on textiles making his work more accessible to ordinary people by bringing his art in the home for a relatively cheap price.



Chiesa della Salute (1959) one of Piper’s Venice scenes produced as furnishing fabric, the curtain below showing how well the repeat blocks of his design work.



He designed fabric for many well know textile companies, this is ‘stones of bath’ for Arthur Sanderson, 1960.


foliate heads

‘Foliate Head’s produced by David Whitehead in  1954


In an exhibition in 2016 at Pallant House Chichester,  Piper’s ‘Abstract Painting’ of 1935,  shows the original oil painting  alongside the screen print fabric made by the textile manufacturer, David Whitehead Ltd. in 1955

Interesting article in The Independent in 2016 by Claudia Pritchard, ‘How John Piper ..changed post war Britain’

Tate Liverpool have a John Piper exhibition from 17th November 2017 – 18th March 2018




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Vintage Brocade Fabric & the Jacquard Loom

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Brocade is a decorative woven fabric with a raised pattern made to mimic embroidery. It was originally made using silk for rich dress making fabric, as in this bustle dress from 1880’s.



The Jacquard loom was introduced in 1804 , using a series of punched cards it made it easier to weave the complicated patterns needed for brocade, damask and matelassé fabrics. Brocade type fabric began to be made using heavier cotton making it longer lasting, therefore good for upholstery.



A jacquard loom showing punch cards

There is an excellent blog by Leimomi Oakes ‘the dreamstress’ on the history of the jacquard loom and the weaves it creates. 



Cotton brocade with silky threads from the 1930’s or 40’s – for curtains and throws

Check out my ebay shop for this and other vintage brocade fabric



Heavier tapestry weave brocade for upholstery. the stripes on reverse called brocade variant



Typically the pattern and colour of jacquard brocade is reversed on the back,  satin weave giving a silky shine.




Damask fabric has a finer weave and the pattern is less raised than other brocades, the design is still reversed on the back.





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Grautex. Mid-Century Danish Textiles



Grautex fabrics were a leading textile company  in the 1950’s through to the 1970’s. They were based in Copenhagen, Denmark and used many well known artists and designers of the time such as  Joan Nicola Wood,  Kirtsen Romer and Ronald Hansen who produced art prints such as pine trees ( below) and beech trees panels.


Ronald Hansen –  pine trees


Arne Emil Jacobsen, meadow. 1951

‘Hyacinth Glasses’ Printed Cotton Panel Designed
by Arne Jacobsen for Grautex Fabrics  1950



‘continental flower squares’ 1951


Joan Nicola Wood ‘carnival’


Kirsten Romer ‘skrapper’




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Artist Textiles.

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The early 20th century saw the rise of artists having their designs  printed on fabric to be used in the house or as pieces of clothing. This meant that their art was accessible to the masses rather than being owned by galleries or the very rich. After the war a movement called ‘a masterpiece in every home’ became popular and saw many great artists such as Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and John Piper having their designs printed and used widely.


Rare vintage 1920’s cotton fabric by french textile artist Raoul Dufy who was one of the first to have his designs printed on cotton fabric. This piece was originally used as a pair of curtains.


This wonderful Picasso print cotton fabric made into 1950’s style dress. By the 1960’s  Picasso was allowing many of his art work to be printed on to dress fabric, he apparently wouldn’t allow his work to be used for sofas or chairs “Picasso may be leaned against, not sat on” the curator of the 2014 exhibition of textile art  was quoted as saying.


The piece above printed on soft rayon material, originally curtains is now being made into a skirt.


Northern Cathedral – a 1960’s work  by John Piper screen printed on  cotton fabric.






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20th Century Rayon Dress Making Fabric

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Considered the oldest manufactured fabric, rayon is made from cellulose ( often wood pulp), and thought of as semi-synthetic. There are several different ways of processing the cellulose each producing slightly different fabrics such as viscose, modal, lyocell and tencel.

Known as artificial silk when it was first introduced in the late 1800’s early 19o0’s, it soon became very popular as a cheaper alternative to cotton and silk.  By the 1950’s the versatility of rayon meant it was being used extensively often printed in a great variety of fashionable designs and colours.



1960’s Walric rayon shown above is a heavier dress fabric which has a stiffish linen feel.


this lighter silk crepe like rayon is perfect to dresses and blouses


Cold satin rayon in great 1950’s geometric design

blpray1950’s silky rayon


Rayon brocade fabric which could be used for dress making or interiors


1960’s 70’s interiors fabric in a rayon and cotton blend


Check out the excellent blog  by Emileigh of Flashback Summer – The History of Rayon and how to care for it  Rayon blog





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David Whitehead & Sons Fabrics


The Lancashire textile company David Whitehead & Sons originally set up in 1815, came to prominence in the 1950’s having exhibited at the Festival of Britain in 1951. The company produced some wonderful fabric during the 1950’s by artists and designers such as John Piper, Marian Mahler, Jaqueline Groag, Terence Conran and Henry Moore. Many can be found in the V&A collection.


‘solstice’ by Cliff Holden


abstract painterly design in barkcloth cotton

Eye catching and popular these fabrics were the height of mid 20th Century fashion and used extensively in interior design. Interestingly the company also provided specialist fabric for the Scott’s 1957 polar expedition.

10171153_762102430474967_987201945_n“After Halfeur” by Pamela Kay



“Eduardo” by Terence Conran design dated 1952


Like so many textile firms in Britain the company almost died out, but in 1996 Bernard Laverty bought the company name and now he and his wife Jill Worrall are bringing the company back to life producing the same fabulous 1950’s designs in Lancashire mills once again, just six to begin with, but hopefully more in the future.



When Jill bought a length of David Whitehead fabric from me for her ever growing fabric achive, it was so exciting to hear her story of the relaunching of these iconic fabric designs. Check out their website and facebook page below to find out more.

David Whitehead website

David Whitehead facebook page

More information about Vintage Fabric can be found by following these links



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Vintage Curtain Finds from 2015

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I have been looking back over the last year at the vintage curtains I have found.  Most of my treasure was from junk shops, charity shops and flea markets though some from people who got in touch via the internet. I have bought 1960’s barkcloth curtains by Heals and wonderful designers such as Collier Campbell.


Heal’s barkcloth curtains ‘garland’ by Mo Sullivan


‘kasbah’ by Collier Campbell


1960’s rayon curtains in Barbara Brown like design

There have been some  other more modern curtains from excellent Swedish designers at Ikea.


and some with unusual and interesting children’s designs


Bart Simpson playing football


Twinkletoes in pink for little girls.

I am looking forward to more treasure hunting in 2016 seeing what other fabric  I can find whether  in the form of curtains or smaller pieces.

Further information about Vintage Fabric can be found at the links below.



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