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Growth of the Business............... 52

High-priced Materials................ 51

India Pongee......................... 51

Variety of Fabrics.The subject of fabrics to­day
is a most interesting one, not only from its prac­
tical importance to every one interested (and
who is not?) in interior decoration, but as a
most striking illustration of the immense deve­
lopment which has taken place in the upholstery
trade within the last thirty years. Most of us
can recall the time when the best suit of furni­
ture was covered in reps or terry, and remember
the first indication of a change when, some
twelve years ago, the introduction of a novelty
in the shape of raw silk or bourette tapestries
awakened public interest in the possibilities of
furniture coverings. Up to that time an uphol­
sterer was in a creditable position if he could of­
fer his customers a selection from four or five
stuffs, and the choice depended almost entirely
upon color and comparative value of the goods.
No one expected anything better, and no one re­
gretted the limitations of the trade. But time
wrought a marvelous change. The raw-silk
tapestries were the first complete innovation.
They were woven from refuse silk, from the odds
and ends of the cocoons, which had previously
been thrown away as valueless; and although
they took the public taste by storm and had an
immense popularity, they proved neither service­
able nor lasting. They faded and wore shabby,
and in this way educated people up to the ne­
cessity of procuring new coverings for valuable
furniture, and novelty succeeded novelty, until
now we find ourselves suffering from a perfect
plethora of goods, a bewildering assortment of
fabrics, any one of which would have excited the
admiration of a former generation. To enume­
rate them is almost an impossibility. Of plushes
alone there are many varieties, of tapestries al­
most as many, while silks of all kinds are in use,
and miscellaneous fabrics are innumerable.

Manufacture of Plushes.To begin with plushes,
the common variety known as mohair plush is
but little used in modern houses ; it serves, how­
ever, largely for the covering of railway cars, and
is made of goat‘s hair, costing about $3 to $4.50
a yard. It is imported from Amiens in large
quantities. Next in value comes plush of Ger­
man make, which is not very popular on account
of want of nicety in finish. Silk plushes, on the
contrary, are in great and steadily increasing de­
mand for the reason that they produce richer ef­
fects than any other material of the same value,
viz., from $3 to $6 a yard. But, although there

is so decided a preference shown for them, there
is every probability that in time jute and linen
plushes will largely supersede them. Plain jute
plushes which run 50 inches wide cost from $4.50
to $6, the figured varieties from $5 to $7, and
those that are now most novel, embroidered in
gold thread, from $8 to $11 a yard. The prepa­
ration of figured jute plushes is full of interest.
These fabrics are all of French manufacture, and
one of the largest firms supplying them for the
New York trade has its factory in a suburb of
Paris. Surrounded by a high wall, and almost
screened from sight by lofty trees, it is an im­
mense building, portioned off into rooms 20 feet
wide by 100 long, in which the material, after its
manufacture, is printed in colors. Down the
center of each room run long tables, and upon
these the material is tightly stretched. Parallel
with them run car-tracks upon which cars are
constantly propelled back and forth by small
boys and girls, who are in constant attendance
upon the artisan who stands behind the table
with wooden blocks upon which the designs to
be carried out are carved. The cars contain the
colors, which are already prepared for use, and as
the printer needs them he calls or signals the
boys, and, as they run the car up to him, dips
his wooden block into the color and stamps it at
once in the proper spot upon the material. Tap­
ping it four times, he removes it with care and
takes the next. A dozen such blocks may be
used in one design, and it would be difficult to
imagine anything uglier than the material as it
appears fresh from the printing process. The
solid color for the ground is rubbed in with a rag
dipped in moist color, and then the piece passes
out of the room to be “ finished,” and is scarcely
recognizable after that process has been com­
pleted. The embroidery is next attended to,
and the chain of gold and silver thread, which
gives the design the appearance of appliqué, is
rapidly carried out by machinery. The great
value of jute plush lies in its softness and plia­
bility. It falls into such graceful folds that as
drapery it is quite unequaled, and it is more and
more in vogue for high-class trade.

Turcomans.—The designing of another fashion­
able material, known as Turcoman, is a still
more fascinating operation. Every one is fami­
liar with the beautiful Oriental effects which are
produced in this material; but probably very few
know how such results are obtained. This fa-

Leather.............................. 52

More Economical Fabrics............ 51

Plushes, Manufacture of.............. 50

Tapestries........................... 51

Turcomans........................... 50

Variety of Fabrics.................... 50

COVERINGS FOR FURNITURE.                                               51

bric is made of raw silk in the first instance, and, I
if dissected, will be found to be composed of
chenille strands closely woven upon a cotton
warp. The design to be carried out in the manu­
facture is printed upon cardboard in vivid colors,
in squares, like patterns for canvas-work. The
design, however, is divided into sections, each
perhaps an inch wide, and the first thing that is
done with it is to cut it up into strips, each strip
being given to a different workman. The weav­
ing of the raw silks then commences, the artisan
faithfully copying each color in his strip; for ex-
ample, weaving first an inch of red, then two of
yellow, again blue, and so on until the piece he
has in hand is complete. No sooner is it woven
than it is placed in a machine stretched upon a
revolving drum, and literally cut up into shreds
by dozens of pointed knives. The shreds are
drawn out and wound upon spools, forming the
chenille, which in due time will become Turco­
man cloth, for the various spools, each numbered,
are now used for weaving the material in a frame
supplied with cotton warp, from which it issues
complete in all the beauty of an Oriental-looking
fabric in intricate design of intermingling colors.
This, too, is a manufacture which is most suc­
cessfully carried on in France, and the Turcoman
supplied to this country is all derived from that

Tapestries.When we come to a consideration
of tapestries, we find many qualities and varie­
ties in this favorite material, varying in value
according to the fineness of the worsted, the
amount of material needed, and the time neces­
sary for the completion of the design. In some
of the finest tapestries in imitation of antique de­
signs, which are known as broché tapestries, the
threads are tied at the back, and this necessarily
involves a very great deal of labor and time.
Palaces and churches throughout Italy, Spain
and France have been ransacked for designs, and
great value attaches to any new discovery, which,
after years of rummaging, does not take place very
frequently. But there are always the standard
antiques. Just now those of the time of Henri II.
are in special favor, but people have, in a mea­
sure, to be educated up to a knowledge of tapes­
tries, and purchasers are often compelled to rely
entirely upon the statements of the importers.
Most of the tapestries of the finer grades are
made at Nimes, in the south of France; ordinary
varieties at Roubaix, a large manufacturing town.
Silk stuffs, satin damask and broché, which is
less used now than formerly, are imported from
Tours and Lyons.

High-Priced Materials.For very fashionable
drawing and reception rooms silk velours are
used perhaps more largely than any other mate­
rial. Indian and Persian rugs are employed for

the covering of lounges, but only to a limited
extent; such styles are not likely to become
generally fashionable, one reason being that they
can be copied in cheap goods. Just as a few
years ago great interest was felt in the novel use
of saddle-bags as chair coverings, until the mar­
ket was flooded with cheap imitations of these
unique materials, when they at once lost all favor
for high-class importers. For up­stairs rooms,
bed-chambers and guest-rooms, printed cotton
fabrics are in increasing demand. The public
generally call all the varieties of these materials
by the common name of cretonne, but to the trade
cretonne is the very poorest of printed muslins.
Superior goods are known respectively as French
toile-à-voile, as being in substance and quality
imitative of sail-cloth, crêpe, which is a cotton
fabric not unlike momie-cloth, moquette or
ribbed stuff, in imitation of tapestry, and a new
material which has suddenly become generally
fashionable, and which is extremely handsome,
and known as reps gobelens. For country houses,
these various fabrics are in use even in the re­
ception and living rooms, while in the best city
houses they are in universal use for up­stairs
rooms. The better class is fifty inches wide;
prices vary according to quality, color and va­
riety of design, beginning at 75 cents and often
reaching a value of $2.50 a yard. They come,
with very few exceptions, from Alsace, where the
old French industry is kept up.

More Economical Fabrics.For ordinary wear in
houses where economy is a necessity coverings
for soft-tufted bedroom furniture are often made
of a material known as fern-cloth, which is all
worsted, with a small design of maidenhair-fern.
This is an essentially practical material, wearing
well, and procurable in all neutral colors. It
costs about $3.50 a yard and is 50 inches in
width. For drawing-room hangings, where rich
effects are wanted and economy is a considera­
tion, Spanish satin is a very handsome material.
It is manufactured in imitation of old satin, and
is pliable and hangs in most graceful folds, and
that is a point which is assuming more and more
importance as people become more alive to that
which really constitutes artistic effect. The
preference to­day is for solid colors, excepting in
the case of tapestries, the high-class furnisher
relying for harmony of effect rather upon com­
binations of materials than variety of design.
Tapestries are procurable with square designs
expressly adapted for the backs and seats of
chairs, which can also be obtained in silk plushes
embroidered in twisted silks.

India Pongee.—In considering fabrics, these
stuffs are important, and are assuming a great
part in decoration, mainly because they hang so
satisfactorily. Madras and crete muslins, for

52                                                      THE FRIEND OF ALL.

example (which probably first became popular
as supposed Oriental fabrics, whereas they are
all made in Glasgow and never saw the East), are
more and more in demand. For book­case cur­
tains, vestibule and sash curtains there is a new
and very beautiful material just brought into the
market, known as India pongee, which is made
of Japanese silk. It is not only beautiful in text­
ure, but takes color admirably, and looks exceed­
ingly well in self color, while the design upon the
figured qualities is specially beautiful in imita­
tion of Eastern grasses, flowering and in seed.
It costs $2.50 a yard and is 24 inches in width,
and is reversible.

Growth of the Business.All the goods we have
enumerated are imported, but there is a class of
material of domestic manufacture which is very
much in demand. Algerian stripes of every va­
riety are made in this country, either in plain or
fancy fabrics, and with or without the addition
of tinsel. In this line the American manufac­
turer has achieved a decided success, but as for
competition with the European manufacturers
of plushes, tapestries and silks there is little that
is encouraging to say. It is impossible for manu­
facturers whose sole market lies in this country
to compete with those who command the mar­
kets of Europe. A French manufacturer can af­
ford to sink enormous sums in the preparation
of a novel design, confident that if it fails of
popularity in one country it will secure a wel­
come in another, and thus it comes to pass that
fortunes are invested in the factories of France,

while enterprise here is forced to rest content
with the effort to supply goods of less expensive
quality which will find a market among the gene­
ral public. No class have so much reason to
feel grateful for the modern decorative move­
ments as the importers of upholstery goods to­
day. Their business has not only grown enor­
mously, but undergone a vital change. Formerly,
as we have seen, the furniture-dealer supplied
the necessary choice of material for the coverings
of the furniture he sold, but to­day, when 1500
or 2000 varieties of material are carried by one
house, no small dealer can possibly provide the
expected choice for his customers, and hence it has
become usual for a furniture-dealer to send his
customer to some high-class house for the selec­
tion of materials, and as a necessary result the
importer secures not only a large wholesale trade
which is his by right, but an increasing retail
trade which has arisen out of the increasing de­
mands of the public taste.

Leather.—Much could still be said of leather
plain, soft, embossed and gilded—as covering for
furniture, but we must content ourselves with
the remark that in the highest circles this mate­
rial is used only in dining-rooms and vestibules,
no longer in libraries, where tapestries and plush
have superseded it, and never in up­stairs rooms.
Astonishing as it may seem, there is still a de­
mand for horsehair coverings, although it is
mainly from country towns. The cities, as a
rule, repudiate it.

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