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Barkcloth gets its name from a primitive fabric which is made from the fibers of tree bark found in tropical and subtropical countries. The outer bark is stripped from the tree and then the inner bark is separated with the outer bark. Next the inner bark is beaten with wooden beaters or steel tools on an anvil to spread the fibers. Often water and soaking may be introduced to soften the fibers. Larger cloths are made by layering and felting smaller pieces together during the beating phase. Sometimes a starchy glue-like substance derived from tropical plants is used to attach small pieces together. Primitive barkcloth was used for clothing and wall hangings.

Barkcloth made is way to France in the 1920's and was made using cotton mixed with rayon. Our introduction to barkcloth was the imported material from France known as cretonne, a woven cloth with a nubby texture. By the late 1930's barkcloth was being manufactured in America. During the colorful era (1940's-1950's) barkcloth, a generic term to describe nubby fabric with a bark-like texture dominated American households. From upholstered furnishings to window treatments barkcloth was favored because of its durability and dense weave. I have heard people claim that barkcloth is so strong that it is cat proof. ....I have my doubts.

Florals, country scenes, geometrics, abstracts, botanicals, landscapes, leaves and birds are all common designs found on barkcloth. Today there are many design houses reproducing barkcloth using older designs. When buying barkcloth be sure to ask if what you are buying is vintage or new. Atomic era barkcloth with geometric and abstract designs by noted artists in large quantities is very hard to find. If you discover a website that shows so much inventory that you think you have gone to heaven and back...beware...you are probably looking at a reproduction studio. Most times, you will find a yard or two here and there. It's not common to hit the jackpot anymore with these vintage textiles. Expect to pay $10.00-25.00 a yard for vintage barkcloth.




C. Dianne Zweig is Editor of Iantiqueonline.com and is a kitschy kitchen collector and the author of Hot Kitchen & Home Collectibles of the 30s, 40s, 50s and the just released Hot Cottage Collectibles for Vintage Style Homes. You can find Dianne’s “hot” an d“cool” collectibles at her shoppe, Kitsch-N-Stuff which is pa rtof The Collinsville Antiques Company on Route 44, New Hartford, Connecticut. (new location). When visiting her shoppe, be sure to dine at the in-house “Crusin Cafe” which is decorated in original retro style. For more information go to http://www.cdiannezweig.com/

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Joan Kiplinger has an excellent article on Fabrics.net about osnaburg and cretonne, the basic fabrics behind barkcloth, pebble cloth, crash, and even feedsacks! See: Osnaburg the Great Part I -- Feedsacks on Our Backs and Osnaburg the Great Part 2: Cretonne, Chintz, Barkcloth & Crash . Joan is the consummate fabric researcher, her book on vintage fabrics is available here: Vintage Fabrics Identification & Value Guide
If you look at my website, Ruins-ca.com, you will find loads of vintage barkcloth and antique and vintage French cretonne with a brief description of what both are as well. Here is a gorgeous piece of antique cretonne to gawk after..regards, Lisa
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Hi Dianne and Everyone - I have some pieces of old 30's,40's,50's barkcloth and a few larger pieces of newer, but I just bought a tablecloth on Ebay that I was wondering about. It is a smooth pebble texture, almost feels like an acetate, and you can see and feel the even weave. This is not nubby or slubby or any of those other ubby words, not like a cotton barkcloth, but is it barkcloth? It still feels like it could be. Also it's fairly thick, not a thin cloth at all. Looking at the photo, in the lower right hand corner of the close-up you can get an idea of what it really looks like without the moire effect.
Hi, this is a synthetic barkcloth that was popular during the 40's, still considered a Barkcloth Era fabric..it is lovely..regards, Lisa
Thank you. I have trouble identifying barkcloth. I know cotton barkcloths and the new Hawaiian type, but other than that I get a bit frustrated. I knew this was an older tablecloth and it is just gorgeous! Thanks for clearing that up.
Btw Lisa, I did look at your website for information. And such pretty fabric!
Thanks Colleen, how sweet..I try...regards, Lisa
Shireen We'd love to see your photos , Dianne

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