Sunday, January 17, 2010


Indian textiles were integral to the 3 part overseas trade established by the British East India Company early in the 17th century. English products were loaded in London onto ships whose first stop was the trading centers of India. Here the English purchased cotton textiles for trade with the inhabitants of the Spice Islands. The ships leaving Java and Sumatra were laden with nutmeg, cloves, mace and pepper as well as few cottons. These fabrics quickly became a large part of the trade for all the European countries trading in the 'East'.  The selection included painted and printed calicos and chintzes and numerous woven solids, stripes and plaids.

The Dutch were the first to charter an East India Company in 1597, followed by the English in 1600, the Danes in 1616 and the French, under Colbert, in 1664.

In the fall of 1685, a French diplomatic delegation with many gifts visited the King of Siam, Phra Narai. The following year three Siamese ambassadors came to Versailles also laden with presents, including textiles.  It was the dress, garments of beautifully woven cotton stripes, of the diplomats that caught the fancy of the French court and they were soon imitated. Know as siamoises, these fabrics were first a mix of cotton and silk, later a linen warp with a cotton weft.

Examples of beautifully woven stripes. The red stripe is 10% linen/90% cotton; the olive-green version is all cotton.


  1. Thank you Margo. I wish I could come and sit at your feet, soaking up knowledge~

  2. Thank you again Margo for sharing your knowledge with us. Your website is always such a great source of fabric goodness and yet again I'm waiting for one of your lovely packages to arrive.