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A Petite History of the Jacquard

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

I first discovered Jacquard tablecloths as a teenager in Quimper. My host family used tablecloths for every event. The soft feel of these cloths made for easy coverage on any table. The designs were woven into both sides of the often colorful fabric. They seemed to highlight the table as the focal point of the moment.

I didn't see these tablecloths again until I returned several years later as a university student in Grenoble. Often, I'd find myself lost and ambling down some little cobblestone rue in the vieille ville of Grenoble. In these moments, I'd simply pop into a home store or brocante market (a type of fleamarket that offers something for everyone.) The Jacquard tablecloths and napkins I found there beckoned back to an earlier time when life was slower paced and perhaps, more simple. Jump ahead two decades, and now I sell jacquard tablecloths to clients across the United States online and in my market stands during the summer months. But I never really knew the history of this fabric...

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Jacquard loom was developed in the early 1800's by French inventor Joseph-Marie Jacquard of Lyon. This invention was almost sidelined by the French Revolution as Monsieur Jacquard fought alongside the Revolutionaries in defense of Lyon, a neighboring city of Grenoble and one of the three major cities of the Rhone-Alpes region of France. M. Jacquard introduced the earliest version of his loom in 1801 and was awarded a bronze medal. In 1806, he had perfected the loom as an attachment that could make any loom produce elaborate designs that took half as long as the looms of that period. It became known as a Jacquard Loom. However, not everyone was happy with this new invention. Silk weavers in Lyon feared that they would lose their jobs as this new loom was less labor intensive than looms of the period. They revolted and burned the machine. Progress eventually prevailed. The Jacquard Loom would earn Monsieur Jacquard the Cross of the Legion of Honor, an honor bestowed upon those who contribute to the civil or military fabric of the French Society. It also become the precursor to the modern automatic loom and facilitated the modern textile industry.

The Jacquards I sell come in an assortment of colors, designs, and sizes. I purchase my Jacquard tablecloths from manufacturers in France who pride themselves on continuing the legacy of Joseph-Marie Jacquard. Modern Jacquards are typically treated with teflon for stain resistance. If you spill on these lovely tablecloths, the moisture will bead on top of the fabric allowing you to dab the spill quickly. They are made from 100% cotton, so it is wise to wash them in cooler temperatures and let them hang dry. If you haven't yet purchased a jacquard tablecloth, what are you waiting for? Check out our Collection of Jacquards and let me know what you think!

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