I recently acquired a small collection of vintage bark cloth. This heavyweight weave fabric is from the 1930s and 40s and was used primarily in home furnishings like upholstery, bedcoverings and drapery panels. With a texture similar to but much less pronounced than the bark of a tree, these textiles were often produced in rich tropical prints with big flowers or Asian inspired motifs. In the 1950s, bark cloth had atomic patterns and boomerang designs. I prefer the floral ones.
This fabric is thick and sturdy and I hope to create some fun items with these bark cloth scraps. Smaller pieces are perfect for eyeglass cases, make-up bags or tea cozies. Larger lengths can be used to line an old tray with a piece of glass cut to fit on top. Another cool project is to glue this fabric onto the sides of a vintage suitcase or boxy handbag with trim added to the raw edges.
Because of its durability, bark cloth is often used for tote bags. Here's mine that was a Mother's Day gift from my family this past May. Isn't it pretty? Patterns with a black background like this one are very dramatic but can be harder to find. My tote was made by Sylvie Farrington, a textile artist who lives and works on Martha's Vineyard. Trimmed with hand-beaded
velvet piping, Sylvie’s bags are exquisitely made with perfect attention to detail. Though she is taking a break from bag making this year, you can visit her SylvieBags web site to view more of her inspiring creations.
And now that I have some time and a comfortable sewing corner in my studio, I'm looking forward to doing a little bark cloth sewing myself.