Antique Fabric Swatch Pages

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Our last visit to Provence was really more of a shopping marathon than a buying trip. Picture it: a whole string of flea markets spread out over seven days, stocked with too many treasures to even begin to take in. That’s our kind of endurance test, so we dove right in… and easily filled an entire container with amazing vintage finds to send back home. All that buying meant that, by the time we reached the very last day, we really didn’t have room for much else. Always a bit of happy hardship, since the final market of the week is consistently a favorite — and not just because it comes complete with a 9am celebratory champagne tent.

It was there that we stumbled upon what was perhaps our favorite find of the whole trip — a stack of turn-of-the-century Fabric Swatch Books, filled with gorgeous floral motifs and stunning geometric patterns.

Hundreds of years before the world wide web or even to-the-trade showrooms, sample books like these served as sales tools for travelling vendors. Rather than taking every roll of fabric in their collection from town to town, these merchants would create a sample book, pasting swatches onto the pages to show potential customers.

Excuse the pun, but we can’t help but feel like we were cut from the same cloth as the Frenchman who put this particular collection together. A fellow world traveler, the handwritten descriptions that accompany each textile suggest that he voyaged throughout Southeast Asia, gathering hand-printed cotton sarong fabrics to sell back in his homeland.

Lucky for us, these books were just small enough to send back to the shop with the rest of our finds. Once there, we decided these striking fabrics would look even better viewed side by side, so we carefully removed each one to create a singular collection.

Proof that the most unexpected things can make the best wall art, we’re displaying these pages as-is, hanging them with good old-fashioned tacks. But if we’re being honest, a more finished, framed look would suit them equally well — we just couldn’t pick whether to showcase the fronts or backs of these double-sided beauties. If you can decide, we think you deserve your own glass of champagne to celebrate.

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