History of: Matelassé

Date: 10/14

The history of Matelassé may not be one studded with thrilling tales, however its story is one that compliments its uniqueness in the textile industry.

Thought to have first been created in Marseilles, France, this fabric received its name when the French refused to confuse this quilt-like textile with their own extraordinary hand quilting; taking the French term matelasser, 'to quilt', and creating Matelassé, pronounced: mat-la-SAY.

White Corded Quilt, c. 1710-1740; Marseilles, France
White Corded Quilt, c. 1780-1790; Provence, France

The true history of how Matelassé was created is lost, but many believe it is the stunning hand-quilting from France that inspired its creation. Similar in appearance and feel to the prized French quilts, Matelassé is a thick textile that appears to be padded but actually has no padding within it. This faux-quilted fabric quickly became popular as it was easier to make. While France claims it to be their creation, an Englishman by the name of Robert Elsden is also credited with its invention. Honored in 1745 by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, Elsden's first textiles were considered an innovation for his time. It wasn't until later, around 1760, that woven quilting, or matelassé, become commercially available. Capitalising in the already well-known Matelassé fabric, the English remained theirs 'Marseilles Cloth' and established their own industry. Through time, Matelassé, or Marseilles Cloth, also became known as 'marcella' or 'pique de marseilles', although Matelassé remained the most common title for the quilt-like textile.

Crib Blanket, c. 1700-1749
Ceremonial Wedding Bedcover, c. 1830-1850; Marseilles, France

Made on jacquard looms with usually four sets of yarns, matelassé consists of two sets of regular warp and weft yarns, as well as two sets considered crepe or coarse cotton yarns. It is the second set of yarns, the crepe or coarse cotton, that creates the quilted effect as these will shrink when the fabric is completed. Today most matelassé is done by loom but there are still some who perfect the art of hand quilting it. Historically matelassé was seen in only natural colors, usually ecru or off-white, but now with the advancement in weaving and fiber production, matelassé is found in numerous colors. Its pattern can now also vary, from simple geometrics to elaborate florals.

Yellow Silk Quilt, c. 1850-1900; France

Today matelassé is found mostly in the home but is also making its way back into fashion. From bedding to soft home goods, Matelassé is a soft, inviting fabric that works well in nearly any room of the home.

View our stunning new collection of matelassé selections available in book 1374, Matelassé Medley.