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You might not know it, but you’ve seen barkcloth before.

You know those soft, thick, pebble-y drapes hanging over grandma’s window? It’s probably barkcloth. If its dotted with smart boomerangs or atomic designs, its DEFINITELY barkcloth. You know where else you’ve seen barkcloth? Mad Men. The kitchen at the Draper residence, Betty’s shrink’s office, even Joan’s apartment – barkcloth, barkcloth and more barkcloth!

Barkcloth was THE go-to fabric of choice for midcentury home furnishings, curtains, upholstery and slipcovers. But don’t let its history limit you – I’ve even seen it used for killer dresses, skirts, outerwear and accessories, too.

Though barkcloth is typically made of densely woven cotton fibers, the fabric is ultimately defined by its unique weave. Barkcloth has no apparent wale (grain- or warp-wise lines) and the weave looks random. The result? A wonky mottled effect that adds a bit of texture to the finished product and also helps to keep the fabric from looking soiled before it’s time. (Golly gee, that’s a mega bonus in home furnishings!)

Though it looks great as a solid, barkcloth really comes into it’s own as a print. From tropical to abstract to floral, the history of barkcloth patterns can really tell you a lot about the history of midcentury interior design. But be warned: possible side effects of shopping for vintage barkcloth on eBay includes chain smoking indoors, drinking a martini before 5 and sleeping around with the kid’s teacher, that arty girl downtown and that random girl from CA. Be safe.

So, what would you make from barkcloth? Do you have any favorite barkcloth memories? Do you think its hopelessly dated or can you see a barkcloth revival in the near future?


  • Mzl_ljixuoxi_320x480-75_large

    Dec 29, 2010, 02.28 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    Barkcloth seems a little heavy for dresses and skirts…am I wrong?

  • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

    Nov 27, 2010, 05.01 PMby eringilday

    That’s funny, Kelepso – the texture is one of my favorite things about this fabric! To each his/her own, though – that’s why we learned to sew in the first place, right? =)

  • 5196510037_0646d0f80e_o_large

    Nov 25, 2010, 03.27 PMby kelepso

    I’ve definitely seen and touch this fabric before. With my experience in Interior Design, barkcloth is still used in mid-market hotel interiors. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’d use it for clothing. MAYBE a bag, but still not sure. I don’t like the texture of the fabric.

  • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

    Nov 18, 2010, 06.01 PMby eringilday

    Thanks, Jiggles!

  • Missing

    Nov 14, 2010, 06.47 PMby jiggles84

    I love the idea of a 50’s silhouette barkcloth skirt. Great post!

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