There used to be a feature in House & Garden magazine called “Fabric Obsession.” If you’re not something of a design junkie, this might not make sense.
But there are those among us, a subset of the fanatically aesthetic, whose pulses race a little faster when we stumble upon something vintage and fantastic in a heap in a jumbled shop or when the fabric houses release new collections each spring and fall.
I realize that for some people, the fabric showrooms that are traditionally “to the trade,” can be overwhelming. High rods holding long, curtain-y samples of gleaming silk and riotous prints line the walls.
Flipping through them releases the distinct scent of sizing, a seemingly innocuous coating unless you are afflicted with an addiction to chintz or linen or velvet. This scent trips a trigger more powerful than Pavlov’s bell and our brains can’t help but whisper, “more.”
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The thing about fabric is there is always more. Decorators often tell tales of clients wanting to go with them to showrooms only to find that they are overwhelmed by the choices. Suddenly, the role of the designer makes sense. They sift and sort through hundreds of fabrics to bring a handful of what will work for a project. Everyone wins.
As I was shopping around for a new linen to slipcover my sofa, I was delighted by the embroidered fabrics on the market. These embellishments, from florals to stripes to geometrics, lend themselves beautifully to the recent interest in handmade products, though they are produced by machine.
Embroidery does more than provide pattern and sometimes color. It offers texture, depth and interest. Whimsy. Fortunately, this clever embellishment is available in a wide range of color, pattern and price.
Step right up
Nearly all the designer fabric houses offer embroidery in some form or another, but I was particularly taken by designer Barbara Barry’s new collection for Kravet. Barry’s palette, which is grounded in though not limited to creams, neutrals and complex color, has developed a collection based on her regular trips to the Austrian Alps. Chalet offers beautiful fabrics and trims in hues from cream and fawn to alpine blue and pine. The embroidery evokes fir, delicate mountain flowers and snow. The fabrics are available through the trade and run $189 to $296 per yard retail.
Local designer and retail maven Mary Carol Garrity has a broad collection of fabric by the yard at her shop, Nell Hill’s, in Briarcliff. This can be particularly satisfying if you want something now. (I very often want significant change quickly and have frequently relied on Garrity’s fabric. In fact, her shop was my first stop on my linen hunt.) Garrity has several embroidered fabrics on hand from geometrics to florals.
“Embroideries are playful,” she says. “Older pieces are so intricate and formal, but these are casual. Relaxed. Less precious.” Still, she cautions, it’s better to use embroideries on curtains and pillows. “They can snag, so they’re not really suitable for upholstery.”
My favorites are Silly Dilly, a delicate and detailed floral that runs $56 per yard, and Deanne, a charming diamond pattern composed of delicate leaves. It runs $45 per yard and comes in a number of different colors, though I do like the way the stitching livens up neutrals as well.
Cushion the blow
If tossing a pillow here and there appeals as a way to add this look to your home, we are lucky to have lots of local options.
Garrity’s fabrics often are available in ready-made pillows at her store.
Jaclyn Joslin’s go-to shop for those in the know, Coveted Home at the Country Club Plaza, carries a selection of John Robshaw’s embroidered pillows, such as Bustan, creating immediate gratification for $200.
I think it makes sense to invest in pillows as they bring such a lively presence to the room. Still, the price tag on custom pillows is often a surprise as one tends to forget that fabric, trim, insert and labor all add up.
Pier One has some pretty great looks for a little less cha-ching. The Capris Floral Trellis Lumbar Pillow offers a creamy floral for $34.95, and its snappier, more colorful cousin, Capris Floral pillow, is $ 37.95.
This is what happens, of course, with the fabric-obsessed. I set out for linen and ended up entranced with something else entirely. As with all obsessions, this lack of focus can be explained away. Besides, there’s always the chance I’ll be mollified. At least until the fall collections.
Patricia O’Dell writes a design and lifestyle blog at www.mrsblandings.com.