Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vintage Begonia Barkcloth

Good morning. Tina checking in. I am going to share with you my very favorite barkcloth pattern. It is the begonia pattern. It is described by ebay sellers as various different things, but they usually always call it tropical. It has been called caladiums, bamboo, palm fronds. Before I found this barkcloth, I was already familiar with this begonia, used as a houseplant.

I went to high school with a boy named Roy. He lived out in Fairplay, California, and rode my school bus into town. Fairplay is now an area of great wineries in El Dorado County, California, but at that time mostly farmers and lumberjacks lived out that way.

Later, in our twenties, Roy and his girlfriend Julia lived next door to me on the top floor of Placerville's oldest apartment building (only 4 apartments) on Bedford Avenue in Placerville. They had several beautiful large houseplants, and this begonia was one of them. Through the years, most of our friends, including me, received cuttings from these begonias. They became known as "Roy's Begonia". I still have two surviving plants from these cuttings, I have started them over and over through the years. Roy is now passed away, but his begonia legacy lives on.
This above is probably the most rare background of the barkcloth, a nice rich black. I have a few black pieces. They are hard to come by. I have always loved the way colors show up against a black background.
I found my first burgundy background pieces in Columbia, California. They used to have a wonderful antique faire there in June. Heidi and I never missed it. The little streets were filled with dealers ready to give you a bargain, or take too much of your money for something you really wanted. I was in the second category when I found this cloth, because I hadn't seen the color in a background yet. I paid too much for fabric which was not sturdy at all. Later I covered my dining room chairs with it. Basically, now it has fallen apart under little rear ends skootching around in the chairs and larger adult bottoms just scooting them in. I am going to try again with sturdier pieces one of these days.
I have had my first pieces of this pattern since the mid-eighties. I went with my good friend Cindy (who was also the recipient of one of Roy's begonias years ago - and also went to the Columbia antique faire with us once) to a large antique sale in Sacramento, California, at the Cal-Expo State fairgrounds. There, under a table, shoved in a box, was a grocery bag full of barkcloth drapes. There were three pairs, lined, with a lovely tan background. I excitedly pulled them out, and then had to ask how much they were. I paid $50 for the bag-full, a bargain even then. I waited years for the perfect place to hang them, and finally when we moved to Kelsey in 1999 I hung them all in the living room. They are perfect!
This is a nice dark green background. This is probably the fabric which will go onto my dining room chairs when I try again.
I have many items now made out of this barkcloth pattern, including pillows, a dress, a jacket, a knitting bag/stand, a purse, and valances. I am in the process of collecting enough valances to put them up in my living room. I would like to have the burgundy background for my valances, but I think I have found more gray ones. We'll see.
There are several other colors in backgrounds out there, some of which I have in various different pieces. There is an off-white, mottled yellow, and a very nice rich blue. The most common background I have seen in drapes is gray. Many drapes you find are not lined. I definitely prefer the lined drapes since they help keep the sun from fading the lovely barkcloth. But they are not as common, and usually cost more.
I hope you enjoyed this little journey into the world of barkcloth. Enjoy your Wednesday!


Heidi Ann said...

Your gorgeous and wonderful collection of barkcloth is one of my favorite things in the world - and I LOVE the begonia pattern, too- in all of it's different colorways.

farmlady said...

$50. for 3 lined pairs of bark cloth drapes. Are you kidding me? How lucky can one girl get.
I love vintage bark cloth. I have drapes in my bedroom that I got in Murphys. I got a lined pair with a light blue background. I cherish them.
Thanks for showing us your collection. I'm thinking that I should collect more pieces and make pillows.
You've inspired me...

yosemite faith said...

love the story of roy and his begoinias!!! never was aware of what barkcloth was or thats what it was until the gold country girls - thanks!!