Chintz fabric is a glazed woven textile bearing bold printed or floral patterns. The word “chintz” is a Hindu derivative of the Sanskrit word “chitra,” meaning spotted or bright. The unique patterns and production process associated with chintz fabric have helped it endure the test of time to remain in production today.
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Chintz textiles originated in India and were imported to European countries throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The popularity of the bold prints led many French and British textile manufactures to duplicate less authentic versions of chintz. Traditional Indian dying techniques were not known to European manufacturers and many had to research alternative methods to achieve the same effects, according to the online Clothing and Fashion Encyclopedia. This led to the creation of synthetic dyes, further increasing the European production of chintz. The term “chintzy,” which is still used today to reference something that is inexpensive, was coined as a result of the overproduction of chintz during the mid-1800s.
The tradition and artistry of chintz fabrics is evident in the original production process. To achieve the smooth surface, the fabric was first polished with buffalo milk and a dried fruit containing tannin, called "myrobolan." The patterns were traced on paper and then outlined with hole piercings. The design was transferred to the fabric by rubbing charcoal over it. A wax coating was applied to all areas of the fabric that weren’t designed to be blue or green. The fabric was then submerged in an indigo vat, used for the blues and greens and aired out before removing the wax. All other colours, except for yellow, were then hand painted and aged in the sun. Any yellow areas were applied last because of reduced colour fastness.
The glazed effect on the face of the fabric is the hallmark of chintz fabric. It is what sets it apart from other printed fabrics. Today, this glazed effect is applied with a padding machine and friction calendar, which involves two heated bowls spinning at varying speeds to create a glazed or polished surface. Most of today’s chintz prints are machine dyed, although some luxury manufactures may use block dyeing techniques.
During the height of its popularity, chintz was used for a variety of applications ranging from apparel and bedding to upholstery and drapery. Today chintz is used primarily in interior applications, according to online resource FabricLink, as the large bold prints are more suited to expansive areas found on furnishings, window decor and bed linens.
Chintz fabrics are typically woven cotton, but silk is sometimes used. They are usually comprised of fine, medium-twist warp yarns and larger, lower-twist filling yarns. Dry-cleaning is usually required to preserve the glazed effect on the face of the fabric but you should always refer to the fabric’s care label for proper care procedures.
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