What is chintz? It's basically a woven cotton fabric with medium weight known for its colorful, large, and bright designs typically done in floral fashion. You will likely see the fabric used in slipcovers, draperies, curtains, armchairs, sofa upholstery, and other lightweight upholstery fabrics. It is also sometimes used in children's wear and women's clothing items, including blouses, skirts, and dresses.
What is Chintz Fabric?
Aside from big floral patterns, the fabric can sometimes be seen with solid or dyed color and with geometric prints, such as stripes and dots. The material uses fine warp yarns with a medium twist and slightly bigger filling yarns with a lower twist. It feels crisp and smooth with the draping that can be folded stiff.
When you search about what is chintz, you will likely read about its finish which makes it look shiny. The glaze finish of a chintz fabric may become dull through time. You have to care for the fabric properly to prolong its beauty. Ideally, you can preserve its glaze surface longer through dry cleaning. For permanently finished chintz, you can opt to wash it in the machine and have it dried. The fabric used in making upholsteries usually has a stain and soil-resistant finish.
These days, other answers pop up when talking about what is chintz. Some people use the terms chintzy or chintz to refer to furnishing or clothes that look florid or vulgar. The terms are typically used in informal speech to pertain to gaudy behavior or things, low quality or cheap. These terms may have originated from the fabric's name, but as you learn more about the answers to the question, what is chintz, you will realize that it's far from low quality and cheap.
A Brief Lookback
What is chintz and where did it come from? Chintz gained popularity during its early beginnings from 1600 to 1800 in Hyderabad, India, where the fabric was first produced. It used to be a stained, painted, or woodblock printed calico fabric popularly used for draperies, quilts, and bed covers.
More people got curious about what is chintz when its popularity reached Europe in 1498 after Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut, India. The trade of Indian chintz into European countries used to be done on a small-scale level in 1600 with mostly Dutch and Portuguese traders. The trading of the fabric became more known when French and English merchants started sending them in bulk.
The importation of the chintz fabric continued to grow bigger, and by 1680, more than a million pieces of the fabric were being traded in the Dutch Republic, France, and England per year. In the early days, when you ask what is chintz, people would likely show you bed covers, bed hangings, furnishing fabric, and curtains.
People got the idea of turning the fabric into clothing pieces when samples were given to maidservants who wore them as linings or turned them into dresses. The continuous rise of the fabric's popularity became a huge concern for English and French mills. During the latter part of the 17th century, these mills have noted how in demand the fabric was to Europeans. Their main concern was that they could not recreate chintz or make their version.
The Fabric’s Rise to Popularity
These concerns led to the banning of all chintz imports in French countries in 1686. In 1720, a law was enacted by England's Parliament that prohibited the use and usage of imported chintz in apparel and household furniture, cushion, chair, and bed. The legislation had many loopholes, the reason why young courtiers who were into fashion continued wearing clothing with chintz.
M. de Beaulieu, a French naval officer, devised a brilliant idea for his country to know more about what is chintz and learn the process of its creation. In 1734, while he was assigned at Pondicherry, India, he collected samples of the fabric for each stage of its creation.
He sent the samples along with his letters explaining how to dye the fabric in a step-by-step manner to his chemist friend. Up to this day, these samples and letters are exhibited in Paris at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle.
M. de Beaulieu’s efforts inspired Father Coeurdoux, another Frenchman, to follow suit. In 1742, while he was on a mission to convince Indians to become Catholic, he also delved deeper into what is chintz and sent home details about how to make and process chintz. By 1759, English and French mills finally learned how to make their chintz, leading to the lifting of the fabric's importation ban.
At first, Europeans were conservative when it comes to designs, so they only reproduced Indian patterns. They, later on, embraced change and added their own culture and original patterns to the fabric. It paved the way for one of their most popular creation, the toile de Jouy, created between 1700 to 1843 in Jouy, France.
The term eventually caught on with an English meaning, which was a description of industrially printed cotton. In modern times, the fabric comes in floral and bright patterns on a light background or printed with trendy patterns in darker hues.
Novelist, George Eliot, was given the attribution of coining the term – chintzy, in 1851. The writer used it about muslin fabric. At the time, imitations of the original fabric became common in Britain, so the chintzy term was referring more to these cheap versions.
What is Chintz Uses and Maintenance
After getting enlightened about what is chintz, the next step is to find out how to make it long lasting. Chintz generally pertains to polished cotton with floral designs that look expensive and intricate. A resin of glaze finish is applied in processing the cloth, which contributes to its shiny appearance.
Once the fabric has been treated, it is placed between metal rollers and pressed to set the glaze and make the finished fabric look shiny.
While it looks good, the shine can be washed away through continued use of the fabric and cleaning. The finish, more often than not, is not waterproof. To make the shine last longer, you have to use only a little water to maintain the fabric. Certain kinds of chintz specifically come with fabric care instruction that they can only be dry cleaned.
Here are some ideas on the proper maintenance of the fabric depending on their uses:
Polished cotton and chintz are now also used in making nightwear, blouses, and other women's garments.
If you have these items, make sure that you look into the tags or product labels to know more about the best way to maintain the fabric. If it indicates that the fabric can be machine-washed, set the machine on low and tumble it dry with warm water. Take it out of the dryer while still damp. Set the iron on medium heat setting and press the fabric on its wrong side.
Pillow covers and Curtains
Fabrics used as décor are best maintained when dry-cleaned. You can perform weekly maintenance on the fabric by lying them on a flat surface. Use a sponge or cloth with minimal dampness and gently wipe the fabric to get rid of the dirt. Follow it with a dry cloth to ensure that it won't absorb any of the moisture.
While this method of cleaning works on most chintz used in flat items, you must still test the material to be sure. Wipe a small part of the fabric first with the damp cloth, and make sure to choose the part that is not that noticeable.
Many fabrics used for this purpose do not respond well to water-based maintenance. To remove dust and dirt, you can use a vacuum cleaner with an attachment intended for upholsteries. Use a waterless cleaner when you need to perform a spot removal.
Make sure that you test it out first in an unnoticeable area of the fabric. If the material has gone too untidy for spot cleaners or vacuum, it is best to let the pros handle the cleaning process.
What is Chintz - Fabric Care
Besides learning about what is chintz, you have to focus more on fabric care to ensure a longer lifespan to the good appearance and shiny finish of the material. Its glaze, which makes the fabric shiny, easily washes off with water, so you can’t clean the fabric through the common laundry method.
Here are some useful techniques you need to remember in caring for the chintz fabric:
- Always perform a color bleeding test before spot-treating stains on the fabric.
- Find the best product in the market intended for spot treating fabrics with a glaze and other shiny finish.
- Use a cleaning cloth that can eliminate all the dirt and soap used in caring for the fabric.
- You can use a damp cloth as long as you apply minimal moist at a time.
- Find the right products you can use to spray the fabric with to deodorize and freshen them up.
- If you have furry pets at home, use a good yet gentle lint brush to get rid of the pet hair before they accumulate on your upholstery.
When storing the fabric, it is better to keep them in a storage bag made of canvas than plastic. The canvas is breathable, which prevents the buildup of moisture and mildew. When you store the fabric in plastic, there is a higher chance for the material to become yellowish through time. Bugs can also get attracted to fabrics stored in plastic and have developed mildew.
What is Chintz – In Conclusion
What is chintz? In general, the term pertains to cotton and other fabric with a glazed finish. It is known for its large prints in floral and geometrical patterns. To extend its pleasant appearance, you have to keep its finish from wearing off. Now that you know what is chintz, an important thing to consider is to follow the fabric care instructions found on the labels or tags or keep them clean using vacuum, dry cleaning, and other techniques that only use a minimal amount of water or no water at all.
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