chintz + cheetah

Chintz is a printed cotton cloth; the word comes from Hindi, chint, from Sanskrit, chitra-s, ‘bright, clear, many-coloured, distinctively marked’. The word cheetah has the same origin: from Hindi chita, ‘leopard’, which is from Sanskrit chitraka, ‘hunting leopard, tiger’ (chitra-s, ‘bright, distinctively marked’ + kayah, ‘body’). This leopard print chintz was designed by Rose Cumming (1887-1968), a Sydney-born textile designer and interior decorator who made her career in New York. Stranded there (while en route to Paris) in 1917 because of transport issues related toRead more


The modern name for the blue to green mineral – one of the very first to be mined – comes from an Old French word for Turkish. The name dates from the 16th Century when the mineral was brought to France from Turkey, sourced from what is now North East Iran. Turquoise was thought to have protective and preventative qualities, and to change colour depending on its wearer’s state of health and  fortune. (Image: Turquoise beads by Cobalt123)Read more


Copper is named for one of the important places it was mined – Cyprus. We get the word copper from the Latin cuprum or cyprium: metal of Cyprus (from Greek, Kyprios). Copper salts give minerals a blue or green colour and were often used as pigments… Paris Green and Egyptian Blue are examples. (Image: Detail of copper cladding, the de Young museum, San Francisco. Chris Reddaway)Read more

garance, indigo + gaude

Garance, indigo and gaude are words which refer to the colours produced by plant dyes used in traditional fabric dying. Garance produces a red dye, indigo a blue dye and gaude a yellow dye. So yes, it’s really just red, blue and yellow in fancy outfits, in the world of pre-19th century European fabric design. Garance refers to a red dye made from varieties of the Madder plant. Common Madder (Rubia tinctorum) was used extensively in French textile production. A commonRead more