I feel like most people at all familiar with fabric know a toile print when they see one--the all-over scene fabric, with a pastoral flavor and usually a one-color-on-white print.
People also have varying opinions on toile. I have no particular bent one way or another, but I realized as I began my research that I have never actually used toile. I have been attracted to toile prints on numerous occasions, but could never think of a reason to get any.
As I am poking around, I am learning a lot. Often referred to as "Toile de Jouy" for its most famous production location in France, toile has a storied history from the past few hundred years. It can also contain a wide variety of prints, not just jolly French ladies and gentleman.
I'd forgotten, for instance, about chinoserie toile, full of "pastoral" landscapes from the Orient, and certainly idealized Asian figures.
Schumacher toile, from Brick House Fabric
Civil War Toile, from The Door Mouse
Evidently there is quite a famous set of toiles with an Eisenhower theme, and some with a Southern USA theme, after Gone with the Wind was published.
There are also toiles with literary themes, as in this example:
Robinson Crusoe toile, by Lee Jofa/Christopher Moore.
Certainly, a lot can be done with toile. Home decor via wallpaper, draperies, and furnishings are natural. Toile is often used in quilting, since as a cotton fabric it's a natural choice. But I was surprised to learn about toile's capabilities in fashion:
I'm a little embarrassed now for having passed up some toile opportunities. I'm looking forward to getting in to a good fabric store to peruse the possibilities. I'd like to find some good literary toile, and maybe some Greek myth toile. Maybe also some sweet architectural toile!
And, if you're still looking for some wellies this season, check out these!
More on creative toile from Mr. Peacock.