Sample of Madras check fabric
Lancashire, United Kingdom
This is a commercial sample of a type of fabric known as ‘madras’, which at the time this fabric was produced referred to a lightweight cotton with a woven check. The check could form an all over pattern, as seen in this example, or it could be woven as borders or in stripes with plain weave between. The sample seen here is an example of a more expensive ‘fancy Madras’ that has a complex, multi-coloured check across the whole fabric.
Originally madras cloth was made in the area surrounding the city of Chennai, which was formerly known as Madras and is where the fabric’s name comes from. By the mid 19th century copies of the colourful checked cottons were being produced in other places including China, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The combination of bold, colourful checks with the cool and comfortable properties of cotton made the fabric a popular choice for shirts and other garments in countries with hot climates.
On the sample a paper label can be seen giving details of the fabric’s manufacture and including the initials F.A.O.M; indicating this fabric was exported by Compagnie Francaise de l’Afrique Occidentale.