Kaari Meng, along with her husband JZ, started the craft and ephemera brand French General 20 years ago. Together, they have become one of the most well known Moda fabric design brands. After 30+ Moda collections, Tres Jolie offers cotton lawn: a new substrate for quilters and dressmakers alike.
Cotton lawn offers more drape and a smoother hand than many quilting cottons, thanks to its
composition from finer threads and a tighter weave. This makes it perfect for dressmaking patterns that call for medium-weight cotton or linen. You can also use cotton lawn for patchwork projects, and the fine floral prints make it perfect for tiny piecing.
Having collected antique French documents, textiles, and ephemera for decades, Kaari says that French General was started as a notions retailer in 1997, eventually evolving into fabric and quilt pattern design in 2008.
“Most of [our] prints are reproductions from early French florals and stripes,” she says, explaining that she often re-colours antique prints with a more contemporary palette focused around old reds, natural linen, and dashes of blue here and there. “We also design novelty prints every once in a while,” she says, when a collection needs a little extra something special—like alphabets, numbers, or old labels for labelling quilts.
French General collections tend to follow similar colour palettes, and so they work well together. “Inspiration comes from early fabric printed in France in the 18th century,” Kaari says, noting that this is the origin of her use of washed and worn looking reds, pinks, blues, and greens mixed with cream.
Tres Jolie has a feminine look, influenced by girls’ dresses, and the colours are rich—perfect for early summer. You will also, of course, notice a lot of florals, as Kaari says she likes to mix floral prints with even more floral prints. In this collection, you will find a woad blue as well as lighter pastel shades in pinks and fresh creams.
Kaari says she isn’t a quilter, at least not in the usual sense. “I love to stitch, sew, and repair old quilts,” she explains. “ I always have a needle, thread, and a basket of antique fabric nearby for a slow stitching project or maybe an English paper piecing project. I spend my time learning needle arts, weaving, and dyeing with natural dyes.”
Often fabric designers are crafty people or already quilters. Indeed, Kaari started as a jewellery designer, finding inspiration in ephemera—and with a love of travel to the South of France. Now, she’s firmly involved in the quilting world through her designs.
“My journey to becoming a fabric designer has been inspired by our travels to France every summer,” she says. “What started for me as a love of visiting old homes, vide greniers, and brocantes has turned into a wonderful summer job for me.”
Every summer, she says, “we take groups of women to the South of France and live in an old grand maison with a live-in chef and sommelier—while learning to find our inner Frenchwoman. We spend time at the farmer’s markets, digging for treasures at the flea market, and in the studio with our visiting artist. This summer, we are lucky to have a handful of wonderful quilters and stitchers joining us for a week each.”
If you can’t make it to the south of France yourself, you can still, soon, add a little chic to your wardrobe, home, and projects. Tres Jolie is coming to fabric stores in the coming weeks, along with four quilt patterns to look out for, Ciel Bleu, Le Salon de Jardin, Le Chemin Rouge and a three part hexy design, Petite Bébé.
French General’s Tres Jolie lawn collection from Moda Fabrics is arriving in Canadian stores soon! We encourage you to touch, feel, and experience the fabric you’ll use for your next creative project at your local quilt store.