Hand-made mattress cases were originally called ticks  and it’s from this that the cover fabric took it’s name. Ticking is a striped, tightly woven cloth in herringbone weave that is made to last, to hold the mattress together and to prevent the down, feather quills, straw, or whatever materials were used as stuffing, from creeping out.  Also to hold the fillings for cushions and bolsters and for trunk linings; ochre yellow, off-white or black and white ticking were the most used  colours.

At a time when the fabric was in short supply the 20thC interior designer John Fowler, of Colefax & Fowler, made ticking acceptable in interiors as something more than just a basic cloth. He also brought other base cloths such as calico, butter muslin, ticking and parachute silk into the arena–after all, they are not inferior in terms of the quality but were so by association, and as they are inexpensive enough to use en masse, combining them with the best textiles is sound economics. Mimi O’Connel’s use of ticking-covered sofas with Fortuny cushions, was inspired, both for looks and budget …


Ticking comes in many colours and weights. On the basis that everything should look as good on the inside as it does the outside, we often use ticking stripes for curtain linings–an interesting lining at a window seat, or simply when opening curtains, is always a pleasant surprise.

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