Kelsch is local Alsatian linen that is still woven in the old style. Its patterns come in infinite varieties; nevertheless, they mostly feature stripes or checked patterns. All the colors are still well represented, though the preference is for blue and red. Traditionally, this Kelsch fabric is available in off-white & blue, off-white and red-checkered patterns, or the three colors mixed together.
A Brief History of Kelsch Fabrics
Originally, this type of fabric was created from pure linen (fibers of the flax plant). Starting in the 19th century, when cotton began to be imported and became better known, the Kelsch fabric was made from a mix (meaning a strand of cotton was interwoven with a linen thread). Linen has been cultivated in local regions since the 12th century, but growing cotton had never been possible there.
Peasants typically wove Kelsch fabric in their houses during wintertime. You could find a loom on most farmsteads. Dyes for the strings were created from indigo (for blue) and madder (for red). The types of checkered patterns varied by region, the weavers themselves, and the families.
Kelsch fabric was often used to make duvet covers and pillowcases. Oftentimes, pillow tops were in Kelsch, whereas the bottoms were made with bleached linens. Kelsch was also frequently used to make curtains for closing off various alcoves in the house.
In the last century, the tradition became that Catholics had predominantly red cloths, while Protestants often had those with patterns of blue.
Concerning the origin of the word “Kelsch,” it could be that it came from the adjective “kölnisch” (from Cologne), recalling the usage of “bleu de Cologne,” a pastel used to create the blue color, which was grown on the banks of the Rhine River since the 8th century. Back then, Charlemagne had organized and ruled over its cultivation by dyers through very strict edicts.
Others have advanced the idea of the word “Kelsch” might be of Celtic origin—indeed, the Celts grew linen and knew how to weave patterned cloth—as evidenced still today by the fabrics of Scottish clans écossais...