Textile Trails in Paris

by Terri Jones

It can be frustrating for lovers of fashion and textiles to have a wealth of opportunities at your fingertips but be unable to take advantage of them because you are in a mixed party and the others don't share your interests. With a little planning you can take time out to pursue your passion without inducing terminal boredom in the rest of your companions.

A walk along the banks of the Seine to take in the general atmosphere of Paris can take you from the Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame along the left bank to buy your art materials from Sennelier's historic premises at number 3, Quai Voltaire, directly across the river from the Louvre. Prices seem generally cheaper than in England and the shop is interesting in itself, as its fittings are still exactly as they were when it was opened in 1887. Sennelier have another shop at number 4 bis, rue de la Grande Chaumière, not far from Montparnasse railway station. If you have time to kill between trains it is just a short walk. This second shop is also within walking distance of the Jardin du Luxembourg and Boulevard Saint-Michel.

Sennelier shop, photo by Terri Jones

A visit to the Louvre is a must on anybody's list, but it can be daunting, and focusing on a small part can pay dividends. If your interests don't coincide with those of your group let them enter via the pyramid while you walk a little further along the rue de Rivoli in the direction of the Jardin des Tuileries to the Musée de la Mode et du Textile. The museum has changing exhibitions and is a convenient size to tackle in a half day. The works of the major Paris designers are often on display and anyone interested in clothing, fashion or the decorative textile arts should find something to interest them. Don't leave the Musée de la Mode without visiting the gift and book shop where there is a huge range of books on different aspects of textiles, many of which are in English and the craft items for sale are of an excellent quality.

If you are heading for Montmartre and Sacré Coeur leave the Metro at Anvers, and walk through a maze of little streets towards the Basilica. Here you can do a little shopping in the many discount fabric stores in the area. I also visited two haberdashery and embroidery supply shops and was particularly impressed by the range of buttons and fastenings. The Marché St. Pierre is housed in a building at the foot of Sacré Coeur gardens on rue Charles Nodier and is devoted entirely to fabrics. Closed all day Sunday and on Mondays until 2 pm, there are apparently some real bargains to be had, but I had to be dragged away kicking and screaming before it opened, in order to catch my plane.

fabrics in Paris, photo by Terri Jones

Within easy walking distance of Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou and the Marais, is the Sentier, the oldest textile district in Paris where abundant fabric shops and clothing stores line rue du Sentier and rue St-Denis. Although many shops are wholesale it is worth strolling through for its historical value and the fashion preview. Take care not to stray too far north into the 10th Arrondissement where the Boulevard St. Martin and parts of rue du Faubourg-St Denis can be unsafe at any time of day.

small sailing boats in Paris, photo by Terri Jones

There is, of course, much, much more yet to explore. There are the places I have read about such as the Gobelins museum and the Musée de Cluny, both of which will be of particular interest to tapestry lovers, the Grandes Boulevards with Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, the various markets, some of which specialise in clothing, and the Viaduc des Arts, home to craftsmen of various kinds, and which includes weavers and a fabric store. Then there are the unexpected treats, found by accident, like the restaurant "Un Piano sur le Trottoir" on rue des Francs-Bourgeois near the Place des Vosges, which has elaborate hats dressing the walls and draped on hat stands. I can't wait for my next trip.

Creativity needs feeding - what better way than to combine your holiday with a textile experience, whether it's at home or abroad.

Textile courses and workshops

Terri Jones and Norma Hopkins organise inspirational workshops and visits at home and abroad. The workshops take you through a design process into contemporary machine embroidery with an exciting computer design twist. The textile trails winkle out interesting textile exhibitions, shops to buy luscious fabrics and super places to eat.