Shopping in Paris for fabric and notions...

Shopping in Paris for fabric and notions...

Beading and Embroidery Example - Maison Lesage for Atelier Versace Spring Summer 2012

While in Baltimore earlier this year, I got to talking with Nel, who I have had the pleasure of being in many classes with, about Paris.  I knew I wanted to spend a couple more days at the end of the tour there, to visit the places she had mentioned in the past because although she lives in Holland, she often takes a train to Paris for supplies...

One thing led to another and she not only gave me the most amazing list but also came up to Paris to spend the time showing me around.

and as Ros was staying an extra two days at the end of the tour, I asked if she would like to join us and so she happily did for the first day...she was such a good sport, you have no idea how many places we visited in ten hours!!

I can't really imagine how much work went into this , the planning, the emails, and the confirmations must have taken weeks, and I was truly beyond grateful for the time Nel spent organizing this, so that I could share it here.

and honestly, aside from anything else, it was fun, just plain fun.  We have a lot of the same sewing passions.... we love tailoring (she studied with Thomas Von Nordheim last year and is spending time at present with a former YSL designer, making Le Smoking)  we adore Marfy and so, she is often the first I will ask if I have a question.

I have such nice memories of those extra days, the hours at lunch and dinner, eating excellent food, and drinking wine -such a rare occurrence in my life, I was inspired and deeply touched by her kindness.

SO, enjoy and happy shopping!



General Diff -  Best fabric store ever!   This is a hidden gem in Paris, and one I think is worth the flight alone.  (I'll let you know if that ever works as a justifiable excuse to go back!)

There are two floors to General Diff, the first is open to everybody and the second is by invitation only.

Nel said the first time she shopped there,  it took ninety minutes to gain entry to the upstairs - but it's worth the wait and the persistence I promise!

(and recently, I think because of the Paris shopping Threads article,  if you mention Susan and or the magazine, it speeds things up no end - they are very proud of the mention and have the magazine out to show everyone)

Both floors are packed to the ceiling with fabric, so you definitely have to come prepared to rummage and while the first floor is more generic, with solid colours, cottons, silks (Hermes linings)  and some gazar, the second floor is couture heaven.

This is Max, posing for me, we bonded over tic tacs and Chanel!  he is lovely and very funny... and while he only speaks French there is no need for a translator, he knows enough English to tell you the brand and cost in Euros!  

Nel thinking about a Lanvin Silk Chiffon panel!

I finally broke down and bought some fabric...and would have gone all in if I had been able to take more than two suitcases on the plane or had the time to send a few boxes home.

A Lanvin one off - omg I can't believe its mine! sample panel in Gazar - my favorite favorite fabric in the world, and the quality of this is exceptional - just look at that design and ombre... 

As well as a Chanel stretch boucle which came in three colours.  I had never seen a real stretch boucle before and was most enamored...  I picked the blue after much deliberation but wish I could have bought them all.  Lush is truly the only way to describe this amazing fabric.

The 2" squares on the underside are stretch elastic woven to the base, they have good recovery and a nice stability.

And just as I was leaving, I could not resist adding two meters of Chanel Couple De Fil at 40 euros a meter, it was just to lovely to leave behind and weighed almost nothing!

There was also wool guipure for 50 euro, cashmere laces for 40, Italian silk, boucle, wool, cashmere.... but sadly no website yet - although, maybe that could be my next job!

and when we finished Max kindly gave us some Lanvin lining and also gave me a fabric roll for a poster I had aquired and needed to pack for the plane and then walked it and us down to another store...  just loved him!

If you go anywhere in Paris for fabric, this has to be a first stop, honestly its SO worth an actual visit!



This is THE lace destination in Paris, again private appointment only, because while they are open to the public,  it's not a store per se, more of a showroom...

It does feels a little like walking into a super posh department store when you arrive - you can almost guarantee that you will be the only one there, which can be slightly awkward.

It took Nel some emails and phone calls to arrange this, but it was so worth it!

Sophie Hallett  lace is used for Haute Couture, RTW and Lingerie, some of the history and manufacturing are here.

This is the courtyard entrance to the lovely building that houses the show room, you have to get buzzed in from the street to get to this part.

and a couple of very sneaky pictures from inside...

The lace for sale was sold as is, we could split a piece between us but they would not cut anything, most pieces were between 3 and 5 yards.   Its certainly not cheap to shop there but its definitely a lot less than I have ever seen it for retail, and the quality is beautiful.

This was my one splurge of the trip, 5 yards of exquisite black chantilly lace, with scallops on both sides,  35" wide.  It was one of the most unusual laces I have ever seen and I have no idea what I will make with it yet..

Nel and I seriously considered splitting the grey one above for a while before talking ourselves out of it, way way to much money with no project in mind..



The fabric garment district seems to be thriving around Sacré- cœur, and we found a couple of stores that I thought were interesting, both on the lower to middle end with some great bargains.

Tissu Market was quite small but filled with Cashmere, Wool, Cotton and Lace...

I liked this cotton/wool lace very much but was out of suitcase space and so I passed but it was tempting at 40 euros a meter..

Also in Sacré-cœur was -


This was very much little a large sprawling Jo-Annes but not as cheap as I would have expected.

There was a very large table of Liberty prints which looked and felt like the real deal for 25 euro a meter, but the organdy, silks and taffettas averaged about 40 euro.

They were doing a brisk business,  and most of the customers looked local.




 A couple of minutes walk from the fabric stores is Dam Boutons...

More buttons than I have ever seen in my life!  and the owners know where each and everyone is.  

Apparently, if you take a garment in, they will pick the perfect buttons for you every time.



 Pearls, buttons, jewelery, paillettes, beading, sequins - to buy individually and by the pound..

This place is cavernous,  just when you think you've reached the last room, there is another one and then another..

A beautiful store for anyone who embroiders, embellishes, sews or makes jewelery.




I thought we did well in NY with tailoring supplies, but for anyone with a tailoring interest this is heaven,  an amazing store with a wonderfully knowledgable and incredibly nice owner.

Its filled with bolt after bolt of hair canvas, chest canvas, felt, underlining, interlining, sleeve heads, shoulder pads...all in different weights, sizes, shapes and colours....

Virgil the owner (on the left) is fifth generation and  loved how intrigued we were with all their different products and so pulled out sample after sample for us to look at.. apparently they carry so much stock because each couture house has a slightly different tailoring preference.

Just some of a selection of underlinings, interlinings, felt paddings, sleeve boards...

Linings, suiting fabrics and shirting.

and a whole cabinet of button hole thread, I have never seen a colour selection of such high quality buttonhole thread before...

I bought two as I would really like to master some hand sewn button holes next year.  It seems the perfect thing to try when traveling...

and I got silly excited about these couture sleeve heads.  These are new to me, and favored by the Couture houses, so I bought a few yards of each colour.

and when we were done,  Virgil walked us to a organic restuarant for lunch.  One of those amazing covered courtyard places that only the locals know about, with a set menu of a soup, a choice of two entrees and wine (that the owner chooses for you) that could only happen in France!



Etoile Lesage

and from there we went to Lesage, the highlight of the day for Ros!!  

Lesage is a must see for most Couture sewers, but sadly the building in Paris has been almost completely renovated and is now not much more than a school,  (and absolutely no photos were allowed to be taken inside) most of the actual bead work has been sent abroad

Chanel purchased this historic house in 2002 along with many other small couture businesses, with the aim of preserving tradition....and while I deeply admire their intention,  after talking with various people in Paris, it seems that most of their acquisitions while remaining in Paris to some degree,  have had their actual production teams moved to other countries to keep costs down.

But, for anyone wishing to learn the art of embellishment and embroidery, Lesage is the place to train in Paris....and needless to say Ros, Nel and I are plotting some weeks there in the future!

Nel has already taken a few of the levels (stages) I believe there are eight in total, and says its absolutely wonderful...

The stages are open ended, so although they are planned in week and month blocks, you can come and go at your own pace.  Lesage suggests a few days at the school and then a few days at home working on what you have learnt before returning for another few days.  Logistically that does mean of course that a two week course could have you based in Paris for four to six weeks - sounds just awful!!

We were able to see some students working when we visited, and the bead work they were doing even at the lower stages was breathtaking.  I would have signed up there and then if I thought I would have been able to stay a little longer.

They have lots of different classes starting at 225 euro and rising to 2210 euro for the stage 8 master class, and now after looking at it again, I want to go right now!!  Ros??

This is a must watch short video, François Lesage shows some of his vintage samples going back as far as 1929.

and the making of Chanels Fall embellishment collection...




There are a few notion shops around this area, this being the furthest away from the subway, but the best if you are after Madame Grés circular needles.

The owner sold us his last five, but says in September when classes start they carry a very large stock of equipment and its all reasonably priced.

Au Ver à Soie

Thread heaven!!  and close to General Diff...which makes it a must visit!



I was really looking forward to this, and it did not disappoint...Flora sells vintage trim, buttons and some jewellery from a very small store based at Clignancourt, the largest of all the flea markets in Paris.

Its a crazy sprawling area of market stalls, brick and morter stores and hawkers.  A little overwelming, with people everywhere, we dressed casually and kept money in tightly closed bags.

and while its not the easiest place to find, its worth the trek.    Trim started at 2 euro a meter and rises depending on width, details etc.

Be prepared to rummage, there is a surprising amount to choose from in such a tiny space.....Flora speaks excellent English and will tell you where each trim originated from and the year when asked, she is very knowledgable indeed...most seem to be Vintage Chanel and YSL.

There is also a lovely selection of buttons and some Vintage accessories...Ros bought two gorgeous bracelets that I was so tempted by...


Traveling with Celiac's is always difficult, and mine is a little more complicated because it also includes dairy, soy, agave and most grains.

After fifteen years, I know what I can get by on but I try and do some planning before, worst case scenario is eating salad for two weeks straight which is hardly a disaster, but Paris really surprised me. Even if they did not advertise as gluten free, most restaurants were very aware of it and pleased to accommodate.....

and happily as fried food is unusual on a restaurant menu, all the fries were GF, which is good and bad when you've not had them for years......I literally ate them every day for two weeks!

Galettes were another great quick food as they are made of buckwheat and available in every creperie and again, I could always get a dairy free version if I asked nicely.

Biosphère Cafe

Biosphere was about a ten minute walk from the Champ Elysee and made me wish we had something similar here. Organic, gluten free fabulous food with a huge menu, great service and very reasonable prices.  I had crepes with lemon and sugar the first day and they were just like the ones I grew up with...

I ate way to much pizza another day,  and the people eating next to me were raving about the pasta.

Baguettes could also be pre-ordered for early morning pick up each day, which I highly recommend. They were still warm and chewy - and as anyone with a GF allergy knows that's almost unheard of!

The owner was very kind and spoke great English, and when I was ready to leave, she gave me a gorgeous bag of dairy free desserts to take out, which I ate as I walked for the rest of the day.  Really above and beyond...

and for days when I did not want to spend time sitting in a restaurant, Exki was a life saver. A chain of cafes throughout Paris, they made eating easy....everything GF was clearly marked with a symbol, all ingredients were listed in both French and English and they were very reasonably priced...similar to a Pret or Panera.



and for the most beautifully wrapped and delicious chocolate, A la mère de Famille is so worth a visit. This is the oldest confectioners in Paris dating back to 1761... I bought some of their smaller boxes as gifts and the recipients are still talking about just how good they were!

Its like walking back in time, and reminds me of some of the tiny sweet shops that still existed in England when I was growing up..

As well as fries, I lived on candied orange.. this is the best I have ever bought!

Their gift boxes ranged from 20 euro up to 100 and more, but each box was filled to capacity with sweets, no packaging got in the way!

and thats about it, the stores I personally I want to go back!!

I've had lots of sewers asking for suggestions for trips to Paris next year, so if anybody has anywhere else that they would be nice enough to recommend, and/or pictures, just email me and I will add it to the list.


Have a great weekend.


The beginnings of a Grainline Archer

The beginnings of a Grainline Archer

Marfy 3520.....the beginnings...

Marfy 3520.....the beginnings...