Sunday, January 22, 2017

Silk Weaving in Lyon

We were lucky enough to be in France and Switzerland this September, spending time in Paris, Provence, Lyon, Lausanne, and Geneva.  We spent only two days in Lyon which, in retrospect, is one of my regrets.  I did not properly do my research and did not fully appreciate the extent of Lyon's contribution to silk weaving.

 Photo of Soierie Saint Georges - Lyon, France

We spent a couple of hours at Soierie Saint-George, on 11 Rue Mourguet.  I don't think this is a location you would happen upon easily if you weren't looking for it.  It was on my to do list as a fabric store, but what it turned out to be is part museum and part storefront focusing on the silk industry in Lyon.  The front of the store features some very beautiful scarves, but in the back  is one of the last weaving workshops left in Lyons today.  Rather than try to reword, I've copied an excerpt from one of the Lyon websites.

Our workshop-store: an essential visit when discovering Lyon's heritage! Soierie Saint-Georges is where you can discover and become acquainted with Lyon's silk weaving history. During a guided tour, discover how silk and gold thread is woven on 19th century Jacquard looms. You'll be given a close up view of how fabrics designed for couturiers and château furnishings are made. You'll be shown all the techniques that have shaped Lyon's history since the 16th century; all the different stages, from design drawings to weaving on traditional looms. Our store offers the widest range of silks produced in Lyon at attractive prices. You'll be charmed by our ties, headscarves, scarves, stoles, wraps, chiffon and velvet fabrics, and more, all created thanks to traditional know-how.

The Jacquard system, also called the Jacquard attachment or Jacquard mechanism is a device incorporated in special looms to control individual warp yarns. It was in developed in France in 1804-05 by Joseph-Marie Jacquard.  and improved on the original punched-card design of Jacques de Vaucanson's loom of 1745. The punched cards controlled the actions of the loom, allowing automatic production of intricate woven patterns. It enabled looms to produce fabrics having intricate woven patterns such as tapestry, brocade, and damask. Jacquard’s loom utilized interchangeable punched cards that controlled the weaving of the cloth so that any desired pattern could be obtained automatically. 
It was such a lovely few hours and I truly wish I had done my homework a bit earlier so as to get more out of this very special visit.  I guess that will be a good reason to go back some day!


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