Textile tour de Lyon

6-10 March 2020

On 6 March 2020, a team from Centre For Textile Research set out for a tour of the many textile museums and workshops of Lyon with a special focus on silk.


7 March

We started on 5 March with a guided tour of Vieux-Lyon, the old city centre, and in the afternoon, a guided tour of Croix-Rousse, the later quarter of the silk weavers. In Vieux-Lyon, we saw the very Lyonnaise architechtural feature - the traboulles - long corridors through houses making it easy to transverse through the buildings. Our guide, Delphine, told us about both the use in the old Lyon, but also how they are used today. 

Before lunch, we managed to  visit the higher part of Lyon where the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon is located on top of the mountain, that also offers a viewpoint over the entire Lyon downtown. We also visited the town museum, Museés Gadagne, and had a lunch consisting of the traditional food found in Lyon, in this case a wonderful local sausage. 

In the afternoon, we went to see the quarter of Croix-Rousse where the silk weavers lived and worked. We saw the Soierie Vivante and the Atelier de Passementerie - see more here: https://www.soierie-vivante.asso.fr/Atelier_AtelierPassementerie.php.

The visit to Atelier de Passementerie was interesting as the old machines for making ribbons were still in operation. 

8 March

Although with aching legs and feet after the many stairs in Croix-Rousse the day before, we started the day by walking to the Musée de Tissus to see both the exhibition on Yves Saint-Laurent and the permanent exhibition of silk production, before the museum closes for restoration. In the meantime, you can see much of their collection on their homepage: https://www.museedestissus.fr/ . Read the blog for more information on our visit.

The photos show the beautiful building housing the exhibitions, a few snapshots from the Yves Saint-Laurent exhibition, including one of our guide, Leslie, who gave us a fantastic tour. Leslie had brought samples of the different textiles used in the exhibition, but while we were not allowed to touch the exhibited dresses and textiles, we could feel the texture and lightness in Leslies samples. 

We also saw the permanent exhibition showing the start and development of silk weaving and production. Silk was traded according to weight and as silk absorbs humidity very easily, a special apparatus (see photo to the far left) was invented to dry out the silk, so a buyer was not paying extra simply because it was a rainy day. From brocade and velvet, the silk production developed into an industry of luxury wall hangings as well as fabric for one of Marie Antoinettes dresses (photo to the far right). 

In the afternoon, some went for the exhibition of headwear at the Musée de Confluence, while others went for the Musée Gallo-Romain, exhibition the heritage after the Roman settlement. And even here, a group of textile researchers will naturally concentrate on the spindle whorls...

9 March

The morning of the 9 March, the group went to the Musée d’Art et d’Industrie - http://www.musee-art-industrie.saint-etienne.fr/ where we enjoyed a guided tour of the production of ribbons. 

In the afternoon, we went back to Croix-Rousse for a tour of the Brochier Soieries where we saw the silk printing processes. First we saw how silk is printed with block printing, where a number of blocks, each containing one colour, is placed on the silk in a pre-arranged order. In the shelves in the photo to the far left, you can see the blocks arranged with up to over 15 blocks needed to create a pattern.. The other process is silk screen printing, where each colour is printed on the textile through a screen. See the results here: http://www.brochiersoieries.com/en/

10 March

In our last morning in Lyon, we went to see the Maison des Canuts in Croix-Rousse, where we saw the development from handlooms to jacquard looms. However, we of course first visited one of the famed French bakeries for coffee! In the Maison des Canuts, we were expertly guided through the precursor to the jaquard loom, where the many threads were kept in order manually. While it may have looked as a large ball of thread the cat got hold off, every thread is tied to a ground and by pulling the group (see the photo in the middle below), you will be given the right setting for the weaver to use. It was eventually automatized by M. Jacuard in a system using punch cards (see photo to the far right).

We were also treated to a show of how the jaquard loom works - the most surprising fact was that the fabric is woven from behind. The weaver will use a small mirror to check from time to time that the pattern is correct from the front - see the photo to the far right and centre - and the end product!

The last technique shown was how to produce velvet. When weaving, two kinds of metal rods were inserted, both to create the loops giving the 3D effect. While one were simply to create the loop, the other metal rod had a groove, which could be used to cut the velvet, and thereby creating yet another effect. 

This technique of velvet weaving takes a lot of threads, we were lucky to have the company of weaver Ulrikka Mokdad to explain the details for us.

Our very last stop on this tour was the amazing and authentic workshop of M. Mattelon. This workshop was working until recently, and it now stands with all the tools and wonderful parts belonging to the looms. We were given a tour by M. Mattelon, son of the original owner, who as a child had played under the looms. The jaquard looms are heavy and as such they are fastened to the ceiling. 


Thank you

We thank Susanne Lervad, Termplus, warmly for the organisation of this trip, and the many wonderful guides for taking the time to explain the various techniques etc to us.