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Textil material


The textil is omnipresent in our everyday life: fabrics, tapestries, upholstery, clothing, sheers. This material is either of plant origin (hemp, cotton, linen) or of animal origin (wool, silk). It gave rise to many know-how.



A simple needle is sufficient to do the work but it is a variety of techniques and many points to master. The point of Boulogne already known in the Middle Ages, or the point of Lunéville, the point of Beauvais, Bordeaux embroidery and this is only a sample of all this knowledge.

An art of extreme precision, a lot of patience and knowledge of the multiple influences which shaped this know-how.



The hatter works with different materials and shapes according to fashions and times. Headgear includes caps, beanies, berets, hats.

The top hat symbol of social success, becomes a must for high society at the beginning of the 19th. Around 1850, the silk hat will give way to the felt hat. It has the advantage of being waterproof, of being made without any glue and to retain the evaporation property that it had on the skin of the animal.

Interesting video of Lock & Co hatters of London, the supplier of Charlie Chaplin's hats ;)



Lace is a delicate meshing of cotton, linen, silk, nylon or other relatively fine fibers.
The decoration is inspired by floral themes or architectural elements.

There is a wide range of techniques such as bobbin lace, needle, crochet lace or mechanical, allowing the manufacturing of different templates more or less fine, very meticulous.

Many styles of lace and regional centers are known in France, for example, Alençon lace, Calais, Caudry, Lyon.


Maltese lace:

Maltese lace was developed in the time of the Knights of the Order of Malta, it was used to decorate the clothes of the wealthiest and the whole of the clergy. The workshops ensured income for the poorest. The Maltese cross is one of the emblematic motifs used for the production of certain pieces.

This craft almost disappeared in the 19th century, it was revived by Hamilton Chichester especially with bobbin lace influenced by Genoese patterns but also by Valenciennes lace.



The upholsterer realizes textile works such as wall hangings, curtains and pieces intended for furnishing. The term "Lissier" was more often used in the French professional corporation. The upholsterer of high "Lisse" worked on a vertical work and the worker of low "Lisse", horizontally.

The tapestry is a collaborative work between the painter and the upholsterer. The desired outline is drawn on "a cardboard" which should be retranscribed with the available nuances. The painter has unlimited resources in terms of colors, the upholsterer has limited shades and therein lies all the talent of the upholsterer. He will juggle the colors, looking for the best possible combination.

The Manufacture of Beauvais has contributed to the renown of French art around the world. Some achievements have been presented at world exhibitions. They worked on horizontal trades.

The Gobelin factory has been working since 1826 only with vertical trades with the high-lice technique..


Beauvais Tapestry showing the Emperor and Empress of China taking a snack.

Beauvais Tapestry showing the Emperor and Empress of China taking a snack.



The weaver performs a crisscross of threads on a loom. The mesh is made with the back and forth of the shuttle from right to left. He can shape fabrics composed of a single color, or more elaborate models.

The French term "Tisserand" was generally used for the craftsman working at home on a trade of which he was the owner. Its customers could also be made up of local and regional manufacturers.

The looms were improved constantly. In 1733, an evolution with the machine equipped with a flying shuttle invented by an Englishman Mr. John Kay. In 1767, the jenny spinning machine, will automate spinning, the operation making it possible to transform fibers into thread. In 1785, the mechanical loom of Mr. Edmund Cartwright native of Nottingham. In 1801, the Jacquard machine invented by a Lyonnais.



"Corderie Vallois" museum is located in Seine-Maritime department, from 5 mi from Rouen city (Ropes museum),
Copyrights : © Réunion des Musées Métropolitains Rouen Normandie, Corderie Vallois. © Yohann Deslandes


Weavers of Rouen fabrics:

The rouenneries designate fabrics made in the city of Rouen. This city already had a great cloth activity in the Middle Ages. The nearby river port allowed vessels to unload goods from distant lands, from the Orient.

Fine fabrics with Indian motifs will be a source of inspiration for French manufacturers. In the East of France, a factory was created in Mulhouse in the 18th century. In the Paris region, the manufacturing center will be located in Jouy-en-Josas a few years later. Then the city of Rouen will create its workshops for printing colored fabrics. Finally at the national level, the cities of Nantes, Lyon, Marseille will also have manufacturing centers.

Many colors are used to make these fabrics, but the dominant colors are madder red, indigo blue and yellow reseda. Indian craftsmen had the know-how to permanently fix these colors.

Some previously engraved wooden dies allowed the printing of these canvases.

In French, the terms of Rouenneries merchants, and Indian fabrics sellers ) were used to designate traders exercising this trade. A few works are exhibited in Lorient at the Museum of the Compagnie des Indes.


Fleurs indiennes Grandes fleurs indiennes

Photos credit www.les-tissus-anciens.com with very beautiful fabrics (online sale).


Weavers for Silk:

Silk was for a long time the monopoly of China. Any Chinese revealing the secrets of sericulture risked being sentenced to death.

The culture of the mulberry tree is introduced in France at the beginning of the 14th century with the arrival of the popes in Avignon.

King Louis XI tried for the first time to install a silk production in Lyon to no avail. He made a second attempt in the city of Tours but by employing experienced artisans in the technique, mainly Italians and Greeks, and this time it was a success. François Ier will relaunch the Lyon activity.

Before the revolution, production in France amounted to 7000 tonnes per year. A hundred years later, it is around 25,000 tonnes.

The culture of Silk is however complex, the production will decline a few years later and will have to face the production of artificial Silk. We have been witnessing the revival of small units for these years.


Velvet weavers:

From the Middle Ages in Amiens, the trade of drapers and waidiers (pastel merchants) prospered. Jean-Baptiste Jourdain de Thieulloy wad diffents functions and one of his occupation was importer-exporter, which enabled him to expand his Saint-Gratien property. He also received spices and indigo in exchange for this trade.

Amiens made Utrecht velvet and cotton velvet. It was during the reign of King Louis-Philippe (from July 1830 to February 1848) that cotton velvet became "velours d'Amiens". This velvet had an international reputation, it was shipped worldwide. Recognized for its quality, fabrics have been specially made for Versailles.

The piece of velvet was first woven. In a second time, it was inserted between rollers to take the shape of the desired pattern. These dies were made of wood or metal.

The Amiens factories manufactured furnishing fabrics and some also produced articles such as pillows, stuffed animals, caps.