Thursday, September 04, 2008

Whoever Dies with the Most Fabric Wins

When I lived in New England, I saw a bumper sticker proclaiming, "Whoever Dies With the Most Fabric Wins." I slapped my thigh and gurgled in glee. Ha-ha-ha. Then I froze. Paranoia struck. How did They know about me? Had someone been snooping in my attic and uncovered my cache of 20 years' worth of miscellaneous fabrics "that I might do something with some day"? Then the happy realization, of course, that I simply was not alone in my textile-acquisition passion. Er, addiction.

I have always been so drawn in by the infinite possibility of cloth. I was already sewing my own teeny-bopper mini-skirts using leftover slipcover material by the time I was 12. And my dorm room one year had an entire jungle wall of lions and tigers hanging in floor-to-ceiling panels of 1970s sheeting fabric.

Those nascent artistic flames of fabric creativity were later fanned by years of purchasing Marie Claire Idées whenever I got my hands on a copy in the US. Creative nirvana.

After decades of accumulation, I eventually dispatched with all those cool fabrics, either in clever creations, or ultimately, by donating all the rest to the local Episcopal church rummage sale.

I had purged the fabric. Hurrah! It freed up a lot of brain space not to be hanging on to all that stuff. All those maybes. And I made a new vow: no more textile hoarding for me!

Then I moved to Paris.

And I discovered the Dreyfus Marché St. Pierre, in the eponymous textile quartier of Montmartre, which is where you must go if you want to win that contest. Six storeys of every kind of fabric that you can imagine. Prices all over the map, but always a bargain for what you get. And if you don't find what you want at the Dreyfus store, the smaller shops cramming the nearby streets abound in colorful, exquisite textiles at the most remarkable prices. Gabardines, silks, taffetas, flannels, jacquards, muslin -- you name it, it's all here.

I found pricey salmon-colored Lyon silk that I couldn't live without to use for curtains, and hung them up without sewing a stitch (I don't have my sewing machine in Paris). Clips, hoops a curtain rod: voila! The light they cast in the living room is sublime.

I snatched the last 10 meters of a bolt of beribboned polyester satin/silk that looks every bit as expensive as that soie de Lyon, but at one-fifth the price. It's dusty rose and kind of girly-swirly, so it became bedroom curtains.

Around the corner from Dreyfus at a little mercerie, I bought the curtain tie-backs for 3€ apiece -- compared to a 15€ price tag in department stores.

I also found close-outs on silky tassels which now hang from keys on closet doors and also my key chain: 1€ each.

Every time I set foot in Montmartre, I was inexorably drawn to the Marché St. Pierre, and I always came home with more fabric. A meter of exquisite embroidered silk to throw over the plastic boxes masquerading as a coffee table. Umpteen meters of a poplin with enormous yellow flowers that I simply had to adopt because it was only 1€ per metre. Perhaps I'll make a tenture murale, I dreamed. A perfect checkered waxed cotton that will make a great table cloth. Someday.

Finally I had to do a one-on-one self-to-self textile intervention. No more visiting the Marché St Pierre. Anymore! The temptation was greater than my oh-so-weak willpower. Instead of "Think of England!" my stoic cry was "Think of storage space!" The fabric ban lasted almost a year.

Then this week a dear fabric-addict American friend was in town, so I returned to le Marché St. Pierre. Just to show her around, of course.

Aw heck, there are greater sins than acquiring non-essential fabric. Right?

I returned home with leopard-print polar-fleece -- enough to make two throws.

Some cool African-print cottons for 2€50 per meter.

I took note of some Toile de Jouy I'd love to put in the living room alcove. A delicious butter-yellow Provencal print that I could make into aprons for Christmas presents. Some tulle I'd love to use for wrapping small gifts. That floaty batiste could surely be used somewhere. And...and...and.
I am lost in a another world.

I wonder. Is it just a coincidence that St. Pierre is French for Saint Peter?
The doors to this fabric emporium are not exactly pearly gates. But fabric lovers crossing the threshold here really feel as though they've died and gone to heaven.


BJ Lantz said...

I adored that place! My mother and I spent a very happy morning prowling those stores on our last visit. The problem is, I can't sew. Not a stitch. I dearly wish I could. But this little detail does not stop me from hoarding fabric...and buttons! I spent a small fortune in Euros on buttons in Paris!

Going Like Sixty said...

OMG: this was one of Nancy's favorite "discoveries" when we visited. As I recall the whole street was fabric shops, but that may be just me! We always imagine this is Hildy from "Trading Spaces" got all her fabric!

Isabelle said...

Very funny post, Polly! I didn't know that there were some fabric addicts!

Nancyvanp said...

60 is right! When I read your post, it made me want to hop a plane and head there! There was a small yarn shop at the "top" of the street where I dropped many Euro's! Ahhh...describe more of the fabric shops and I can dream. Thanks for the memories.

Evelyn said...

This will definitely be a stop on my next Parisian visit. I love quilts and picking the fabric is always the best part of planning a new design! Love your luscious silk drapes!

ecparis said...

salut polly,

i simply must have that fabric at the top of the post. did you get it recently?? at dreyfuss? which level?
from a non-sewing fellow fabric addict.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I am dying to go back to Dreyfuss.

BJ - do you think there is a Fabric Hoarders' Anonymous group somewhere? Sign me up!

Nancy & 60 -- glad it brings back fond memories -- time for a repeat visit?!

Yes the African fabric at the top of the post is from Dreyfuss, on the ground floor. Lots more gorgeous designs-- I had to restrain myself. 2€50/meter. It was generating a lot of interest.

Kate M. said...

From a fellow fabricaholic: I still have inspiratonal clippings from Marie Claire's 100 Idées from the 1980s and maybe someday I will get them all made. I recently returned from Aix and all I spent money on was bread and lovely Provençal cottons. I own Folkwear patterns and now envision our ethnic patterns in French fabrics. Thanks so much for your blog.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Okay, fabric-a-holics.
Here's the real hoot. I just got a spam-box email promising me a "Stree-Free Job" as follows:

"xx FABRICS & TEXTILES COMPANY LOCATED IN xxx,is offering a part time paying job.We are looking for representatives in UNITED STATE,CANADA and UNITED KINGDOM.This project has been developed in a way not to affect your present job nor bring you any form of stress but in order to help take care of those extra costs in the area of Financial Independence.we empower people by providing the keys to controlling your income and quality of life.This job would be based on contract and commission terms,it is a part-time job and it would involve quite a handful of trust and honesty."

I love the "trust and honesty" part! Just had to share this...

Nicole said...

Its true that you can find some real deals at Dreyfus but they are not systematically less expensive than regular shops like Bouchara. A few years ago I lived in the 9th, equa-distance from the Marche St Pierre and Bouchara. Because I had so many (enormous) windows to make curtains for, I was trying to find the best deal possible and realized that some fabrics were actually cheaper to buy at Bouchara than Dreyfus- plus they were easier to find! The best reason to go to Marché St Pierre is still the fact that you never know what you might stumble across since the selection is incredibly eclectic.

Kimberley said...

You've just described some of my friends to a T. Painfully recognisable and very funny. :-) I'll be passing on that bumper sticker quote!

Anonymous said...

I am a fabric-holic myself!... can't go by a shop window displaying fabrics without the urge to go in and buy!

Perhaps it is my fashion designer's background that is craving! Who knows?!?

Great post and very interesting blog... this is why an award is awaiting for you at

Kim Mance said...

I am your fabric twin. I have the same fabric, same curtains in my daughters room from a Paris afternoon of fabric discovery. Also have stuff in almost every room of the house made from Paris fabric-finds. Seriously cheaper for creative designs than I could've found in the States.

I think you're beating me with your attic stock though. I've gotta catch up.

chezgraceparis said...

I had hoarded bolts and bolts of drapery fabric from the forties when I lived in NYC. I had to let it all go when I moved to paris 23 years ago. Now I live down the street from Marché St Pierre, and know better than to go there. (Though I do go to the naive art museum at Halles St Pierre, and just shut my eyes passing Dreyfuss!)

Locations of visitors to this page
Travel Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory blog search directory Targeted Website Traffic - Webmasters helping webmasters develop high value relevant links. Promoting ethical web-marketing using the time trusted pillars of relevance and popularity.