Rue de Choiseul

In Stitching up Paris we take you to rue de Choiseul for a treasure trove of old fashioned haberdashery at one of our all time favourite stores: Ultramod. This street is much more than a one-shop stop on a stitcher’s day out in Paris. Around this cosy neighbourhood we’ve got snippets of history and architecture, and a story of socially minded entrepreneurship to share with you.

Opposite the metro station (on rue de Quatre Septembre) look to your right for the large Haussmannian building now called Le Centorial (currently trussed up with scaffolding for another facelift).

Le Credit Lyonnais

It is part of the original magnificent headquarters of Credit Lyonnais that was constructed between 1876 and 1883 on the prime corner block facing rue de Quatre-Septembre, bound by rue Gramont and rue de Choiseul on the sides and running right through to boulevard des Italiens. It is no longer the bank’s HQ, and following a large fire in 1996 the building was split into separate portions as part of the repair project. Earlier that year the building was used as the department store film set for the movie Le Cri de la Soie (mentioned on page 35 of Stitching up Paris). Funnily enough the original building was designed in such a way that it could have been converted to a department store in the event of bankruptcy!

The fire is just one of the notable events in the history of this building. On the exterior wall facing rue de Choiseul there is a plaque marking the damage from the explosion of a German “plane bomb” in January 1918. The current re-plastering facelift stops at the bomb scars and frames them, leaving the marks of history clearly visible; a sign of respect in the midst of urban regeneration. The past is always present in Parisian streets.

Credit Lyonnais bomb scars

Bomb d'avion

The bank building was designed from the outset to impress its customers and the public; it was open to anyone and was so popular visitors required a ticket. While it is no longer officially open to the public it is possible to enter up the steps on rue de Quatre Septembre, go through the first doors and stand in front of the security desk where you can see into the lobby behind the large glass doors. The security guard will greet you with typical French politesse and allow you to peer through the glass doors into the huge hall where light streams in from the arched dome above. The metal frame of the dome, and the high metal-framed windows were originally built by the engineering workshops of Monsieur Gustave Eiffel. These were some of the historically significant features of the building that were preserved in the post-fire repair project.

Sadly you will only see the unusual double-helix staircase if you are there for business with the companies that have office space in the building. The staircase design was modeled on the one in the famous Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley and allows the same staircase to be used by two people without them meeting each other on the stairs. Historically, one staircase was said to be used for management and the other for employees – and ne’er the twain would meet.

Back outside, cross over rue de Quatre Septembre to the other part of rue de Choiseul and wander down the end of the street to the entrance to Passage Choiseul. Just to the right is café Joyeux. A socially minded entrepreneur has established a number of coffee shops in France all staffed by people with Down Syndrome, autism and other cognitive disabilities. This cheerful cafe is a recent addition to the chain, providing opportunity for the staff to show their capabilities and earn a living.

Joueux cafe 2

The café appears to live up to its name with an atmosphere that is always buzzing with activity and joie de vivre.

Bonne visite…..

 

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Vintage Rhodoid buttons at La Droguerie

Right on the Button

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Have you noticed that posts about buttons on social media elicit a flurry of comments about grandmothers’ button tins or jars, fond memories of special buttons, buttons that made certain cardigans and dresses special favourites. It seems that buttons really do “press our buttons”,and we are, like the late Steve Jobs, fond of the perfect button. (Of course he was fond of an entirely different sort of button, but we understand the sentiment.)

Buttons have been special since fashion became fashionable. Not only useful for fastening and making clothes fit, buttons were signs of wealth – status symbols, where the rule of the day was the more buttons the better.

While these days we are not so heavy on the buttons we all know that the right button is worth the hunt. Paris isn’t short of fabulous button purveyors and in our Stitching up Paris guidebook we’ve given you a sample of button heaven in the heart of Montmartre’s fabric district.

Now we’ve got three more button addresses for you to stash in your notebook:

Buttons Paradise
15 rue St Guillaume
Paris 75007

Metro: Rue du Bac or St Germain

www.buttonsparadise.com 

For the English version click the Anglais button at the top right. The blog posts are particularly interesting and cover a range of topics including fashion tips.

Open: Mon, Tue & Thurs 2pm to 7pm, Weds & Fri 10am to 7pm, Closed: Sat & Sun

Sandrine Mettelal’s fabulous boutique is just off boulevard St Germain on the Left Bank. In fact, it’s not far from the new location for France Duval Stalla’s fabric store that we mentioned in our last post. It’s also just a short stroll from the fabulous department store Le Bon Marché and any number of delightful cafes and refreshment stops.

File 14-06-17, 12 18 51 PMAs well as a beautifully curated range of luxury, vintage, contemporary and top-selling buttons you will find stunning button jewelry and buckles. Just to whet your appetite further,  Sandrine has shown Barbara a selection of fabulous vintage buttons including some made of snail shell that were designed by Lucien Weingott – who worked with Schiaparelli.

Sandrine is an experienced connoisseur of buttons and provides excellent advice for choosing buttons.

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Musée de la Nacre et de la Tabletterie
51 rue Roger Salengro
Méru 60110

www.musee-nacre.com
(English translation button top right)

Open: Everyday except Tuesdays 2.30pm to 6.30pm

Meru postcards on mailbagThe Mother of Pearl museum is housed in a 19thcentury button-making factory in the town of Méru. For a (half) day trip out from Paris take the train from Gare du Nord to Beauvais-Le Tréport via Persan stopping at the village of Méru (about 50mins from Paris). Consider taking a taxi from the station to the museum; my map App advises it’s 1.1km away, approximately 15 minutes walk.

The museum is open daily from 2.30pm to 6.30pm (except Tuesdays). Please check the Hours and Access information on the website under the tab “Useful” for annual closing dates and any variations to these opening hours.

There are guided tours, in French, that will give you an idea of the working conditions in the old factory; harsh! There is a boutique on site – after all you might like some little souvenirs to remind you of your expedition to Méru.

 

Mireille Boutonnières
21 rue des Petits Carreaux (3rd floor)
Paris 75002

Metro: Sentier (exit rue des Petits Carreaux)

Open: Monday to Friday 8am to 2pm

File 16-04-18, 1 53 05 PMIf you are on the hunt for buttons, chances are you may want buttonholes too. Here is a great address for stress-free buttonholes made tout de suite and it’s right in the centre of the fashion capital where rue des Petits Carreaux becomes rue Montorgueil (featured in Neighbourhood Notes page 73 Stitching up Paris guidebook).

Drop in to this tiny workshop, the entrance is right next door to Starbucks, between 8am and 2pm any weekday and Monsieur Mireille (junior) will make buttonholes, covered buttons, eyelets, and popper buttons for you on the spot at a very reasonable price.  What’s more, you’ll likely see a genuine side of Parisian sewing life: young men and women with their cosplay outfits, independent fashion designers, young sewists with their tote bags, and clever seamstresses bringing their latest self-made winter coats, all of them know the best address for stress-free, perfectly professional finishing touches.

You’ll need to have the placement of the buttonholes marked on your finished garment, know the size of the buttonhole you need (take your buttons) and your piece of fabric chosen for covered buttons.

As always, bon voyage!

PS: the fabulous vintage Rhodoid buttons in the top photograph (and the single button picture) are from La Droguerie in Paris.

La Clarière in Paris has vintage mother-of-pearl buttons and gave us the old French Post bag.

 

 

 

Bohin: prized needles

The village of St Sulpice sur Risle is a picturesque little corner of rural Normandy on the banks of the river Risle not far from Aigle. There may even be a haystack or two nearby but you won’t have any trouble finding needles there because it’s the home of the Bohin factory that has been making perfectly smooth sewing needles for almost 185 years. Bohin is the last European manufacturer of sewing notions; needles of every sort, from embroidery needles and glass tipped needles to needles for silk flower makers, taxidermists and sail makers, pins, safety pins and more. They have expanded their range of needlework necessities and kept up with trends to ensure this factory flourishes and the rich heritage of French specialty manufacturing continues.Photo 18-06-16, 1 58 35 PM

For a wonderful day trip you can visit the Bohin factory and museum to see the workshops where needles are being made, learn about the history and tradition of Bohin and buy ever so special Made in France souvenirs from the shop. There is also a needlecraft exhibition space. The factory is about 2 hours from Paris by car, or you can travel by train to Aigle and from the station take a short taxi ride, or make the walk of about 3 kilometres to Saint Sulpice sur Risle. You might like to picnic at one of the spots alongside the river and admire the Normandy cows on the opposite bank.

Opening hours in 2017 from 11 Feb to 5 November, Tuesday to Friday 10am to 6pm, Closed Mondays and on 1 May.

Weekends and Public Holidays open 2pm to 6pm.

We strongly recommend that if you can, plan your visit for a weekday when the factory staff are working the machines so that you see the needle making in action. On weekends the manufacturing process is shown on video screens beside the machines.

More details about the museum and factory, exhibitions and visiting hours here.

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Photo 18-06-16, 2 40 00 PMThe Bohin brand is well respected by sewists and embroiderers around the globe; the needles known for being high quality with exceptional polish so that they glide through fabric, making them a favourite of French tailors. The Bohin manufacturing expertise has been growing since 1833 when the factory was established. At the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1889 when Monsieur Eiffel was feted for his magnificent tower the Bohin manufacturing company won a Gold Medal for their needles, and again in 1900 at the next Parisian Exposition Universelle for which the Grand and Petit Palais were constructed, Bohin won the Grand Prize for their needles. At the same exhibition other gold medal winners included Campbell’s Soup.

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