Monday, September 22, 2014

Paris Fabric Shopping


This summer, I took a grand tour of London, Brussels, and Paris with my son. Better late than never -- I finally got around to writing my Paris fabric shopping experience!

Sooooo, here goes.  I stayed in the heart of Montmartre, knowing that the fabric district was here. The awesome apartment I rented was on the top of Montmartre hill, just a mere 3-minute walk from the gorgeous Sacré-Cœur. 

Just another 3 minutes away, found the fabric district. Since I had a hard time finding it, though it was pretty obvious and easy once I found it,  I thought I'd show you how to get there in case you are in Paris for fabric shopping for the first time. (I myself searched on the web a bit, but couldn't figure out until I found a blog post -- sad to say, I can't remember which blog post that was.)

Let's start from the nearest metro station. I think Anvers on line 2 is the easiest to get here.  It is also an easy walking distance from Abbesses on line 12, or any station that is near Sacré-Cœur.  Any station your guidebook says to get off to go to Sacré-Cœur will do. 

From Anvers station on line 2, once you are on the ground, you'll see a street filled with souvenir shops. The block starts with this store with lots of bargain bins of clothing. Do not get sucked in here.... at least not yet. Until you get to the fabric stores!

Walk a block, maybe two, straight on that souvenir shops street and at the end of the street you'll be greeted with:

 Oh, so gorgeous Sacré-Cœur .You will see a carousel on the left here. Again, do not get sucked in here -- not right now since we are headed to the fabric district now. 

Also, just to the left, there is the Funicular. I know, it looks like a lot of fun but don't get on it, yet!

Turn to your right, and you'll see this!
This is one of the largest stores here, almost taking up the entire block, it seemed like. Four or five floors of fabrics : )  Well organized and spacious. 

Uh huh. 6.90 Euros per meter. Beautiful cotton. Great, already. Right? 

Store staff always around to help you. If you want any fabric cut, they are right there to do that for you. They will write up a ticket with the cut fabric, and you take them both to the cashier booth to pay when you are all done.
  But, be patient. Wait.....  I'll tell you why in a second.

Oooo, so tempting! I want to buy them all.  But, wait!

Because -- there are "Soldes" and "Coupons" we haven't looked at.  I quickly learned these two sexy words.  Soldes means "Sale!" and coupons are pre-cut remnants which are almost always 3 meters long. That's just about 3.1/4 yards. 

Many 'coupons' are further marked down by 20%, 30%, and 50%.  Ahhhmmmaazing deals, right? Sooooo, if you see what you really like, you'd better buy it right there since trying to come back and find it is almost definitely impossible.

 There are just tons of fabric stores.  Some carry only special types of fabrics, some just 'coupons'. There are two big stores here, Marche Saint-Pierre and Reine. These stores have fabric bolts inside, and some bargain fabrics and coupons outside.

Then, there are stores that sell just coupons.
Most of these stores have a very organized approach.

  But during the day, as the fabrics get picked and picked, the stands start to look like this.

Nevertheless, these pre-cut remnants, "coupons", are a great deal.  This is the only true bargain I found in my trip to Paris and London! Everything else was expensive especially with the weaker US dollars. If you visit there, you'll know what I mean.  Amazing deals, amazing prints and patterns, amazing quality fabrics!

Lots and lots of high quality cotton, rayon, silk, even high quality polyester. Most of these pre-cut 'coupons' are marked, identifying what type of fabric it is. That's handy, in case your hand can't really tell. 

Mmmmmm. This is one cotton fabric I left behind.  The one with vines, purple and orange fruit/flowers. It's cotton, and I just didn't know what I'd do with it.  Sweet pattern~!
There are also so many different kinds of silk.  Here, it says 'pure soie'.

Since the area was right near the apartment I was staying, I went there almost daily. For a week.  This store, MOLINE, became my favorite store.  Their selections are luscious, lots of varieties, prices amazing, well-organized wagons.

Almost, I almost bought this pink polka dots. Crisp cotton. Just didn't think I'd wear something that required constant ironing, so I left it behind. Haha.
Ohhhhh, look at these cute bird design and colors!  Only if I were a quilter.

Moline's cash register is guarded by this madam.  I wish I took photos of her daily. On another day, she was in beautiful blue, head to toe, immaculately coordinated in cobalt blue. 

The cotton she is handling here just screams for men's shirt, don't you think?  I bought it for my sweetie. I will make a shirt for him. (Don't ask when, but I plan to, well, soon.)
And a few luscious cotton and rayon jersey.  I love knit fabrics.
I noticed that in many stores there, (not limited to fabric stores but other stores, too), once you shop and are given tickets for the items you are going to purchase and you go to the cash register, it's almost always "womanned" by a mature woman. Only the queen of the shop is handling money.

Here is one I loved but left behind.....  Beautiful silk...... what type of silk is it?  It had a smooth and a little shiny surface, definitely a bit heavier than chiffon but not much. Although it was a 'coupon', the price wasn't low (though still a super deal). I felt I wasn't an experienced enough sewer to make this purchase worthwhile at this time. So, I just have to go back to Paris to get something like this when I have more confidence in sewing!

I did pick up the beautiful blue silk with red/pink flowers! And the purple one underneath. Just couldn't resist. I think I'll make a blouse or two. These were lower in price than the one above.

 More shops.......

Of course, there were many more stores. I was going there almost daily for a week, spending at least an hour or two each time. Still, I couldn't visit them all.

So, this is what I came home with. Three on the left are silk. The white with grey dots, red flowers, blue/yellow/brown check shirting are cotton, the rest are cotton or rayon/poly knit.

Here, some knits, some suiting fabrics and a stretch denim.

Because of a traumatic sewing experience in the past (some 25 years ago on a crummy sewing machine), I have not sewn anything with silky thin fabrics. I stayed awaaaaaay from them.  But these three spoke to me so much that I picked them up.  : )

On the last day shopping there, I found two other knit fabrics I really loved.  But since I was getting rather concerned about the space in our suitcases and the weight of the fabric (do you know how heavy those jersey fabrics can get?!), I left them behind.  Ohhhh, what a shame! I sew and wear knits all the time. That's my favorite fabric to wear and to work with. I did end up having enough space after all in my bags (barely) for a few more items.  Oh, well.  Another time.

Now, this was all from the discount fabric district. The quality and the prices of what I saw were excellent. I also hear there are fabric shops (or a district?) where you can buy truly high-end designer fabrics. I will find and hit that next time. (Yes, I said it. NEXT TIME!)

Lessons and advices.
1) If you are looking at 'coupons' and find something you like, get it. Trying to come back and find it later is almost always impossible.

2) It helps tremendously to bring samples of some other fabrics you have that you want to match colors/tones/weight. There are SO MANY fabrics you see there, and you think you remember the color or weight of the fabric you are after, but after seeing so many, your vision and memory just go blur.

3) Fabric can get real heavy. So do groceries and other treasures you may be buying. Some locals and experienced visitors in Montmartre had wheeled shopping bags. I'll have one next time if I stay in Montmartre again (likely).  Montmartre is hilly, and the bag you are carrying seems to get heavier and heavier! I was also glad about the elevator in my apartment.

4) I like to travel light, so I usually only carry a carry-on size suitcase and stuff a large empty duffel bag in my suitcase because I will definitely shop and go home heavier.  Fabric isn't breakable, so a duffel bag is just perfect. On the way home, I'll check in the large duffel bag with non-breakables. If I end up stuffing my suitcase with heavy items and I just don't want to carry it on with me, I'd like to check the suitcase in as well. International flights <used to> always allows for two check-in luggage.

5) Above strategy always works for me. HOWEVER, I noticed that lately most airlines are limiting to ONE check-in luggage even on international flights unless you pay an extra charge. (What's up with that?!!) This time, I was traveling with my son and on the way back -due to my fabric shopping and my son's cookie shopping- we ended up with an extra shopping bag. Now, we have two small suitcases and a duffel bag, and a large shopping bag. (in addition to a backpack each of us was carrying) We were fortunate enough that the airline we flew on from Paris - Turkish Air - allowed for two check-in luggage each person. So, we checked in two suitcases and the duffel bag. The shopping bag contained overflow items and some fragile items, so we carried it on.  In retrospect, if an airline is only allowing one check-in, I'm going to bring a half empty larger <regular size> suitcase rather than a small carry-on size, and will stuff my treasures (mostly fabrics, right!?) in that check-in size suitcase. That way, we wouldn't have to carry and keep track of so many pieces of luggage. (Ok, so we left with a suitcase and a small backpack each. Came home with two suitcases, two backpacks, a duffel bag, and a huge shopping bag. Doesn't sound like a lot, but when you are trying to figure out where to check in, where the security gate is, where your connecting flight is, at the same time wanting to browse more shops at the airport, it's a lot to keep track of.)

Ok, probably more details than you ever wanted to know.  But I myself always appreciate all the nitty-gritty details. So there you have it!


  1. Thank you for the wonderful virtual tour. All the enjoyment and no sore feet! I don't know how you managed to make decisions and choose fabrics - I still am like a rabbit caught in the headlights when there's too much to choose from. Looking forward to seeing what you make. Thanks again for sharing a wonderful post - and glad you had a great holiday with your son.

    1. Oh, it was very difficult not to grab everything I saw. I just keep asking myself the same question, 'will I wear this and will it go well with what I have?' Yes, I'd better get busy and actually sew using the fabrics I purchased in Paris! Thank you for stopping by.

  2. Thank you for the pictures and all the details--I just gasped in happiness when I saw all the options.

    It looks like you and your son had a wonderful time. I hope that you had time to do touristy stuff.

    Rose in SV

    1. We did some touristy stuff, but the best experience while in Paris was the concert at St. Chapelle. Such a magnificent place, and the concert was absolutely fantastic. Just next door to Notre Dame, yet not many visit. And, of course, for me, the highlight was the fabric shopping!