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Marie Schoefer, musée des tissus
Façade - Art et Décoration du jardin du Musée des Tissus

The Fabric Museum

Marie Schoefer, manager of the restoration workshop of the Fabric Museum

Marie Schoefer manages a restoration workshop at the Musée des Tissus (Fabric Museum). Her eyes sparkle as she speaks; her enthusiasm for the superb items displayed here is contagious. The Museum's rooms are packed with magnificent, unique items, each with a fascinating story to tell 

How did you become a restorer?

I found some of my grandmothers'clothes up in the family loft. I wondered, “Why can't we restore these, like we do for paintings?” I then trained in Switzerland at the Abbeg Foundation. Upon my return in 1978, I was the first textile restorer inFrance.


How was the Fabric Museum created?

The Museum was founded by the Chamber of Commerce in the late 19th century. Its President, Mr Aynard sought to create a fabric library for Lyon's textile engineers, similar to that at the Museum of London, in order to improve our knowledge of the history of textiles.
To begin with, the textiles were not restored but instead framed. France's first restoration workshop opened in 1986.

How far back do the museum's oldest exhibits date?

The Coptic collections from the third century, as extensive as those in the Louvre, were obtained during excavations at Antinoe in Egypt, where the sarcophagi held a wealth of treasures: the fish tapestry, the long-sleeved caftan or the Persian-influenced leggings. Just imagine how these clothes looked when they were pure white. Their off-white colour comes from deterioration of cellulose.

Continue through the huge carpet and rug room, with its slightly slanting walls (to spread the load of the carpets, avoiding them becoming deformed due to their weight) until you reach the mediaeval rooms on the first floor.

As a restorer, what are your favourite items here?

These exhibition rooms are packed with magnificent unique items, each with its own fascinating story to tell. They have been worn by historical characters and bear witness to the way of life and the costumes of bygone ages, and to sophisticated weaving techniques!

For example just take a look at the complex velvet on a three coloured chasuble threaded with gold fromItaly, where the master weavers were to be found.

Sicilian textiles dating from the 12th and 13th centuries were produced from silk tapestries and gold thread, made from intestine membranes coated with gold leaf then woven. This is what was known as gut thread.

Don't miss the doublet of Charles de Blois dating from 1364, which was preserved after his death and became a relic after his beatification. It is very rare to find civil clothing so well preserved. Made from Persian silk, a luxury product at the time, this ceremonial garment was intended to be worn under a suit of armour, to enable Charles de Blois to remove his armour and head directly for the festivities after the battle!

The Tree of Jesse is the world's best-preserved item. These English embroideries, which were much sought after in Europe, were frequently ordered by royal courts and the Church. However, the specimen stored here in Lyonis absolutely unrivalled.

The portrait which decorated the bed of Diane de Poitiers at the Château d'Anet portrays her with Henry II and Catherine de Médicis, watching the death of the bear.

In what condition do the costumes arrive?

It varies. Some of them are in very good condition, while others are totally threadbare. Others have been transformed, disassembled and reassembled at different periods. We try to interpret the traces of the remaining garment to understand what we need to do with it.

When was the golden age of the Lyon silk industry?

Back in the 18th century, the glory years of the Lyon silk trade, the silk manufactures supplied the wardrobe for Empress Josephine, of which the museum still has a superb specimen today. Josephine had around 200 dresses produced each year and regularly invited friends to hand them out as gifts!

There's so much to learn and to see…

Before you go, why not drop into the Museum Shop which is packed with books, silk items, decorations and gift ideas to suit every pocket.

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Lyon City Card The admission to the Fabric Museum is included in the Lyon City Card

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