Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Day in Mulhouse, France, Part 2: The DMC Archives

After touring the DMC factory in the morning and having lunch in the company cafeteria, we drove into the City of Mulhouse, which houses the archives of DMC.
We were met by Marcel, who was our guide for the afternoon.  He was absolutely passionate about his subject and his work, and yet we were still able to wear him out with our endless questions and enthusiasm!  His English was very good, luckily for us.

This is a characteristic pose, Marcel bringing out volumes or boxes of interest to show us.  This was where he started us, in a room housing original objects from the very first days of the company.

Jean Luc and Michel, our hosts from the morning, were with us.  The oil portrait is of the founder, I believe.

This is the only machine of its kind extant in the world, very old.  I am not sure what it does, but the blown glass thread guides totally intrigued me.  Marcel almost had a heart attack when I touched one.  After that, I was careful not to touch unless given explicit permission!
He recovered very quickly, though.  ;-)

If you look closely, you can see these designs were used to block print onto fabric...use your imagination, and those sprigged French florals from the early 1800's come to mind.

This is an engraved copper roller, also also used to print fabric, but later.

Above it was a framed panel of the fabric printed with the roller.  (Sorry for the reflection of the overhead lighting.  And by the way, this entire tour was underground...literally in the Vaults!  There was no damaging sunlight anywhere, and of course, temperature and humidity were carefully controlled.)

This lady was a key figure in DMC history, Madame Therese de Dilmont.  She wrote the first seminal encyclopedia of needlework in the later 1800's, which has been translated into I forget how many languages and I believe is still in print. 

There is a framed photograph of her needlework school in Paris.

The archives contained much more than needlework samples, which was my preconception going in.  The threads manufactured and company history through the centuries are all documented and archived, from the company's beginning in 1746.  This is just one of countless thread cards.

Marcel opened it up for us and these rayon threads were as vibrant as if they were made yesterday.
And note those drawers in the photo...what was in them?

This is what!
We didn't have time to go through all the drawers, alas....

There were also countless volumes of original designs.  This one is hand drawn, of course.  I'm guessing the lettering was done with both pencil and a quill pen.

Eventually designs were printed in volumes like this.  There are thousands of such volumes in the archive.

There were display cases on the way to the actual vaults that had threads and the embroidery created from them.

This I believe is size #12 perle, the same as we use today.

And now...deep into the vaults we go....

Marcel would spin these handles and an aisle between the vaults would open up.  It was a great system.  Otherwise they are closed, saving space and preventing their contents' exposure to light.

 These are all boxes of thread samples.

Marcel enjoyed showing us this SOLID GOLD and SILVER thread!

But on to the Black Frames.  These themselves could easily take a week's time to study, at the very least.

 The Black Frames, of which there are over 300, contain needlework examples.

Marcel just pulled out a few to show us how they are organized.
 I snapped pictures as I could, but everything was going by very quickly!

 Each one was amazing.

Some of the work was simply mounted separately, but all categorized, of course!

 There were so many color cards...

This one made me think of crazy quilter Brian Haggard, who as some of you may know, loves to work in sepia and neutral tones.

 There were aisles and aisles of design folios...

Marcel would randomly pull one from the shelf and open it to something like this..handpainted, of course.

 Or this, hand penciled and then sometimes inked.

Or this, more handpainting.

Some of the volumes themselves were breathtaking, like these suede bound books.

\ The were actually very large, maybe 30" tall.

Some of the ends of the textblocks were hand marbled.

I was just about to pass out from all this richness at this point.  Marcel knew it was time to wind up our tour, but not before excitedly showing us this little folio that had just come to the Archives the week before.

It was a swatch book!  From 1807. When he opened it I just wanted to die then and there.

These are the actual cloth samples, pasted in  And again, that writing must be from a quill pen.

Each design was so beautiful to me.

This was inscribed in the back of the little volume.

After we came back up to the archive office "on the surface", Michel, Jean Luc, and Marcel spent a few minutes in rapid French with each other, no doubt glad to not have to struggle with their English with their clearly overwhelmed American ladies.

We gave our heartfelt thanks and bid our good-bye to Marcel, and walked back to the train station where Michel and Jean Luc mercifully bought us glasses of wine before putting us back on the train to Paris.

We will never, ever forget our day in Mulhouse.
I am bound and determined to go back and stay there for at least a week.  The Museum of Printed Textiles is in Mulhouse as well, you see....

I will leave you with this little sample of Japanese Embroidery, taken especially for you, Susan Elliott!

My relationship with DMC will begin a new chapter between now and New Year's, as they have very kindly commissioned me to make a small crazy quilt commemorating my impressions and feelings from my trip.

I plan on blogging the entire process here, and am looking forward very much to sharing it with you...
after I get back from Quilt Festival in Houston next week, that is!  I'll post some photos from there too.

I hope you enjoyed a taste of the Archives...!


Millie said...

How lovely! Thank you very much for sharing.

sharonb said...

Gosh what a fantastic experience - I am green with envy

Anonymous said...

Dear Allie,
What a great visit to see all those lovely things, special thanks for sharing...

Mosaic Magpie said...

That place is fantastic!!! As much a museum as a thread factory...all those needlework samples. Yes that one thread card did look like something Brian would have...his colors!

Annette-California said...

Spectacular post! I enjoyed every photo - WOW! What a dream trip you had. Thank you so much for sharing with us. LOVE LOVE LOVE all the needlework charts and samples.
love Annette

Suztats said...

Oh, Wow! I think I would have been totally overwhelmed by all the stitching and threads. Fantastic about the commissioned quilt!

Kareen from Iowa said...

What a marvelous experience you have had. Thank you for taking the time to document it and share with the rest of us.

Connie said...

Wow! What a fabulous opportunity. I bet you could have spent days and days in the archives

Magpie's Mumblings said...

I'm overwhelmed just from seeing your pictures - I can't even begin to imagine how you must have felt seeing it all in person. Amazing!!

Linda Steele said...

Thank you for the wonderful photos. I'll appreciate my DMC so much more now.

Dianne said...

Mind blowing! Thank you for the virtual tour. This place has got to go on the bucket list. Your photos are wonderful and I look forward to seeing the CQ you create from your experiences.

Linda H said...

Wow Wow Wow!!! Allie, this must have been the trip of a lifetime for you! I am SO glad you had this wonderful adventure! Can't think of a person more deserving! And thanks for sharing with us so we could enjoy it too!

Charlene ♥ NC said...

What a breathtaking experience! Look forward to seeing your commissioned project.

Pamela Kellogg said...

Oh Allie, Oh! That's all I can say. Oh! Everything is so beautiful and wonderful! How I would love to be able to see that all in person. Not only do I have a passion for needlework but I adore the historical aspect of it as well!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing all these awesome photos with us. I can only imagine how wonderful it was for you!

Hugs, Pam

Moonsilk Stitches said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It's just amazing and, you're right, I'd been taking it for granted. It's wonderful to know that they take their history so seriouly and preserve it so carefully.

Yvonne said...

Oh, thank you for sharing all that! Wow! I could relate when you said "about to pass out" from all the visual splendor and sense of history. A one-of-a-kind trip, for sure!

Rebecca Grace said...

Okay, now I've had time to go back through this post more slowly and really savor it all -- I was skimming the first time. Goodness -- REAL solid gold and silver thread? You know, I always wondered about that because the "silver" and "gold" metallic threads we buy today are so obviously synthetic, yet I've seen references to gold and silver threads in multiple historical documents, literature, etc. and wondered what they could have been referring to. I wonder if you can even buy thread like that today, at any price? I'm looking forward to seeing the special crazy quilt you create for DMC. Thank you SO much for sharing all of this!

secondhandrose said...

Wow, what a magnificent place. Thanks for sharing your experiences there. I, too am green with envy.

Judy S. said...

How fun! Thanks for sharing your wonderful tour.

Mii Stitch said...

WOW!!! I am French (now living in UK) but always wondered if company tours were available at my favourite thread factory!!! What an honour, you guys were truly lucky. It must have been so interesting & overwhelming too :)

Susan Elliott said...

WOW!!!!!! I am so grateful that you put this post together. I know how long that can take. Just like you need to go back there again, I'll have to re-visit this post again and again. I was glad to meet Ms. Therese de Dilmont. And to see all of the amazing examples...and thank you for the Japanese one. It's very different from anything I've seen in Japan. I wonder if it was stitched during the European craze for Japonisme and it was actually stitched by a European? Anyhow, there is so much here to excite and delight. I noticed the Lion Rampant chart as well...I could have used that a few weeks ago!

What an amazing trip. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving girl. I think I would need to take an oxygen tank in with me for hyperventilation. It's hard enough just reading the post.

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Unknown said...

Dear Allie,

what an amazing opportunity! Thanks so much for sharing. I will be going on holidays near Mulhouse and I am trying to find out if there is anything to see there as an embroiderer. I guess the factory isn't open for general public, but is there something else you would recommend?

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