You may know that Lyon is France’s gastronomic capital, but did you know that it was once famed as the capital of the French silk weaving industry? A visit to the workshop and museum of Maison des Canuts uncovers this surprising heritage. When visiting Lyon, this is not to be missed.
It’s a joy to explore. In the early 19th century, the Napoleonic era led to French fashion changing and exotic silk fabrics and designs being in high demand. Specialist weavers, known as Canuts, skilled in the use of the Jacquard loom, established silk weaving as Lyon’s major industry. It’s estimated that by the mid 1800s, about 100,000 looms were in operation.
A demonstration of the workings of the looms is mind blowing. The full-size looms are a perplexing array of cords and threads. Cards denoting the complex designs are followed with meticulous skill.
The looms are worked by hand and foot pedals in a bewildering combination of intricate expertise.
The results are exquisite.
Guided tours are available in English and take about 50 minutes for both the workshop and museum. Scarfs and small silk items are available for sale in the boutique. The stunning ribbon selection in particular took our eye.
This is one of those surprise discoveries well worth exploring.