Traditional linen from the Alsace region of France

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As promised, I’d like to share with you a recent find of mine – a very special fabric called kelsch that is still woven in the traditional way in the Alsace region of France.

kelsch fabric

Kelsch is made from natural plant fibres such as cotton and linen and dyed using natural dyes.  It is hard-wearing, often colourfuly dyed and patterned in plaid designs and surprisingly soft to the touch. Traditionally the cloth was woven in people’s homes and woad was used to make a blue colour and the dye cochineal (which is actually ground up bugs), provided red.  The finished fabric was then used for nearly everything from home furnishings to clothing.

The company that I visited, Tissage Gander claims to be one of the last producers of kelsch in the area.  Michel Gander, the current owner is the seventh generation of this family-run business.

It is such a pity that these traditional companies with all their years of experience and expertise are disappearing as the increasing demand for cheaper fabrics forces material buyers to seek out cheaper suppliers in the Far East leaving European producers in the lurch.  So I was very happy to see a surviving and thriving business and to be warmly welcomed by the Gander family and have the opportunity to peruse the wonderful array of colourful fabrics on offer in their company shop.

Tissage Gander factory shop

The Alsace is a beautiful region of France famous for its white wine.  Fortunately Tissage Gander is located right in the middle of the touristic wine route so a visit to the factory shop can be conveniently fitted in around a wine-tasting or if you’re nature lovers like us, a stop by the nearby stork sanctuary – a wonderful open air protection centre for the endangered storks and other creatures that are naturally found in this corner of the world.

Stork Sanctuary in Hunspach

If you look closely, you can just about see the storks perched in their tree top nests in the above photo.

Anyway, back to the fabric!

In the shop you can buy fabric by the metre or choose from a variety of ready made products ranging from aprons to tea towels and table cloths.

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If you’re buying by the metre, you can have a feel of ready-cut samples that are conveniently hanging by the rolls.  This did make the shopping experience so much easier to be able to touch all of the different types of fabrics, especially as there is such a wide variety available.

fabric sample swatches

The by-the-metre fabrics are available in two widths – 150cm and 180cm and roughly priced around 30 euros per metre.  Not cheap but the quality seems to be very good.

My main purpose for going there was to buy fabric to make messenger bags for my children.  I’m using the messenger bag pattern from the Oliver and S ‘Little things to sew’ book by Liesl Gibson.  I already have the pattern and now the fabric all cut out, waiting to be sewn up.

I gave the choice of which fabric to buy for the bag to my eldest daughter and of course, she was adamant that she had to have the only one that wasn’t available on the shop floor – the one that had been used to cover the sofa in the back of the shop! (see the following photo – the sofa buried below the cushions) Thankfully Mrs. Gander was very accommodating to our needs, even though strictly the shop should have already been closed by this time and she obligingly went off to look in the upstairs storage to find the particular roll of fabric that we wanted.

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It is a linen and cotton blend, 1.5m wide and I bought 1.5m of it and so far I’ve had enough to cut out a bag each for my two daughters and also a reversible apron each (see the following photo) using the Citronille pattern no.96 ‘Elsie’.  This pattern is a really cute and versitile design and so quick and easy to make.

Citronille patterns is a French company that makes patterns for sewing and knitting for adults and children – they also sell yarns and fabrics from their online shop .  The majority of their patterns are only available in French but they do have a small selection translated into English and this was one of them.

Elsie pattern

I pre-washed the material before I made this and it is so soft now.  For the sake of comparison, I made a dress for my daughter in a Japanese Kokka cotton and linen blend which is a really supple fabric but the kelsch is much softer than this.  I’m really happy with it.  I still have a small amount of it left that I would like to squeeze a hat or two out of if possible.  Perhaps the same model that my older daughter is wearing in the photo below, that I made last year – I got the pattern from a Japanese hat pattern book ‘Adults hats and children’s hats’ ISBN 978-4-529-04977-1.

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I made this hat up in an organic hand woven cotton bought online at www.raystitch.co.uk and the brim of the cap is made from a Japanese cotton.  You can’t see in these photos, but it is lined with an organic cream coloured cotton batist.

Unfortunately, Tissage Gander fabrics are not available to buy online but they do have a website

http://www.tissage-gander.fr.

The address of their brick and mortar shop is –

10A, rue de Verdun, 67600 Muttersholtz, France.  Telephone – 0033 (0)3 88 57 75 854

The Atelier de tissage is just around the corner at –

6A, rue de l’Etang, 67600 Muttersholtz, France.  Telephone – 0033 (0)3 88 85 15 32

Both the shop and the Atelier are located in a pretty and quaint little village – not in an unsightly industrial estate – which makes a visit there all the more pleasant!

Well that turned into quite a lengthy post!  I’ve been so busy lately making stuff that I haven’t spent any time blogging about it, so it feels good to finally get this out of the in-tray!

Do you have any fabric producers near you?  I’d love to hear about them if you do.

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