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Hélène Carleschi, animatrice du patrimoine © Soierie vivante
Visite de l'atelier de passementerie © Soierie Vivante
Les métiers à tisser présentés © Soierie Vivante
© Soierie vivante
© Soierie Vivante
© Soierie Vivante

Discovering the heritage of the Canuts

Hélène Carleschi, heritage coordinator for the Soierie Vivante association

Bringing an old weaving workshop in the Croix-Rousse area back to life, teaching children to use looms, and explaining the heritage of Lyon's silk workers, or 'Canuts': Soierie Vivante pays homage to the silk tradition - an astonishing world waiting to be discovered!

What activities does Soierie Vivante have to offer?

For twenty years now, we have been giving people the opportunity to discover a weaving workshop as well as immerse themselves in the lives of Lyon's silk workers, the Canuts. We offer visits for adults and introductory weaving courses for children. During visits, we use two of our four looms that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, and go over the entire history of the Canuts. Children's workshops are held during the holidays; they get to do some weaving on small looms and take home their own creations: bags, scarves or cushions.

What sort of things can be learnt about the history of silk in Lyon during the visit?

The visit covers the entire history of silk! We tell people how silks arrived from Italy and Spain during major trade fairs held in Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) in the 15th century, how the first manufacture was created by an inhabitant from the Piémont area in 1466, then the golden age of silk under the reign of François I then Louis XIV. In those days, French castle owners bought their silks from weavers in Lyon! The French revolution proved a setback for weavers, but the industry developed once again under the Empire. Owing to lack of space in Vieux Lyon, weavers settled in the Croix-Rousse area. This district thus became the Canuts' district, some of which are still contributing to Lyon's reputation today.

What Canut heritage has Lyon retained

The most visible heritage is obviously the architecture of the famous Canut buildings in the Croix-Rousse area: apartments with very high ceilings to accommodate the looms, and large windows to let in the daylight. In those days, families lived in their workshops, sleeping above their work area on mezzanines.

On a national scale, we also have the Canuts to thank for the first private health insurance, a support organisation that gathered together all silk-related professions such as weavers and traders…

What about Lyon's current silk production? 

We have retained real silk-working expertise, with a huge amount of weavers in Lyon and the surrounding area. Companies such as Prelle or Tassinari & Chatel supply their wares to leading couturiers, but also to the White House, and the Elysée palace. The unique feature of this sector is that some artisans are still working on old looms, such as those we present. This trade is still very much a craft.

  

His Lyonnais favourites:

Where's the best place to enjoy an andouillette and a quenelle?
At the Bouchon des Filles, on the way to Place des Terreaux.

Where's the best place for a romantic stroll?
In the Croix-Rousse area, towards  Jardin des Chartreux  park, for the magnificent view over Lyon!        

Where's the best place to meet "real" Lyonnais people?
Here, at  Soierie Vivante , our volunteers are all from Lyon, and extremely proud of their heritage!

Where's the best place to party?
At Les Platanes, a bar in the hills in the Croix-Rousse area, a very friendly place which hosts concerts on a very regular basis.

Where's the best place to buy a souvenir of Lyon?
At the Souvenirs de Lyon store as you go up the Grande Côte, a pretty little shop that sells a whole host of things, including Lyon's famous puppets.

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Lyon City Card The visit of the Soierie Vivante weaving workshops is included in the Lyon City Card