A Weavers’ Road Trip: Maurice Brassard et fils

IMG_8070It ain’t easy being a weaver.

Knitters, crocheters, quilters—you all usually have access to yarns and fabrics and textiles somewhere near where you live. Even if it’s a big-box craft or fabric store, usually there is someplace you can go to touch and fondle and squeeze the object of your desires.

Many, many weavers are not so fortunate. Stores dedicated to weaving are rare and located in far-flung places. We can go to local yarn shops (if there is one!) but most yarn that is designed for knitting and crocheting is not suitable for weaving—it’s often stretchy, often bulky.

So weavers are very dependent on the internet and on catalogs. And thank heaven for those shops, the places like Yarn Barn of Kansas, Halcyon Yarns, and the Woolery! A weaver can buy a set of sample cards to guide purchases and get beautiful things delivered to her door.

But, as anyone knows who works with fibers or textiles or any art supplies, there’s nothing like going into a well-stocked store and browsing the aisles, wandering the rows, and touching everything.

For that reason, my husband and I took the long-ish road trip to the small-ish town of Plessisville, Quebec, to visit Maurice Brassard et fils, makers of weaving supplies and home of LeClerc looms.

Yummy!

The round trip took us seven hours by car and isn’t one we will do often but the experience was so worth having! Just look!

I’d say that Maurice Brassard is primarily set up as a wholesale operation. We knew going in that we could buy these yarns at any of the on-line shops we use. The retail store has a warehouse feel—bins of yarns organized by fiber and by color—with little done in the way of presentation or marketing.

The shop is open to retail buyers but doesn’t really cater to them. Buyers are left alone to ramble and gawk, no one hovers and offers input. The whole place closes for an hour and a half at lunch and for two weeks in the summer. The checkout process is more time-consuming and old-fashioned than you find in most retail shops and, much to our shock, they don’t accept credit cards!

It was also a bit of a setback for us, English-only Americans, that only one person who works there, in the office and not in the showroom, spoke English at all. We didn’t get to ask many questions.

And, yet. . . . color and abundance and sheen and variety know no language.

It was such a luxury to walk around and see these fibers! To be able to see and touch the rich texture of the chenille and the unbleached linen. To be able to pick up a cone of color and walk around with it and hold it up next to other colors, instead of operating from little scraps attached to a sample card—I think I was hyper-ventilating!

Maurice Brassard et fils also purchased the long-established LeClerc loom company in 1995, so the showroom was a place to see and try a number of loom models, as well as to be able to handle and purchase other weaving tools. Again, this was a huge thrill for us—we’ve only seen new looms in catalogs or online!

We might’ve been a little overwhelmed. We might have gotten a little carried away. We might’ve had autumn on our brains when we chose our colors.

We didn’t buy a loom but bought plenty of yarn. With not nearly enough cash on hand, we made a flying visit to a bank and got back just before the shop closed for the long lunch break.

It was a long day—nine hours on the road.

We drove home via the rolling hills of rural Quebec, where the ancient barns are clad in weathered cedar shakes and every house has a huge hydrangea bush, showing the subdued colors of approaching fall.

We brought back lots of lovely work to keep us busy and happy and creative through the long North Country winter.

Our senses were filled, to capacity and beyond. We will struggle to go back to choosing yarns from a catalog or computer screen but still feel fortunate to have that option. And we will know that Maurice Brassard et fils is only a road trip away.

It ain’t easy being a weaver . . . but it’s good.IMG_8084

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49 thoughts on “A Weavers’ Road Trip: Maurice Brassard et fils

  1. My go to was Halcyon’s when I weaved but I never physically visited their store. What fun you had and the fact both you and Don are weavers makes it doubly fun. The no credit card scenario would be tough, I would have done the same thing, run to the bank.

    I love your palette, it’s delicious and fresh. I look forward to see it transformed into fabric!

    • I buy from Halcyon, too, and plan to visit their store when we go to Maine next month–I bet I’ll write a blog post about it!! It’s actually dangerous that Don and I are both weavers–we egg each other on with buying stuff!

  2. It certainly sounds like an enjoyable and productive road trip! Great color selections. Glad to hear you didn’t buy another loom!

  3. My husband and I have just been given two beautiful woven shawls from Nepal. The yarn is made from recycled plastic bottles. Did you find any yarn made from recycled plastic bottles? 😉 The colours you have chosen are very similar to the colours in our shawls. So am I on trend for once? 😀 What a wonderful shopping expedition for you both; it made a great yarn, too.

    • You are super trendy (well, assuming we bought trendy colors)–what a wonderful gift to have received! Regarding yarn from plastic bottles–I have read about it but am not sure where to buy it. Brassards did have a yarn that looked and felt quite wool-like but was made of polypropelene–I need to do some research!

  4. That’s my kind of shop. If your blog hadn’t already been enough to show me that weaving’s an excellent and fulfilling craft to pursue, a visit to this place certainly would have done. I love places that exist to promote the love of the products they purvey, shops that seem more eager to share knowledge and enthusiasm than to make money. I’ll bet it does make money though. You won’t be the only ones making a nine hour trip to visit them. I love it that they’re unworldly enough not to bother their heads with credit cards and all the flummery of 21st century life. Brilliant.

    • Oh, I think they make lots of money, mostly through selling as wholesalers to other weaving shops. But really, the whole place was intoxicating! It makes me wish I could weave all day, every day, and that I had started 40 years ago!

    • Do you have weaving stores near you? This is the first one I’d been to and I was a bit stunned. We plan to go to the Halcyon Yarn retail store in Maine next month–I’m already drooling . . .

  5. I would think your first thought was – one of everything, please. When I wove I was fortunate to live near weaving stores – in Philadelphia; Lexington, Kentucky; and the Yarn Barn in Lawrence, Kansas. If you’re interested, I can see what weaving yarns I have left you might want as a donation.

  6. The thing that amazed me the most was that French was spoken almost exclusively in the store. I thought Quebec was bi-lingual. So much for my knowledge about Canada! I imagine much of their on-line trade is in English if they are sending all over Canada and the US……..

    Any-hoo; the second intriguing thing [after the shock of no credit card facility] was the richness of the colours – when I had my brief stint at loom weaving [back in the 70’s when we were all children of the earth] the colours available were white, cream and shades of brown to black. 🙂 Way more fun now!

    I love the palette you selected and can’t wait to see what you do with them all. xo

    • Don’t feel bad for not knowing, most people don’t know Quebec is almost exclusively french territory 🙂 Sherbrooke and Montreal areas are more bilingual, but mostly everything else outside of that is like 90% french.

    • The colors are phenomenal–a little overwhelming, to be honest. How does one choose? And, though I knew that Quebec would be mostly French-speaking, I was surprised that a store of this stature didn’t have someone who was more fluent in English but, like I wrote, this is a minor sideline, I think, of a huge wholesale operation. They have a website that is English or French but even it is pretty rudimentary. They let the colors speak for themselves, I guess!

  7. What a great trip! Thanks for writing it up so we can see this place. It’s fascinating how the internet has made it possible to get things we might not have been able to, but it means we lose that experience of wandering around feeling things. I was so glad to find a purveyor of good felt, but how nice it would be to wander into the shop! Can’t wait to see what you do with those colors!!!.

    • One of the reasons I wanted to write the post was that I was looking for a review of the store before we made the trip and couldn’t find anything that helped me know what to expect. Maybe other weavers will find something of use here. But, really, if we didn’t have access to online resources, we would hardly be able to weave at all!

    • I don’t know how we made decisions and I don’t know, really, how we’ll combine those colors in our weaving. This is the most difficult part of weaving for me–predicting how the fabric will look once warp and weft mix. It NEVER looks like I think it will!

  8. You have started weaving at the “wrong time”! Back in the Dark Ages, when weaving was popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s there were quite a few weaving related stores to enjoy! I got a fiber degree when we lived near Boston and there were several within an easy drive. I’m trying to remember the linen place near Boston; I was there a lot.
    Earth Guild is in Asheville and that was in Cambridge when I went to college in Boston! They have a lot of fiber related goodies to enjoy, but it’s nothing like the old store was.
    When we were in Gatlinburg, and I forgot to mention this, I enjoyed Smokey Mountain Spinnery there. It had potholder looms to floor looms and a lot of fibers and beautiful samples. It was great fun!
    Anyway, thanks for sharing the delicious photos. How fun to have your husband be a weaver and not just an admirer.

    • I just bought some yarn from Earth Guild, I think! It’s funny how crafts like weaving go through trends–get popular, die out. Quilting is the “in” craft right now, I guess. Maybe I’ll start planning vacations around where the weaving store are! We’re going to Maine soon and I know Halcyon Yarns is there . . .

  9. What a super trip! I am sure it was truly worth the long ride to and from. I love finding interesting shops like this that pertain to our hobbies. This one is truly amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    • It was definitely worth the trip, although we won’t be going once a month or anything! So many yarn shops are really knitting/crocheting shops so it was a thrill to go somewhere really focused on what we love to do!

  10. Being from Quebec myself, this is where I get all my weaving thread. Although the buisness is a little old fashionned, they have pretty reasonnable prices and a great selection. Their company is a must for every weaver around 🙂

  11. I have only recently become aware of this company and will definitely look for their yarns in U.S. stores. I understand they carry 20/2 colored mercerized cotton and since UKI discontinued dying that size, I’ve missed a source.

    • I think the company has a good reputation for fine yarns–I know they are sold through all the places like the Woolery and Yarn Barn of Kansas. Good luck finding what you need!

  12. You must have been feeling like a kid in a candystore, I love all those colours! Maybe you are able to buy supplies only, but I think shopping in an actual store is so much more fun. Happy weaving, and a lovely weekend to you.

  13. I can feel your excitement from your post! I feel like that in a fabric shop. 😄 I enjoyed the little insight of the shop there. The only thing I miss ,is not being able to feel the thread.

    • Feeling the thread is more than half the fun! It’s funny, even though I make quilts sometimes, i don’t get so worked up in a fabric store and I’ve never really had a stash of fabric. I think I come up with the idea for the quilt first and then go find the fabric. That’s not how it has worked with weaving so far!

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