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