Blois, a lovely historic city in the heart of France, has many wonders to offer. One of them is the Langlois Manufacture. This House was founded in 1885 and is still using a rare and precious technique: the needle tapestry.
I have met with Carole Redais, its new director
Interview by Claire de Pourtalès
All the pictures are copyrights-protected for Langlois Manufacture. Thank you
It all started with a small haberdashery shop, owned by Mrs. Gagnot-Sausse. She discovered the old knowledge of repairing a tapestry with a needle. Her idea worked wonders and success followed. She had to invent a method for her customers who wished to create their own tapestry with a needle. This technique (“Tramage”) is still used today.
In 1883, the Langlois family bought the place and will own it for 4 generations.
In 2015, Carole Redais became its new owner.
Silk panel restored – Chateau de Sully © Langlois Manufacture
Motif on canvas © Langlois Manufacture
Carole was born in Haute Savoie. After a degree in Arts, she studied what is called in France the Brevet des Métiers d’Art (BMA) or Art and Craft Degree. She chose Tapestry Restauration and studied in Aubusson.
Her first job was with Chevalier Conservation where she acquired a special habilitation to work for National Museums. She then decided to widen her knowledge by working with Bobin Tradition, where she had access to national orders (special orders from the State).
In 2012, she answered an offer made by Mr. Langlois, who was looking for a restauration specialist. He told her when they met that he was also looking for someone to take over the Manufacture. For 3 years, Carole learned how to use the Tramage technique (mentioned above), and when she felt ready, she became the new director and owner of the old House.
She works with 6 other women, one being a designer, one an accountant. Every one of them has her specialty, and they are all pieceworkers. It is difficult to find young apprentices – they either do not have enough experience or too many diplomas!
The house works most on restoring old works and on orders. For the last ones, the kits which are available can have different progress on them: you can get them “tramée” meaning the whole design is threaded vertically on the fabric, “contour tramé”, where only the borders are threaded, or “indiqué” meaning you have only a few indications to help you. The stitcher has to complete the work with half stitches, cross stitches or Gobelin Stitches.
Traditional embroidery usually works on a fabric as a background. With tapestry all the fabric is covered, there is no background. All the work is made with a needle.
Carole Redais working on “tramage” © Langlois Manufacture
The House owns a large stock of wool in all shades. But if needs be, Carole can find her missing shade at Aubusson. She has to order the fabric in Germany or Switzerland as it is unfortunately not made in France anymore.
Restoration in progress on a tapestry © Langlois Manufacture
After the restoration © Langlois Manufacture
Restoration is the main work of the House. When it is possible, the tapestry is detached from its hinges and restored in the workshop on huge looms. As those works are very heavy, the suspension creates tears and changes on the fabric and threads. Sometimes they have moved so much, that the only way to fix them on the loom is to used special needles. For the silk tapestry, Carole uses entomologic needles (long and extremely thin needles used to pin insects in collection boxes).
The workshop © Langlois Manufacture
Checking the weaving in situ © Langlois Manufacture
The tapestry techniques have little changed over the centuries. Carole works the same way with a 15th century one (The School of Athens, from the National Assembly in Paris) as with a 1990 one (Music and Danse by Riberzani, Espace Carpaux in Courbevoie.
First you have to dust the piece as dust damages the threads. Then you check the weaving. The weakest points are what is called the “link stitches”. Those are where two threads of different colours intersect, in the back of the tapestry. They are worked last and allow no space to be seen on the front.
Restauration – détails © Manufacture Langlois
When the tapestry cannot be unhooked, you need a solid heart: in Courbevoie, 4 levels of scaffolding were necessary, and Carole needed to work on them for 15 days.
This is far from the idealist image of a fragile and delicate stitcher!
Silk tapestry before restoration – Chateau de Sully © Langlois Manufacture
Silk tapestry after restoration – Chateau de Sully © Langlois Manufacture
Silk tapestry during restoration – Chateau de Sully © Manufacture Langlois
The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire