The north of France is the traditional area for textile and thread production. Among the most mythical of thread brands, Fil Au Chinois, a brand which would have disappeared without the tenacity of two manufacturers, Olivier and Bruno Toulemonde, who bought it in 2007. In collusion with Frédérique Crestin-Billet, all the packaging was revised and new products created. Even if the brand has a particular connotation at present, the brand Fil au Chinois is very old: it dates from the 19th century, a time when orientalism was very much in fashion. This vintage formulation “Au Chinois” signifies simply “illustrated by a Chinaman”. Read the history of Fil Au Chinois in Madame Sajou Diary.
In days gone by in the Nord region of France, in particular the towns of Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing, buzzed with the sound of hundreds of small textile ateliers of all sorts. Weaving was also abundant in les Vosges and Alsace, large sheet manufacturers could be found in Rouen and Auvergne, and fabric printing was rife in Provence, Nantes, Rouen, Jouy…
It used to be the tradition to offer to daughters, or grand-daughters, a sewing set to start them off in life. We want to continue this tradition by providing sewing sets with the most important items: a pair of scissors, a thimble, tape measure, seam ripper, sewing needles and dressmaker’s pins. The contents vary from one model to another – some have tacking thread, others dressmaker’s chalk. All the products in these sets are made in France.
My passion for vintage haberdashery pushed me to relaunch Maison Sajou in 2005. Having been an avid collector for years, I was disheartened by the ever-decreasing quality of products on sale nowadays, and wanted to revive this universe which was once so delightful and diversified.Thread cards, thimbles, sewing sets, press fasteners on cards as lovely as their ancestors, accessories, a wide range of boxes with pins, threads, safety pins, hooks and eyes… Although it is difficult today to have as many articles as those that filled the chunky catalogues from such stores as Le Bon Marché, La Samaritaine or Printemps, the least we can do is to offer you quality products made in France.
Thread cards and organisers are one of Maison Sajou’s specialities. Most were inspired by the personal collection belonging to Frédérique Crestin-Billet. In fact, since they were launched in 2005 Maison Sajou has revived the interest and use of thread cards.
Up until the 1850’s, sewing thread was sold in skeins which arrived at the wholesalers in crates or barrels. Gradually it was presented on cards or small balls placed in cardboard boxes. These boxes were decorated with beautiful labels indicating the thread brand. This evolution came at a time of development in the retail trade, which was a natural consequence of industrial development. Thread brands became more abundant and the images more diverse and appealing.
By re-editing these wooden sewing items, I am trying in my own way to add the same sort of diversity that was found in this universe in days gone by. Haberdasheries of course sold all the basics, but they could also be found in souvenir shops and even in jeweller’s shops for the more luxurious items. The haberdashery catalogue from Le Bon Marché at the beginning of the 20th century were filled with pages of tape measures, thimble holders and pin cushions of all types and for all budgets.