Thursday, May 28, 2015

Flea Markets in France

We are getting ready to leave for France for the seventh year of our Chateau Getaway!  Each summer, as June approaches, I start to think about the flea markets, vide greniers and brocantes we will visit in France...I am always excited when the flea market schedule comes out and we get to plan our schedule for the month of June.  This summer, we are lucky to have a handful of some of the best markets on, including: Beaumont (pictured above), Montauban, Septfonds, Bruniquel, Caussade, Molieres and Realville!

But what to look to choose what is something really special and what should be left behind for someone else to carry home?  Here are some of my favorite treasures to look for in France while at the flea markets...

Tapestry, tapestries and more tapestries!  The older the better...and anything with a tag or marking on it...even better!  This centuries old tradition in France was once the bread and butter for many artisans.  Now, practically a dying trade, we are lucky enough to visit one of the great tapestry weavers in Montpezat, who, for the past 60 years, has been sitting at her loom weaving day in and day out - and you have never seen a more perfect posture!

Linens!  I will walk a mile for a box full of old linens - and again, the older the better!  Old cotton nightshirts, linen convent gowns, lace collars, indigo aprons - you name it and I want it!  I am not such a stickler for the perfectly cleaned and pressed linens - I would much rather buy the discarded pieces and take them home and watch their beauty unfold after soaking, washing and ironing them.  My mom, Kick, is the master laundress, so most of our old linens end up on her lawn for a good brightening from the sun and the chlorophyll in the grass!

Hardware - particularly old brass curtain rings!  Any size, any color, any design, I like to use these pieces in my home to hang old linen sheets up as curtains.  These small brass rings can easily be sewn on to make small cafe curtains - or can be tied on with small pieces of ribbon sewn onto the linen panel.

This was my purchase from an afternoon at the brocante in Cahors...a basket woven canteen, a set of old bone handles knives, a handful of old silver thimbles, a half a dozen porcelain medicinal pots, an early 20th century curtain panel and a piece of filet...hand tied linen fabric used for lace curtains.  Everything spoke to me - the color, the history and the age...sometimes a photograph is worth a thousand ideas....

Old string...linen, twine, cotton, hemp.  I have no idea why...but I love old string collections - especially those that come with a few handmade tools.

Early samplers. These are getting harder to find and they can be quite pricey - but every once in a while you will come upon a box of linens with an old sampler hidden at the bottom of the basket.  These small pieces of history show the handiwork of young French school girls.  The missing W always gives away the samplers age.

Millinery treasures...all found at the old hat factory we have been visiting for years.  Although the owner, Guy, passed away two summers ago, we still pop by to say hello to his wife and to dig through one of the old hat making rooms - each one filled with the trims, flowers and ribbons that decorated the hats nearly a century ago!

Hemp and linen tea towels - hands down - the first thing I pick up at the flea market in the morning.  One can never have too many linen tea towels stacked up in every room of their home...or in the closets or armoires.  I like the old madder striped towels - they are the essence of France for me and no good flea market trip is complete without finding at least one old tea towel!

Old glass the bucketful!  I pick up as many old buttons as I can to make button bracelets with.  These simple bracelets, filled with a mixture of decorative, military and baby buttons are one of my favorite things to make when I return home from France.  

So, as you can treasures, the small bits and pieces I look for, are really quite simple.  Nothing takes up too much room in my suitcase, yet everything is filled with the history of France.  What do you look for at the flea markets?  Is there anything you would like me to look for?  Leave me a message and I will keep my eye out for you...meanwhile I will try to blog my way through France so you can see all of our adventures!

A bientot!