• Jewellery for the Home: Passementerie

    By Oliver Burns

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July 28, 2020|Trends

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  • assementerie is a French term, which encompasses ribbons, trimmings and tassels used to adorn clothing and furnishings. This age-old technique enhances curtains, pillows and upholstery through embellishment, transforming these commonplace items into works of art in their own right. These trimmings can be both bold and understated, adding the all-important finishing touch to a space. This blog will explore this exquisite craft and it’s rich history, as well as the specialist artisans who are preserving this tradition by producing luxury trimmings for the contemporary home today.

'Deriving from the early French word for lace, passementerie specifically meant a trim of gold or silver lace using a metallic thread in the 16th century.'

Fringe Cushion. Image via Oliver Burns.

By the 19th century, the definition of passementerie had extended to also include fringing, gimps, braids and ribbons, often seen on military uniforms. Professional silkwomen or ‘passementiers’ could be found in all of the major cities of Medieval Europe, producing luxury silk goods for the merchant classes, aristocracy and royalty. London’s Soper Lane was the medieval equivalent of Savile Row, and was where affluent society went to have their garments embellished.

'Each aspect of this craft is highly meticulous and intricate, which is reflected in the highly ornate finished product.'

  • Les Passementeries de l'île de France. Image via House & Gardens.
  • Les Passementeries de l'île de France. Image via House & Garden

Although some concessions to modern methods have been made, on the whole the techniques to produce passementerie remain largely unchanged. These skills include dyeing, cord-spinning, weaving and tassel-making, much of which is largely bespoke work. Dyeing tends to be carried out in an independent workshop, where the silk yarn is dyed to match the furnishing fabrics on which the trimmings will be mounted. A cord-spinner is used to produce ropes, cords and gimps whereas bands, braids and fringes are woven on a ‘trimmings’, ‘ribbon’ or ‘narrow’ loom. Tassels and tassel tie-backs are usually made using a wooden mould in the centre and covered with silk or other threads. Each aspect of this craft is highly meticulous and intricate, which is reflected in the highly ornate finished product.

Les Passementeries de l'île de France. Image via House & Garden

Passementerie can be largely organised into two categories; point ornaments, which encompasses tassels, pompons and rosettes, and linear ornaments which is everything else. There are many simple and effective ways to weave passementerie into the design of your home, such as fringing which can be used to adorn the edges of curtains, lampshades or cushions. Likewise braid, ribbon and gimp can look beautiful lining the edges of curtains or roman blinds. We love the look of ropes and tassels to embellish a curtain, which adds instant sophistication to a space.

  • Family Residence Curtain Tieback. Image via Oliver Burns.
  • Walpole Mayfair Curtain Tieback. Image via Oliver Burns.

There are a number of specialist passementiers who produce exquisite luxury trimmings today. New York based Samuel & Sons is a family run company who have collaborated with designers such as Michael S Smith and Lori Weitzner to produce outdoor grade trimmings and speciality materials such as glass, crystal and feather. Many modern passementiers still have French origins such as Lyon-based Prelle who have been crafting fabrics and passementerie since the 18th century when they outfitted the court of Louis XV1. Likewise, Les Passementeries d’Ile de France, is a historic fourth generation company whose work has graced the finest palaces and theatres in Europe.

Prelle Passementerie. Image via Prelle.

Marrying ancient techniques with contemporary designs, passementerie can be viewed as a supporting act, enhancing and enriching fabric. When used sparingly in an interior scheme, luxury trimmings do not have to feel dated or overly opulent, but instead add much-needed visual interest and texture to a space.


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