Velvet Cutter

The Dying Art of Sabre-cut Velvet  

The sabre (or razor) is in the form of scalpel, and it measures 25 centimeters in length and 12 millimeters in width. Its blade is sharper than a razor, and there's hardly anyone else who uses this velvet cutting technique other than Madame Faure.

The Arlesienne ribbon hangs by a thread. That thread is Madame Faure, the last of the velvet cutters, who patiently and expertly cuts the woven weft's silk fibers one by one so that the velvet nap appears, and so that the ribbon will acquire its extraordinary texture and sheen.

More than 70 years old, Madame Faure started cutting velvet like all the others cutters long before her. Following this age-old tradition, she and other young velvet cutters observed their elders at work, but at first, the young girls cut velvet secretly, even though the adults knew full well what was happening behind their backs. Later, young and old worked together as a team.

But today, the Arlesienne ribbon hangs only by a thread. Who would want this pursue this craft or career? The slicing motion must be precise to cut the design's individual threads and make sure the warp isn’t snagged. And later the process starts all over again with another ribbon, another perfectly sharp razor.

Once again, the Arlesienne ribbon hangs only by a thread in part because there aren't as many cutlers who produce the saber-razors. And silk thread is difficult to cut. The edge of the blade must be very sharp to achieve this fine and delicate maneuver.

Once the individual silk threads have been cut, the fabric gets a final brushing with a boar bristle brush. If the slightest defect in the razor work initially goes unnoticed it's at this point in the brushing process that mistakes are revealed.

At this last stage the ribbon is ready. New colors and designs can come in the next ribbon, but it will take six to eight weeks to weave new color combinations and cut the nap, one by one.

Madame Faure will continue to cut velvet for as long as it keeps Arles residents of today and tomorrow in good spirits. The ribbon hangs only by a thread, but by a resistant silk thread.

Although orders have slowed down in the luxury goods industry, Madame Faure who worked with high fashion couturiers like Givenchy, Dior, Saint Laurent, or Chanel believes that the demand will return, and that she'll be able teach a new generation of velvet cutters this traditional technique, which makes all the difference for our Arlatenco.

Watch this video of Madame Faure's craft.

For more, see Eric Magali’s French-language site



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