The 18th arrondisement in Paris is probably not to everyone's taste. Straddling the Pigalle and Montmartre as well as sitting at the nexus of the North African quarter, the 18th is the loud, artistic, rapscallion cousin to some of the more refined and touristy arrondisements of Paris. Hang out at the chaotic open-air market on the weekend near the station or prowl Tati for a bargain, go to the Musée d'Art Naïf (Halle Saint-Pierre - 2, rue Ronsard) to check out some naive and folk art - don't forget the small bookshop inside the gallery entrance.
And then there are the fabric shops. Lord have mercy. If for no other reason, come for these and these alone.
Marche St Pierre - 2, Rue Charles Nodier
The oldest, the largest, the greatest. This place is set out over 5 levels with virtual football fields of fabrics and haberdashery on each floor. You will see men and women marching about with long rulers in hand. Do NOT get in their way, they will mow you down as soon as look at you and whatever you do, don't (as I did) take fabric from one floor to another. This is heresy punishable by death if you are French, luckily my foreigner status granted me immunity.
Sounds scary? It is. But worth every minute. If you are short of time, or have a toddler or two in tow, focus your energies on floors 1 and 3. When I was there, the first floor had a range of African waxed cottons at 2.50 euro per metre and gorgeous plaids from Madras at 6.95 a metre.
The 3rd floor held fabric from many regions of France including heavy Provencal cottons and striped canvas from the south. There's also spectacular toile de jouy, linen tickings and amazing embossed velour. The prices for all of these fabrics were 4 or 5 times less than what they would cost here in Australia.
I was also lucky to find packets of the original Cholet teatowels - 6 for 17 euros and rolls of heavy linen used for sheeting and napery for 5 euros a metre. Frankly, if the Frenchman hadn't come in and dragged me out I think I'd still be there.