In my previous post I told you all about my impending trip to France, and how i had been challenged to (start) learning French.  Those of you who are good at maths, or have a calendar to hand, will work out that not only was last weekend the last weekend in June, but also that that gave me just over 5 weeks to learn a language.  Naturally I didn’t learn French to fluency in 5 weeks – but I gave it a good shot, with about 2 hours of study each evening (which obviously cut into my crafting time) and meant that I understood a lot more than I was letting on (even if I couldn’t speak very well) the whole time I was in Lille.  During this study phase I mentioned to a teacher I work with that there were relatively few accredited courses for adult learners – the upshot being that I shall now be resitting my GCSE French exams next summer!

Of course, I now that you all want to know about knitting and yarn shops in France (and specifically Lille) so here goes:

I stepped off the Eurostar (my project for the trip was my Herbie Shawl, by the way, and is slowly getting there…)

herbie Shawl

Herbie Shawl

to be met by V and taken straight into a very welcoming Tricot (that’s knitting to us English) group.  There were some amazing projects being worked on, and I was amused to note that everyone was working ‘English’ style (throwing).  Of course, as at most knit groups we were plied with excellent food and drink – and though serenaded by a football crowd, stayed until gone 11pm.  I even joined in a conversation about learning techniques and the apparent unwillingness of some crafters to try new methods of doing things (in French!)

The group were quick to ask about the availability of yarn in the UK, and it soon became obvious that the impression in France is that the UK is full of luxury (expensive) yarn.  The French (apparently) are more used to using acrylics and have a fundamental objection to ‘spending’ on more expensive yarns.  My own Unique Sheep Eos was much admired and the group said it was a shame that very few yarn shops outside of Paris would (or could) carry yarn like that due to the expense of customs (for importing) and lack of customers (I’ll get to the reason for that soon).

A tour of three yarn shops in Lille on Friday proved to be fascinating (and educating) though!  The first shop was beautiful, stacks of yarn in wooden book case type arrangements.  Everything was in balls (no skeins or hanks here!) and there were beautifully worked samples made in selected yarns. Unfortunately this particular store has to close due to increasing rents – after nearly 30 years at the same site which is a real shame.  The majority of the stock was wool blends, some with alpaca, some with acrylic – some lovely pure alpaca, and an average of about 4euro a 50grm ball. I say average as some was heavily discounted due to having to close – but I was very good and kept my hands in my pockets!

The second shop was a real Aladdin’s cave stocked floor to ceiling with bag upon bag of acrylic in every weight imaginable.  Lots of novelty yarn (such as the hated ‘ruffle yarn’ for a mere 4euro a scarf) and even a small shelf of ‘luxury’ yarn – though I won’t argue with 100% alpaca at 3euro for 50gms.  Yeap you read that right – THREE euro for 100% alpaca!  So I’m not surprised that French yarn stores have a difficulty trying to get customers to buy the more expensive yarns we know so well here.

With prices like that I may have taken my hands out of my pockets!  I bought some really beautiful, soft, acyrlic called Uttacryl and manufactured by Cheval Blanc.  50gms for 1euro and it came in about 40 shades.  At that price (and quality) I can afford to make sweaters!  The yarn is for a secret project, but here’s the photo.

uttacryl acyrlic yarn

Uttacryl by Cheval Blanc

I also picked up two huge balls of crochet cotton in an amazing bottle green shade at 3.5euro per ball…

green crochet cotton

Annell crochet cotton

Finally we headed for the hallowed ground that is La Droguerie.  This legendary store doesn’t allow photos, so I don’t have any to share with you, but it was like stepping back into the 1940s.  Fabulous yarn adorned the walls in hanks for you to handle – but everything was done by service, so you decided what you wanted and then (attempted) to attract the attention of one of the very busy attendants.  I was so relieved to have a native speaker with me I can tell you!  Surrounded by beads, trims, ribbons, amazing bias binding, jewellery findings, fabric squares and yarn I got out relatively intact with only two yarn purchases and a pack of charms..

First up was some beautiful peacock, petrol, kingfisher, blue yarn in a bamboo & linen blend.  It’s heavy and cool to the touch, very soft and already being transformed into Love is a Prism (as per my previous post)  here’s the yarn again for completeness though…

bamboo & linen

Bamboo & Linen

I may have also been suckered by the pretty packaging, and bought a present for my mother… a ‘nothing there’ whisp of a scarf with a pretty ‘cherry/berry’ trim.  The kit came with the mohair yarn in two colours, the trim, the instructions and a (super cool) woven tag!

cherry scarf

Cherry ScarfL

Lille is a beautiful city, and I’m already planning my return (to practice my French if nothing else!)  It’s only 1 and half hours from London on the Eurostar so easy to go for the day and I highly recommend it for the cobblestones, the friendly people and the wonderful, wonderful pastries.  Next time I promise to have a fully charged camera as well to take more photos, but for now I’ll leave you with this….

College of Lille

Lille is FULL of Art!

Bonjour Mes Amis

It seems like ages since I last updated, but of course that is because it is ages since I last updated here!  The 5th May to be precise.  I am so ashamed of myself.

However the time hasn’t been wasted, I’ve been very, very busy!

First up I finished a hairpin lace tunic as a class examplar for the hairpin course in November,

hairpin tunic

hairpin lace tunic

I really enjoyed the process of making this tunic, though, I’ll be honest, I’m still undecided about the final result. I also finished one of the baby blankets that I needed to get done (the other is still in ‘kit’ form, and as the baby is due next week I really need to crack on with that).  I’m really pleased with how this came out – I love the colours together, and the stitch is a really pretty stitch and works really well in this context.

stripe baby blanket

1970’s colourway baby blanket

I also taught the Tunisian Beginners course to a full house, and there are some outstanding ‘luxury spa cloths’ appearing on the Glamourous Knitters  forum on Ravelry as people post their finished projects!  There is already demand for a follow up course to look in more detail at some further stitches and advanced techniques, so I shall start work on that soon I promise.

However, my focus the last few weeks has been France. Pourqoui? I hear you ask.

Well just after my last post, I had the ever lovely V (whom I met at KnitNation 2011) come visit with his partner G, and we spent a few great sunshiny days in London.  A promise had been made last year to go visit them in Lille, so a date was set for the last weekend in June – and a challenge of learning French by then!  That’s all for another post.

Having set myself that challenge, Channel 4 started showingThe Returned, a drama in French!  handy.  And I’m loving it.  A clever, intelligent drama that doesn’t talk down to it’s audience and isn’t afraid to ask questions and leave them unanswered.

Finally the weekend saw the start of the Tour de France, one of the two sporting events I actually sit down and make time to watch (the other being the Six Nations).  I also take part in a sort of mass knit along on Ravelry with other Tour fans – setting our own challenge for our own pick of the jerseys.  It’s lots of fun, and at least I don’t have to spin miles and miles of yarn for the famous Tour de Fleece!  I’ve put myself down for a King of the Mountains (that’s the spotty one) to challenge myself to finish the Jan sweater  – afterall I have just one (cap) sleeve and the sewing up to do. This week I’ve managed to get the cuff done – so go me!

jan sweater - almost two sleeves

Jan Sweater – almost two sleeves!

I’ve also set myself the yellow jersey for completing the Tunisian pattern Love is a Prism in just 3 weeks.  I’m twenty rows in and really enjoying it. The yarn was picked up in France, so more about that in the next post.

Love is a Prism

Love is a Prism starts..