February 28, 2010

Défi 13 de février: Blanc

Défi 13 de février: Blanc
Originally uploaded by

Ma création de février est un éloge à Clara Parkes. Les deux modèles sont extraits de son nouveau livre, The Knitter's Book of Wool et ont été tricotés avec la laine mérino organique de Swans Island.

J'ai suivi les conseils de Clara et tricoté les mitaines, "Sweet Fern Mitts", avec des aiguilles de 3.75mm. Pour le bonnet, "Hill Country Hat", j'ai utilisé des aiguilles de 4.5mm.

Verdict? Trente dollars pour une pelote de 230 mètres, ce n'est pas si cher si l'on considère les mailles presque parfaites, la douceur de la laine, et le fait qu'une pelote suffit pour un bonnet et une paire de mitaines.

Mille mercis à Emma, Faustine, Aurélie et Fred d'avoir tout organisé. Vite, je file voir les créations de tout le monde ICI!


Défi means "challenge" in French. The idea is to show a finished project on the 13th of the month (with a different theme every month) in order to ward off bad luck, but really it's about having fun and trying something outside of your comfort zone. Défi 13 is the sequel to Trico'13 which occurred in 2009 and only involved knitting. For Défi 13, you can either knit or sew. The theme for February was "white".

My February finished object is a tribute to Clara Parkes. The two patterns are taken from her new book, The Knitter's Book of Wool, and were knitted with Swans Island Organic Merino. I followed Clara's advice and knitted the Sweet Fern Mitts using US 5 needles. For the Hill Country Hat, I used US 7 needles.

My opinion? Thirty dollars for 250 yards is not so bad once you take into account the stitch definition, the softness of the yarn, and the fact that I was able to get a pair of mitts and a hat out of one skein. Many thanks to Emma, Faustine, Aurélie et Fred for organizing this. I'm off to look at everybody's finished projects HERE!

February 13, 2010

A typical weekend day

I finished the Fiddlehead mittens during the snow storm that never materialized while watching an episode of Foyle's War. These mittens are toasty and sinfully soft on the inside.

Today, I took the mittens for a little roadtrip. Actually, it wasn't so much a roadtrip as a typical weekend day for Boy and me during winter time. February is the best month for Boy to spot bald eagles and I come along on his birding trips on a simple condition: each birding trip must include a stop at a yarn store.

After meeting Shaili for brunch, the mittens walked around Harvard Square and visited the Old Burying Ground. We then headed to western MA to go birding at the Quabbin reservoir. We finished the day in Northampton at Webs (yarns and books were purchased, courtesy of a gift certificate from my in-laws).

Among my purchases was Gail Callahan's book Hand-Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. During Melissa's class at the KR retreat, I was able to see some of the gorgeous yarns and fibers that Gail (aka The Kangaroo Dyer) had generously donated. Gail happened to be in the store this afternoon, she was all smiles, and signed my copy of her book!

Unfortunately I'm not able to attend her dyeing class at Webs this spring. My schedule is also in conflict with the spring classes taught by Melissa Morgan-Oakes and Kristin Nicholas but I hope that their classes will be offered again in the fall. I don't know if I will hand-dye much in the future but it is something that I want to try at least once so I signed up for Barb Parry's two-day "Dyeing to Spin" class this summer. It promises to be a lot of fun!

February 04, 2010

Yarn shop travelogue: Paris

Originally uploaded by

You would think that having spent the first 20 years of my life in the Paris area, I would know the Parisian yarn shops like the back of my hand... Unfortunately I only really took to knitting after moving to the US so many of these shops remain unchartered territory. I do go back once a year so I hope to explore more locations. Until then, here are some stores that I am familiar with.

In the "most accessible" category, the winner is ... Phildar

Phildar is a yarn brand with many stores throughout France but it is also distributed in other countries. There are plenty of locations in the Paris area but the location I prefer is the one on the Rue Monge, as it is close to the Rue Mouffetard and the Jardin des Plantes.

They used to mostly carry blends containing acrylic (yet very nice to the touch) but started carrying natural fibres such as silk and cashmere in the last few years. Even though you can flip through the pattern catalogs and pet yarn at the store, I would recommend looking at their website before going to the physical store in order to narrow down choices.

In the "most diverse" category, the winner is ... Le Bon Marche

Le Bon Marche is a department store whose setup is reminiscent of Zola's "Au bonheur des dames": each yarn brand has its own counter, the counter's salesperson writes up a sales slip then you go to the cashier station to pay for your purchases. The advantage is that you get to see many brands in one spot (Anny Blatt, Rowan, Bouton D'Or, Noro, Plassard, Phildar,...). The drawback is that a given counter has a smaller selection than what the corresponding "brand store" would carry.

Warning: the counter of "La Droguerie" does not sell yarn except in a small number of kits. They do sell pattern books, ribbons, buttons, and all the supplies you need to make jewelry. If there's a line, write your name on the list and the salesperson will call your name when they're able to assist you. I've always had a very good experience there, especially when they helped me customize jewelry.

In the "eye-candy" category, the winner is ... Entree des fournisseurs

This gem carries fabric (such as Liberty), awesome haberdashery, and yarn. If you're like me and need time to shop, just send your traveling companions to one of the cafes at the Place des Vosges. The last time I was there, you couldn't pet the yarn to your heart's content unless a salesperson handed you the skein behind the counter. But the people are awfully nice, there's a nice selection of yarns (Fonty, Plassard, Anny Blatt, Debbie Bliss,...), and the store is just lovely.

In the "one-of-a-kind" category, the winner is ... La Droguerie

There are several La Droguerie stores in France and Japan. They sell their own yarns (available in a very wide range of colors) as well as buttons, ribbons, jewelry supplies, and fabric. Yarns are sold by weight, which means that you tell the salesperson which yarn, which colorway, and which quantity you want. Single patterns are only available with yarn purchase, but you can buy their pattern books without the yarn.

Let me explain the shopping process at the Paris store as it can be confusing for novices. If you want to buy yarn, wait in line on the left part of the store. If you want to buy beads, wait in line in the right part of the store. While you wait in line, you can look at the yarns or the knitted samples. This works much better as a two-person operation, provided you find a sympathetic non-knitter who can stand in line while you browse. Once it's your turn, tell the salesperson what you want and he/she will go in the back to wind the yarn for you.

If you want to minimize your wait time, don't come in November or December, avoid Saturdays, and come in the morning. Unfortunately, I don't really get to choose when I go there -- the last time I shopped there was on the first day of "les vacances de la Toussaint" and I waited for over an hour. But it's worth it! To make this experience as painless as possible, I recommend:
- looking at the yarns and colors posted on the blog
- browsing French blogs and Ravelry for patterns you might be interested in
- bringing Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements so that you know how much yarn to buy if you don't have a specific pattern in mind