February 04, 2010

Yarn shop travelogue: Paris

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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


Unknown said...

Thank you for the tour, Minh! Now if I could just get to Paris...

josiekitten said...

Thanks for your help. I shall bear it in mind when I visit La Droguerie in Toulouse.

VictoiseC said...

Ummm, I just found the perfect! little cardigan to make, the pattern is what I've been searching for forever I think wo knowing it.
It's in La Droguerie & it's called Le Cardigan Carmargue. Now! I have to find a corresponding pattern like that one. http://tricots-de-la-droguerie.fr/WordPress/wp-content/2010/03/Cardigan-Camargue-3.jpg

Jennifer Golding said...

Thanks for the wonderful details. My parents are going to Paris next month. Any tips on how I should write down my order to make it easy for them? Hoping they will be able to make it to La Droguerie!

Jolie said...

Great tips! We'll be going to France in July/Aug and spending a couple of days in Paris. Merci!

Anonymous said...

Thank you :) I'm going to Paris for a month this summer and was worried if I'll have to carry all the yarn I need for my projects there with me from Finland.

Anonymous said...

Thank you :) I'm going to Paris for a month this summer and was worried if I'll have to carry all the yarn I need for my projects there with me from Finland.