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Monday, April 21, 2014

My kind of souvenir

Did you know that 'souvenir' is the French verb 'to remember'? Makes total sense, right?

I have to admit, for awhile I bought coffee cups, and I still try to get a magnet for our fridge for each city I visit, but my favorite souvenirs of all are things we use all the time--shoes, a hairbrush, small bags for projects, fabric, yarn.
These are little reminders are where we've been (and will hopefully go again).

Some of my treasures will remain a mystery for now since they may end up as part of my challenge entries for this year's Threads/ASDP Challenge, "Rethinking the Power Suit".

Here are some treasures I can share:

I've been making cotton dish/wash cloths for awhile now--they are great projects when you don't or can't pay close attention, and want to get something done quickly. (I just finished a sweater, so these are nice for a change).
I found these great colorways at Cat' Laine in Paris.

One of the problems with buying yarn when traveling is that if you buy enough for a sweater, it gets bulky really fast. So I bought sock yarn instead.
On the far left is a cotton/lyocell from Phildar (not sock yarn)--I've already knitted up one dishcloth with it, and we love it.
The next 2 are sock yarns from I Knit London--the owner hand-dyed these. The brand is "I Knit or Dye" and the colorways are "A Different Class" (the blue--100% superwash bluefaced Leicester wool) and "Ziggy Stardust" (the rust--Superwash merino/nylon/stellina(metallic)(
On the far right is another sock yarn which I bought at L'Oisive Thé in Paris. The brand is Socktopus (from UK0 and the color is "Tea & Monkeys"

Finally, I picked up some basic cotton yarn to practice crochet. I found these at a stall at the fabulous market at Bastille on our last Sunday in Paris, which we spent with our good friends, Joerg, Megan and Sophie who drove from Cologne to hang with us in Paris for a couple of days.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Daily Dose of Fiber

We are back and trying to deal with our grief at being back in Texas.
We like our house, love our dogs and our friends, but France. It is so French. (in this house, that is a good thing.)

Anyway, I promised an overview for my fiber-oriented friends, so here it is. I'd say we got our recommended daily fiber intake on this trip, except for our time in Marseille, where I didn't have time to hit up the shops.

Some comments/ observations/disclaimers:
I knit and sew, primarily clothing. I love high-end fabrics and use natural fibers as a rule. I have a pretty large stash of fabrics, have excellent local and online resources, and often buy fabric at the annual conference for ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Proressionals). I wasn't out to find anything in particular, more to explore and see what I could find.
The shops I mention are by no means the only or best shops in Paris--they are simply the ones I visited on this trip.

I speak enough French to have conducted most of my transactions in French, so I can't report on how much English is spoken in each shop, except that La Droguerie in Paris had at least one salesperson who was fluent in English. Practice "Parlez-vous anglais?", and always say "Bonjour" (hello) when you enter a shop, and "Bonne journee" when you leave. This basic courtesy and will get you off on the right foot before you start using sign language to indicate how desperately you need that piece of Liberty lawn.

The French don't queue--they hover. In most cases, the salesperson keeps track of who is next (I am very impressed by this skill), but people will try to shove in. Be assertive.

None of the shops I went into had cutting tables--the fabric is cut where it is. At Tissus Reine, the cutters roam the floor--find one and follow her until it is your turn. She will walk with you to each table where your fabric is and cut if for you, then hand you the fabric and your ticket to take to the cashier.

Fabric is sold in meters/centimeters. If you want 1-1/2 meters, ask for 1 meter 50.

Don't even try to be in a hurry (this goes for most things in France). Unless what you want is right by the register and already packaged, you will wait.

Smaller shops are closed at lunch for 2 hours, so be sure to check times before heading over. Of course, if the shop is closed when you get there, you can always do as the locals and head to a cafe for a leisurely lunch.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Station: South Kensington
The "V and A" is one of the many museums in London that has free admission (though you will need to pay for special exhibits).
This is an amazing museum, with a wide range of items in terms of genre as well as dates.
There are a number of tapestries and other textile pieces. Unfortunately most museums have done away with permanent displays of historic costume because of their fragile nature, and the V and A is one of them. Check the website before traveling for special exhibits.
There is also an excellent bookstore with many titles on textiles, fashion, clothing, embellishment, etc.
A new research center has recently opened: The Clothworkers' Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion
I had hoped to make an appointment to see some garments, but we only had one full day free, and we chose to visit somewhere a bit outside London:

Hampton Court Palace
Station: Hampton Court (Tube to Waterloo, then train to Hampton Court)
I've been a bit obsessed with the Tudor era for a while, having read quite a few biographies/histories (Alison Weir is a favorite) and historical novels (Philippa Gregory got me started). I'm not even allowed to to mention Anne Boelyn to Wayne anymore--he's just so over her.
The Palace has been modified a number of times since Henry VIII and Anne moved in but there is still so much history here.
Not only are there beautiful tapestries, but there are also cartoons on display--the intricate paintings used by weavers to create the tapestries. The ones in HCP are 17th century copies of cartoons by Raphael. Poor Wayne had to listen to me chat with a very enthusiastic docent about tapestries, cartoons, dyestuffs and dating. I thought he was going to scream when she got into thread count.

A surprise find while walking back from the gardens was the tiny(but very nice) shop for the Royal School of Needlework. (I didn't even know there was such a thing.) You can shop online, and they offer classes around Great Britain and in Williamsburg, VA and San Francisco, CA(really Burlingame)

I Knit London This was my last fiber related stop in London--I had heard great things on Ravelry about this shop, and wasn't disappointed. The woman working in the shop was knitting, and the lady before us said, "please, finish your row first" when she got her up help her. I found 2 gorgeous skeins of sock yarn hand dyed by the owner. "I Knit or Dye".

I love the research related to planning a trip, especially finding out what a new city has to discover, and I was very excited to find the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs de Lyon (Fabric and Decorative Arts Museum of Lyon) My brother's comment was "Wayne must be thrilled about this one."
Metro: Ampere/Victor Hugo
Lyon was a major producer of tapestries and jacquard fabrics, thanks in large part to the invention of the Jacquard loom in the early 19th century. There are still a few workshops that weave for top couture houses around the world.
The museum was under construction, but we were still able to see a wide range of items: Textile fragments, tapestries, garments, scale models of looms. If I had planned ahead, I probably could have seen some behind the scenes, but we only had one full day in Lyon, so time was limited.

On our last evening in Lyon, we were walking around the old part of town (VERY cool area) and wandered into a tapestry shop, Au Tapissier D'Antan, mainly because she had a small copy of "Mon Seul Desir"(My Only Desire) from the Lady and the Unicorn series (and a few others, too). We had a great conversation even though her English was about as good as my French (not so very). She told me that with a business card, you can get into private silk weaver studios. So, need to plan the next visit to Lyon.
I also hit some knit shops while in Lyon since I discovered my knitting kit was lost somewhere between London and Marseille. I was most bummed about losing the bag itself--one I bought in Paris last year with "pas d'art sans liberte" (no art without freedom) embroidered on it.

Phildar--one of the many yarn manufacturers in Europe. The front part of the store was clothing, the back yarn, needles and magazines. I found some cotton/Lyocell yarn for dishcloths which are supposed to be antibacterial, and a pattern magazine.
(Croix Rousse) --one more?
I stopped in Papa Pique et Maman Coud (also a chain)--not a knit shop, but they have a wide range of pouches and bags in laminated cotton that are great for small to large projects. They have small accessories and fabric, too.
I was sad to find that the Bouton D'Or/Anny Blatt shop had closed and I've heard from folks on Ravelry that other shops around Europe has closed as well.
I was trying to find my way back to the apartment and happily stumbled upon La Marchande de Couleurs, a "La Droguerie" shop.
Here I picked up some (yes, more) cotton yarn and some circular needles. In this shop you pick your yarn from samples and tell the salesperson how many meters you would like. They measure it out, then weigh it. The price is per so many grams (in this case per 50 grams which is about 100 metres).
The next day Wayne and I decided to try and find a weaver studio a friend told us about, so we headed North to Croix Rousse. We never found the studio (pretty sure is was what is now a vacant lot), but we did find a cool artist area with all kinds of workshops, studios and boutiques. I stopped in a yarn shop, Florimode, and picked up another pattern magazine(Bergere de France).

MUSÉE DE CLUNY/Musée national du Moyen Âge
I visited this museum last year with my friend Mario in the hopes of seeing the tapestries written about in Tracey Chevalier's historical novel "The Lady and the Unicorn", but they were in the process of being restored. This year, they were back and displayed in a new room just for them. This is a really cool museum--not very large and not packed with tourists like the Louvre and D'Orsay.

Musée Carnavalet--Histoire de Paris
Wayne didn't like this museum at all("boring"), but it is another of my favorites. (He's not a history buff at all, though he really liked the Musee de Cluny). Complete rooms from Louis XIV's day, shop signs, maps and models of Paris from when it fit on the tiny island in the middle of the Seine and through time, scale models of the Bastille, are just a few of the treasures displayed here. And since this is city museum, entry is free.

Following are the shops I visited with my friend, Ségolène, on our "Touriste des Tissus"(Fabric tourist) day.
We started off in Montmartre, near our apartment:
Metro: Anvers
Follow the flood of tourists up the hill towards Sacre Coeur.
At the base of the big hill(were the tram and carousel are), turn right and you'll be in the heart of the fabric district.
Note: watch your valuables here--this is a great place to get pick-pocketed or scammed. Wear a cross-body bag and put as many zippers between your wallet and the outside world as possible, or better yet, put your wallet in an inside zippered jacket pocket, with the jacket zipped or buttoned up.

Marche Saint Pierre 
This was the first big shop Ségolène and I stopped in. Neither of us found anything we wanted, but they have a huge selection of fabrics, especially for costume/Carnival and home dec.
Les Coupons de Saint Pierre
This is the 'remnants'(coupon is the French word) shop for the one above, though the pieces are usually 3 metres. The fabrics are organized by type and fiber, but be prepared to dig (I loved watching all this people walking around touching fabric, holding it up to check color, etc). I found a great piece of striped denim, 3 meters for 10 euros.

Tissus Reine
Aptly named "Fabric Queen", this is the best organized shop in the area--4 floors of fabrics and notions (including patterns and some knitting supplies). We noticed that for comparable fabrics, the prices were lower here than Marche St Pierre, so you may want to make this your first stop.

Moline Mercerie and Mercerie St Pierre
In France they have "merceries"--the best translation is "notions shop", but that doesn't seem to cover it. The ones in Montmartre have thread, buttons, appliques, knitting and crochet supplies, books, patterns, needlepoint kits, pretty much everything but fabric, and a couple I visited in other areas had some fabric, too.

Metro: Corvisart
This knit/tea shop was highly recommended by folks on Ravelry. The owner is American, so a great stop for English-only speakers. The pastries Ségolène and I had were good, and I found a gorgeous skein of sock yarn.
She has piles of knitting and crochet books for browsing all over the shop, though we were both disappointed to see no one knitting.

France Duval-Stalla
Metro: Babylone or Saint-Placide
Ségolène introduced me to this shop, one of her favorites in Paris. A small but well organized and stocked store. She does a color story--about 12 colors--and everything is coordinated. Check out her website for details--there is too much to list here, but notable were the cotton fleece, cotton jersey, linen, printed woven cotton and laminated (glossy or matte), and zippers, thread, trims, lace, appliques, even yarn from Lil Weasel to match/coordinate. All were very good quality and well priced. 

That covers the shops I visited with my friend. The following I tracked down on a day on my own--Wayne needed to rest his legs and play some guitar (and I think he'd seen enough fiber related stuff to last him a few months)

Shoemaker and Phildar in BHV Marais
Metro: Hôtel de Ville
Wayne and I discovered thisearlier in the week when we were shopping for gifts--just inside the store from the Metro station is a shoemaking department. They have all the hardware materials and tools for shoe-making. If you do any sort of leather work, you'll want to stop here. They sell full skins and remnants--I got a nice sized piece of textured black leather for 10 euros.
Phildar is a yarn manufacturer, and this is a small store-in-store. I found a magazine and some more of a cotton/lyocell yarn for washcloths. Select your purchases, hand them to the salesperson. She'll hand you slip that you will take to a cashier (they are all over the store). Bring back the receipt to retrieve your items.

Entrée des Fournisseurs
Metro: Saint-Paul or Chemin Vert
This was another suggestion from Ravelry folks, and a very good one. The shop is in a courtyard off the street, so easy to miss. Beautiful shop with a crazy selection of buttons. She also has thread, trims, yarn, books and fabrics. Definitely worth a trip to the Marais. (and very near the Musee Carnavalet)

La Droguerie
Metro: Les Halles
This is a chain throughout France--mostly yarn, but they sell fabrics, trims, buttons, patterns, kits.
When buying yarn here you ask for the length you want, then they weigh it. (see the comments above for more details)

Metro: Richelieu-Drouot
Yet another Ravelry suggestion--a small but packed shop. They don't take credit cards, but there are ATM just around the corner. Lots of Katia yarn and great selection of colors. 

On our last full day, Wayne and I decided to visit a museum that we really enjoyed the last time we were here together in 2004

Musée des arts et métiers
Art and Works (Science) Museum.
Another non-tourist museum, and a favorite with my Paris co-workers with kids, it is a great museum for adults as well.
This place is filled with machines and tools, organized by time, so you walk through the evolution of the technology.
For the fiber addicts there are looms, sewing machines, carding machines and more.

Whew! I didn't realize how many shops and museums we'd visited until I started on this post. I hope you find it useful and/or interesting. Please don't hesitate to post any questions you might have.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One more day

Today was our last full day in Paris. We will be meeting Thomas for a dinner cruise on the Seine tonight, but assuming we get back to the apartment at all, it will be far too late to post.

We took out time getting up and out, and before we went anywhere, we head to "La Poste" to send 2 big boxes of dirty clothes home so we could pack the gifts and yarn (lots of it) in our bags.

A little snack before we brave the packs of French children

The last time Wayne and were in Paris together was January 2004. We had bought museum passes and spend most of our time hitting the smaller, less crowded one. (Though even the Louvre crowds are tolerable in January.) The one we like the best, Musee D'Arts et Metiers, is where we headed first. This is a favorite with many of my Paris co-workers, especially the ones with kids.
This museum is so cool--they have a mechanical area, a transportation area and a technology area--each one ordered by time, starting with "before 1750" to present day. They have cars, engines, astrolabes, cameras, sewing machines, printing presses, televisions, computers, the list goes on.

While we were still in this museum, Wayne wondered if there was a music museum--a quick search on my phone, and that was our next destination.

We have run out of time, so I will have to update later--off to dinner with Thomas.