Many of you will know that I have just got back from a week in Paris – and no one will be surprised to learn that I checked out a few yarn stores while I was there. Because I was travelling with my husband I didn’t make any attempts to find a knit group/ meet up but that is an option particularly at one store I wanted to visit but couldn’t quite get to.
The fastest way I know to find yarn stores is Google maps – once it has your location “yarn stores near me (or nearby)” usually gives you at least a couple of hits. One of the slightly tricky things is that Google doesn’t knit so it’s not great on quality and sometimes will lump craft stores together e.g. it can equate yarn with haberdashery. Having said that I was quite stunned by the number of bricks and mortar yarn stores within a 10 – 20 minute radius of where we were staying (central old city near Forum Les Halles/ Chatelet which is the heart of the tourist area around the Louvre and Notre Dame) .
The map looked a bit like this – La Bien Aimèe is named at the bottom as I had specifically searched for it. The blue dot is where I was staying and this view there are nine (!) stores within either walking distance or a 15 minute Metro trip. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the choice.
Before I share about the stores I visited I want to make a comment about the levels of yarn tourism. On the one hand there is the tourist looking for “special yarn” – hand dyes and boutique labels – in New Zealand tourists will often head for yarn with possum as being unique and special even though it is commercially produced. On the other there is a tourist just wanting a nice yarn that is produced in the country you are visiting – Ashford Tekapo or Skienz are good examples of more bread and butter made in NZ labels. Additional to that is the knitter on holiday who has time to browse and will add to stash. In Paris I was able to visit several different stores that catered to all those shopping needs and it will help if you read my comments with those distinctions in mind.
(Where I got locked in)
Of all the shops I visited Lil Weasel was the closest in character to Holland Road. It is spread across two small stores on either side of a vintage style arcade with mainly wool and needles on one side and cotton yarn, fabric and haberdashery on the other. Check out their website for their range of commercial yarns but they do have a good selection of their own and local hand dyes. They have a blend of the popular American brands such as Cascade and Malabrigo with a number of French and other European labels. I picked up a great bulky weight, DMC Cotton XL in a colour I had been on the look out for, some of the mini Catona cottons for an amigarumi project I have in mind, a skien of hand dyed yarn from (Vi)Laines and some Shibui. They had plenty of needles and hooks including Knitpro, HiyaHiya, Chiaogoo and Lykke. A combination of stash adding and souvenir shopping. Definitely worth a visit if you are close by.
As for getting locked in – on one side of the arcade is their fabric, haberdashery and cotton yarn selection, the other is largely wool based yarns and needles. I started in the cotton side and didn’t realise that when the sales person working went out and shut the door, she hadn’t realised I was there and had locked it as she was going to lunch!
When I first walked into La Droguerie I was already running late to meet my husband and I was a bit bewildered by how it might work. When I went back with a little more time the next morning (he was intrigued when I told him about it) it all become a lot clearer. Basically La Droguerie is the retail side of a woollen mill, the wool in hanks you can see along the wall is what they have available and you ask for the quantity you would like. Each yarn has a tag with a meterage, yarn composition, 50gm and kilo price. It really helps here if you have a project or two in mind. I had a couple of Ravelry patterns saved on my phone which I used to show the guy who helped me. They were incredibly helpful once there was a shared understanding – he used the needle size and gauge to match against the yarn they had available and talk about what modifications I might need to make to get gauge.
What was most fascinating was he went out the back and looked for hanks of the wool yarn I chose and bought out the two that were closest to the total weight I needed. The cotton/bamboo blend he already had some wound off the cone (the back photo) and was prepared to wind more if I needed more than he already had caked.
It was a lovely experience and worth the effort to try to ask in French – they rescued me with an English speaking assistant. Apparently they also have a store in Kyoto in Japan, as a visitor to our Malaysian knitting group has been there and she agrees with the advice to go with a couple of projects in mind. If you can imagine a yarn store with only one hank of each colourway in a particular yarn on display – they are actually carrying a substantial inventory when you consider all the hanks. Wool, silk and alpaca blends were mainly on the left, cotton, linen and bamboo on the right. They also had a massive range of haberdashery including buttons and beads although I wouldn’t look for knitting needles here.
While there is an argument that buying yarn for a project is not actually stash, for me the souvenir aspect of this shop was the experience as much as the French yarn.
La Bien Aimèe
La Bien Aimèe actually has two stores in Paris, L’Oisivethè is their original store where their knit night is held and carries a full range of yarn (I didn’t get to visit but it was within that circle of accessibility) La Bien Aimee itself focuses mainly on the hand-dyed yarn.
They had a great range of all their hand dyed yarn, plus books/ magazine and accessories. From memory not a lot of needles on display other than the new Addi Flexi Flips/ Trios. This is definitely a store for buying that hand dyed souvenir yarn from the “source”. It was my most expensive shopping expedition and while I bought their yarn I also bought a copy of Laine 4 as my project plan was to do Kate in the purple/magenta that caught my eye.
The first yarn store I actually visited in Paris was only a few minutes from where I was staying and was the Phildar store within a major department store. Phildar is a standard French yarn with a great ranges of colours and weights. What fascinated me most about them was how traditional it all felt – stacks of pattern books, a wall of needles with straights dominating and dare I say it ladies of a certain generation browsing.
In a trip a couple of years ago to Belgium for ANZAC day I bought yarn from a couple of yarn stores similar to this – one a tiny struggling independent store in Les Quesnoy and another as part of a larger haberdashery in Ypres. In both cases it was a pure fibre in a brand I hadn’t knit before and as such still has a lovely memory associated with it as being part of that trip. I am sharing this because if you only get a chance to shop at somewhere like Phildar or Bergere de France – a high quality yarn in a colour you love will still be a souvenir to treasure.
The guidebook we were using had a reference to visiting the Marche St Pierre for fabric which is another textile I love (probably more than yarn to be honest) and as we could see the central building from where we stopped for afternoon tea after climbing the stairs to Sacre Couer we walked around that way to have a look. While I was being overwhelmed by the five floors of the main market Nick went for a bit of an explore and discovered two more yarn stores right behind it.
One of the yarn stores was an off shoot of the main market and by now will have been moved into the main building, the other was a lovely little shop called Laines and while I didn’t buy anything there it had a nice selection of local yarn (you can see all the winter stock coming in!) Plus all of the stores in this area are a treasure trove for buttons and trimmings!
There were at least three other stores I didn’t get a chance to visit – if you have been somewhere else that is awesome in Paris please let us all know in the comments as one of the reasons I am writing this is to help some New Zealanders heading over that way.
Every store had at least someone who spoke sufficient English to be able to discuss what I was looking for. In my experience in Europe they don’t have the same fetish for softness we do in New Zealand – even heritage Merino is not as soft as Australian and New Zealand bred fleece. The other thing that was a little surprising was the lack of circular needles in most stores focused at French knitters. When I asked about that at Lil Weasel she told me it is because the majority of French knitters are lever knitters and prefer straights as they tuck it under their arm.
There are more photos on my Facebook page but I will leave you with a couple more stash additions 🙂