le repos

machine à coudre

Chez janine
 This picture may help illustrate what the shop (in today's story) looks like. Replace "Blanchisserie" with "Chez Janine" and the blue panels with dark lacquered wood... et voilà! Note: the next post goes out in one week, on Monday....


une machine à coudre (ma sheen ah koodr)

    : sewing machine

Audio File: hear Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download Wav or  Download MP3

Savez-vous opérer une machine à coudre? Do you know how to operate a sewing machine?

 A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

 I set out to write a journal entry today, but a writer's fingers sometimes have a mind of their own! The following story is fictional.... Enjoy it. Meantime, time to pack for les vacances!   

"Chez Janine"

In front of the little Parisian shop window, I stared at a handwritten note taped to the glass door, just above the iron handle from which a rope with cow bells hung. The words, in typical French curlicue cursive read: Cherche Quelqu'un pour le mois d'Août.

Looking for someone for the month of August... The words made their way over my tongue like a sweet pastille of possibility. Cherche. Quelqu'un. Mois d'Août.

I stood back to study the seamstress shop.  The window was framed in lacquered wood. Two columns flanking the vitrine held a larger, boxy, three-dimensional sign. The heavy letters protruding from the wood spelled Chez Janine.

My eyes trailed back down to the sign-printed window where a menu proposed the following prestations:
- retouches 
- création
- couture
- anecdotes...

To the bottom right of the window, a painted carte de visite read:
Janine, "couturière et conteuse"

Beyond the window pane, in the immediate display area, was an old Singer sewing machine. Baskets full of striped, floral, and unicolor linen crowed around the machine à coudre. Inside one of the paniers, a calico cat napped.

Beyond the work station, I saw shelves and drawers lining the walls of the small shop. Buttons filled tall glass jars, lace and other trim were gathered on large wooden bobbins. There were giant scissors too!—so large my eyes tired beneath their weight. In the corner, a dressmaker's mannequin loomed, its hourglass figure a little more curvy than those belonging to the Parisian woman passing behind me, on the trottoir (I could see their reflections in the shop's window, where my nose now flattened up against the glass). I raised my hands and cupped my eyes, straining to discover more of the shop's personality. I could just make out some stairs in the corner... where an antique escalier en colimaçon took up a minimum of space. The steps turned abruptly, ascending within the tight, rounded stairwell, one so narrow that it took four complete turns to reach the upper level.

I wriggled my shoulders, freeing them from the heavy pack on my back. I set down the sac à dos on the cobbled sidewalk in time to reread the curlicue announcement but no sooner had I translated the first word than the shop door flew open setting off a commotion of cowbells.

A whiskey-worn voice sounded before even the bell chimes had settled: 

"Je peux vous renseigner?" the voice inquired.


:: Le Coin Commentaire ::

Would you like to read another chapter of this story? Note: The next edition goes out in one week....
Click here to comment.

French Vocabulary

une prestation = service offered
une retouche = alteration
le panier = basket
le trottoir = pavement, sidewalk
Je peux vous renseigner = Can I help you?
une conteuse (un conteur) = storyteller 





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 A Day in a Dog's Life by Smokey "R" Dokey

As you can see, I have been doing some growing up lately! Now that my face is almost full-size, I will be getting some shee roo roo gee, to finally fix my left cheek!

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gail bingenheimer

J'aimerais acheter une machine à coudre. Les tissus importés sont trés beau. (is the adjective masc.[beau] because tissu [fabrique] is masc. ? merci, gail

Annette Heath

Ah are so beautiful (as is your Mother). Every time I see you I send kisses via my hand to your face on the computer, wishing I could reach out and touch the real YOU! Je t'aime, Annette Heath

Eileen deCamp

Have a great vacation Kristin! I am enjoying my time at the beach!

Linda Hampton Smith

Absolutely wonderful! I'm hooked. Continuez!

Karen (in Towson, Md) Whitcome

I thought that this story may have taken the path of a recent misunderstanding that my 17 year old daughter encountered. She and I were shopping (really just looking and escaping the heat) a few chic dress shops in Nantucket. Dresses were in the thousand dollar range. We were dressed in light sun-dresses and flip-flops but hey - it was hot outside. In one shop I over-heard the clerk or shop-owner say "Hello" to my daughter who was across the room from me. My daughter answered "Hello". The clerk then said "We're not hiring." My daughter immediately came to me and wanted to leave. I instead took another course of action. I made her stay to try on a few of those pricey items. Whose to say we couldn't afford them --- someday? :o)

Awww. Smokey needs more surgery (I assume that "shee roo roo gee" means surgery). Personally. I like his war wound. Are you still having to treat it though?

Maria Cochrane would NOT say - je peux vous aider?
Is that a typical way, then, of asking what you need? - je peux vous renseigner?

I'm curious...on with the next novel tid-bit.

Karen (in Towson, Md) Whitcome

Oh - I also wanted to say that I - a francophile/bibliophile - had purchased that Kindle just before heading to our vacation in Nantucket. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. It's my new friend! With just 2 clicks ON THE DEVICE ITSELF, I can purchase Kindle editions of books AND read a newspaper AND take notes.

I'm known for lugging several books and misc. reading material with me at all times - especially for a day at the beach. It was wonderful to simply carry my towel, sunscreen and my Kindle.

Thanks, Kristin. I hadn't thought it was something I'd like until I look into it from your FWAD blog.

Ophelia in Nashville

J'adore les détails. Continue STP!

P.S. When I was a child, I had a distant relative with a "whiskey-worn" voice. Great description. She terrified me.....

Heaher Donaldson

This took me back to my maternal grandfather's shop - The Donaldsons. He was a couturier until his eightieth birthday. It was a magical shop with everything - walls, and wicker - painted pale aqua. I recognized the massive scissors, the bolts of fabric and the button jars I'd played with as a young child. There were the big black sewing machines and the welcoming women working at them. There too, the tea pot was always on, with the cold tea used to water a massive jade plant. Thanks for the chance to travel back to that oh so welcoming place for a few moments.


I definitely want to read on! A wonderful beginning, draws me in irresistibly with its lovely and precise descriptions and air of mystery. I love it. Brava!

Anne Wirth

Your story certainly kept my interest. I wanted to go in and investigate. Can't wait to see what happens next.
Smokey looks handsome even with his scar. He looks like a rogue; maybe it could be a battle scar like a canine warrior (my imagination got carried away there).
Keep up the writing - great story.

Ginger in Carolina

Mais oui! A grand beginning! As a favorite non-French writer penned, " Please sir, my I have some more?"


Quelle est la traduction pour
- réparations
- retouches
- création
- couture
- anecdotes...
Aidez-moi s'il vous plait!


carte visite -> carte DE visite


Hi Kristin,

I would love to hear more of the story, but it would be more interesting and improve our French more to see it in French and in English.

I also love the fact that you have books to buy; but would love to be able to buy books in French.

Thanks for doing this. It is great.



Hi Rive:

- repairs
- touch ups
- creating [making a dress from scratch]
- sewing [haute couture would be fancy designs]
- anecdotes [the unusual word we did not expect on the list and i presume we will learn more about in next week's installment]

I can't believe we have to wait a whole week to hear what that whisky-voice has to say!

enjoy your vacation, Kristin, and we will do our best to wait patiently.


Hi Rive,
Hoping this will be of some help:
- réparations = repairs
- retouches = alterations
- création = designing clothes
- couture = sewing / dressmaking
- anecdotes... = anecdotes, (Kristin's newsletters often tell us about “une anecdote”

definition of anecdote:
→ short account of an interesting, curious or humorous incident.
→ short account of a particular incident or event of an interesting or amusing nature, often biographical.


To Maria Cochrane: About Can I help you?

According to where you are and what you need
*For example,in a shop, the assistant may ask:
-> Vous désirez?

*at a reception desk:
-> Je peux vous aider?

-> renseigner = to give information
-> un renseignement = a piece of information

-> demander un renseignement = to ask for some information
-> donner/fournir un renseignement = to give some information

So, at a Tourist office, a train station, ... or here, in this particular case when someone wants to know a bit more, you may be asked:
-> Vous voulez un renseignement?
-> Je peux vous renseigner?
-> Je peux vous aider?

Someone may offer you some information about what you are looking for:
-> Je peux vous renseigner si vous voulez. Qu'aimeriez-vous savoir? (= What would you like to know?)

Montimarie Horton

Je voudrais lire la suivante la prochaine fois. J'adore coudre les petites couvertures pour les bebes.


Enjoyed the beginning of the story. I look forward to the next chapter!

Catherine Burnett

Merci beaucoup, Kristin, pour les beaux photos de Smokey et Braise! Ils sont tres chouette!

Mary Pace

Dear Kristin,

I love your story! I am absolutely enchanted by the setting. It is curious and completely grabbed my attention, like so many of the surprises lurking in little French shop windows. The sprinkling of French is perfect, and your readers answered any questions I had about renseigner v. aider. Thank you and please continue!-Mary Catherine

Pat Cargill

Kristin, merci's for the story which also took me down memory lane. My grand-mere owned a tiny dresshop and a woman named Irene was always to be found in the back of the shop busy w/alterations, the tiny but very bright light of the Singer machine giving her face a glow. It seemed such a magical place. Look forward to follow-up.

For Rive or anyone else who needs quick on-line translations:

We are, mille mercis a Newforest, terribly and wonderfully spoiled by the generosity of translations and other tidbits of info here at FWaD. Nuance is your forte!! Thank you again, Newforest, I always look forward to what you offer.

Chere Smokey R. Darlin-Dokey: Enfin! So lovely to see your bright and brave and world-aware face here today avec Maman. You are lovely just the way you are. Kiss-kiss from Auntie Pat. (Yes, it is official- in my mind- I am a bonafide auntie...pls let me know if you need anything from your amis, adoring fans, etc. etc. here.


Oui, oui,je veux plus! Very intrigued!

joie  carmel,ca

A delightful story. I found that your descriptions put me right there looking into that window and contemplating at least entering to see more.
Smokey looks skinny.....loss of winter coat? But he is still so cute. And who takes care of them when you are on vacance?
Perhaps that could be a job for sitter in Provence! Seriously, I could do that...
Enjoy your time away and look forward to photos from wherever you go.

joie  carmel,ca

Oh, had a vacation day in my area today. We went whale watching and saw two blues and then the humpbacks put on a show. No less than 40 breaches (up close), one who decided to send messages with dozens of tail smacks on the water and a couple who did side fin waves and was so much fun.


Thanks for the pictures of Smokey--it's been a long time & I've missed seeing that face. Have a fun & relaxing vacation Kristin and work on completing the story that has us all so intrigued.


Karen, touché! for having your daughter try on those dresses :-) And, oui pour shee roo roo gee (la chirurgie)

Heather, loved the color and details of your grandfather's shop -- and thanks for "bolt" of fabric. This will be a useful term for the story...

Thank you Ginger et Compagnie for wanting to read more of this story, which came to me in a dream just hours before writing it. I almost balked (how to write a story about an accidental seamstress when one knows nothing about sewing? But who am I to question the muse?)

Hannah, thanks for the correction - so helpful!

Newforest, merci for answering Rive's and Maria's questions (sorry Rive, I needed to finish the vocab section...) + for the excellent examples and definitions!

Auntie Pat: enjoyed the "bright light of the Singer... giving her face a glow" !

Joie, Smokey is too skinny. We'll see if his Aunt Cécile (for he and Braise will stay with Jean-Marc's sister...) can help fatten him up! And, dog sitter? We'll have to talk! (P.S.: sounds like a lovely "day at the beach" with the waving whales :-)

Merci encore for these encouraging comments and for your interest in reading more of this story! I hope to bring you another episode of "Chez Janine". Perhaps we can visit her shop from time to time?

Thanks too, Susan and friends, for the "happy vacation" wishes! Regular programming of word a day will resume on August 17th.... Between then and now, I'll try to update the story, or simply check-in and say "salut!"

Lynn McBride

Absolutely. Please carry on.

Pat Cargill

One more resource for French language help on-line:

This has been helpful to me, good basic beginner info, and the host has a recent update on her travels around France.

Herm Meyer in Phoenix, AZ

I agree, Pat ....Great site. Laura can teach you more about conjugation of verbs than you may want to know...Ha!


Re-read "le premier épisode" of this story, and realised Kristin didn't have time to add a few words in her French Vocab List.
Apart from the ones I translated /explained in an earlier post, here are a few more:

--> Une pastille = pastille, lozenge
-> a little sweet, round and flat
-> in medicine, it is a tablet you suck to get rid of a sore throat like for ex "Les Pastilles Valda", or to solve a digestion problem -> "les pastilles à la menthe" are excellent. The "Pastilles Vichy" (not round but octogonal...) are very famous!

-> in fabric design, "une pastille" is a large round spot - "un pois" (= pea) being smaller. "Un tissu à pois" = a polka dot fabric

--> la vitrine = shop window

--> une couturière = dressmaker
Un couturier has his own "Maison de couture", designs (very expensive) clothes, creates his own collections & influences fashion.

--> un escalier en colimaçon
- un escalier = staircase, stairs
- un colimaçon is an old word for “un escargot” = a snail
(by the way, “une limace” = a slug)
--> un escalier en colimaçon*** = a spiral staircase

--> un sac à dos = rucksack / backpack

kristin, I was so pleased to see the top photo again. I immediately loved it when I saw it first in Cinéma Vérité (Paris in June, Part 2) ... so, it was great to see it inspired you to create a 'similar shop' for your story! The spiral staircase will lead us where? As for the bells attached to the top of the door, they might have sounded like cow bells to you, but were they really that big? I wonder.

Looking forward to "le second épisode"!
Bonnes vacances!


Dear Smokey,
What a lovely trio of photos!
Here you are, ready to walk along and investigate, with your tail in the air - Not gone very far and having a rest (why not?)
I think the third one is my favorite one. Between the proud sunflowers and some purplish ricin leaves, the profile of your head gives you a very wise look... "Smokey the thinker"? Indeed!

Now, you may admire the ricin plant behind you, but please, please, please, never ever chew the leaves and play about with the seeds. They contain a poison that would make you horribly sick!
Have a great time with 'Auntie Cécile' and don't worry about what you've heard regarding ... "chirurgie".

Herm Meyer in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Newforest,

Great pictures of the circular stairs!

Here’s another interesting website. These circular stairs have quite a story to tell.

I’ve been in this church and seen these stairs. They are amazing.

Herm Meyer in Phoenix, AZ

Salut tout le monde

I know zilch about dress shops, sewing or things associated. I do, however, recall hearing about a local clothing company that started making western jeans. In their haste to get into production, they forgot to train someone to install the zippers.

So, each evening, they would send the days partially completed jeans out to a company that specialized in installing zippers. The next morning they would get the completed jeans back.

Where’s this story going? What’s the punch line?

The zipper company was a............... !!!

À bientôt

Michael Morrison


You had the sentence "Savez-vous opérer une machine à coudre?" in today's story with the translation "Do you know how to operate a sewing machine?".

I believe that the sentence should be "Savez-vous comment d'opérer une machine à coudre?" I am not a native speaker so you might check my suggested French sentence.


Great story, I want to read more!


"Savez-vous opérer une machine à coudre" the correct sentence is -> "Savez-vous faire marcher (or utiliser or fonctionner) une machine à coudre?"

"Cherche Quelqu'un pour le mois d'Août" correct -> "Cherche quelqu'un pour le mois d'août" Why the uppercase letters in the middle of the sentence?

Je viens de découvrir un blog bien sympathique :-)).

Christa from France


Have a great trip! We are home from ours now. Your inbox was full; said to resend after the 17th.

Take care

Karen Jenkins Young

Your "Chez Janine" reminded me of my mother's sewing room. For a child, MOther's sewing room was a delicious place to loiter at my mother's feet as she worked. The tiny tools and the brilliant fabrics and threads were a playroom to us; we stayed as busy as he old Singer hummed and surged as she sewed. I have not thought about the sewing room in a long while. Thanks.

I just discovered your blog recently. It is a lovely spot to visit a few mornings a week.


une prestation = service offered
une retouche = alteration
le panier = basket
le trottoir = pavement, sidewalk
Je peux vous renseigner = Can I help you?
une conteuse (un conteur) = storyteller

Wow ! you invented translation ! But yet YOUR translation... It is more like :

une prestation = a service
une retouche = shorten

Ok, for the rest.
Take care. Don't be so pretentious, you don't own th country... Yet ;-))


I can barely wait to hear the next part of your story. Bonnes Vacances!

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