larguer les amarres


Accordian Artist (c) Kristin Espinasse
"The Life of Art." An accordion, a tattered chair, and the colors of a revolution. Will you celebrate Bastille Day? Where and how? Click here to share your plans. Photo taken last week in Burgundy.

Note: the next post goes out on Monday.


Paris apartment for rent. St Sulpice

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tricoter (tree koh tay) verb

    : to knit

tricotée à la main = hand-knitted
tricoter des jambes = to run like mad
tricoteur (tricoteuse) = a knitter

Reverse dictionary 
to knit one's brows = froncer les sourcils
knit one purl two = une maille à l'endroit, deux mailles à l'envers
a close-knitted friendship = liés d'une étroite amitié 

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

A Newbie Knitter

On the way back from horse camp, where I left our daughter for the week, I drove through the town of Buis-les-Baronnies. It is one of those grips-you-as-you-go-through places, in which the art of French life reaches down from the open windows, with their flowering sills, and whispers: pull aside! 

I had not been out to take photos in ages and, though I was eager to get home and prepare for the student winetasting, I decided to go with the moment instead.

The village of Buis-les-Baronnies seems to attract hippies, or les baba cool. I noticed a lot of art, and there was a shop selling hookah pipes in which to smoke shisha, or flavored tobacco. I remembered a recent talk with my daughter:

Me: Please don't ever smoke, Jackie.
Jackie: OK. But I want to try shisha....
Me: What's shisha?
Jackie: (some sort of French explanation...)
Me: But that's smoking

I had never heard of the term "shisha" before, though it seemed to be a Moroccan thing. Apparently it was a baba cool thing, too. In addition to artists and baba cools, I added "shisha smokers" to my preliminary impressions list. 

At a quiet outdoor café, I sipped une noisette, enjoying the bucolic scene a few tables ahead of me: a mother bottle-feeding her baby, the family dog looking on in concern -- as if it were the family nurse. 

I asked the waiter for l'addition before setting off for my photo périple. Right away I experienced a few feel-good "photographer endorphins", which coursed through my body as my camera's shutter began to click.  

At the end of the main drag, I saw him. The last peasant, or le dernier paysan, as he would introduce himself when I walked up to ask for his photo. After taking a few shots of "Valentin", I sat down on the bench beside the man in the béret. It would have felt like thievery to rush off with his image in my camera. What about the soul behind this photo?

                   Read about Valentin and see a close-up photo, here.

Chatting with Valentin I noticed a shopkeeper, farther on, keeping her eye on me.... I decided hers was a protective glance. After all, what must it look like?: a stranger with a camera interrogating the elderly villager.  I said Au revoir and Merci to the last peasant (more about him later...) and walked over to the poterie-tissage shop.

"Bonjour," I said, introducing myself. I wanted the shopkeeper (Valentin's accidental guardian angel) to know that I was no threat. I was simply a homemaker with a hobby and... by chance... might I take a photo of her shopfront?

  Vanessa's shop (c) Kristin Espinasse

Permission granted, I snapped a picture. Next, I listened to Intuition, which whispered: You might return the favor... why don't you step into her shop and see what she is selling?

Wandering into the tiny boutique I saw poterie and many examples of handloom weaving. I thought about buying a small "tidy" tray, or un vide-poches... when it occurred to me to ask the shopkeeper-artisan whether she herself had made these things. That is when I learned that Vanessa, as she is called, is the weaver (her partner is the potter). My eyes travelled next to a wall of yarn.

"Vous tricotez?" I asked.  With Vanessa's positive response I knew what I had to buy: a pair of knitting needles--my first! But where to begin? There were so many different sizes!

Apparently yarn came in sizes, too! "Depending on the thickness of the yarn... we'll pick out a corresponding pair of aiguilles." As for color, we ruled out dark tones, especially le noir: "Difficult to learn to knit with black yarn... too hard to see the loops," Vanessa explained.

I decided to go for a bright color.... Turquoise? Lavender? Orange! I'd make something for Jean-Marc, who loves his orange T-shirts! Yes, Chief Grape seemed like a fair victim for a beginning knitter!

But what would I make him? Were socks the easiest project for a beginner? No, they were  not, Vanessa enlightened me. "Why not make a headband?" she suggested. Yes! I had seen Chief Grape wear a bandeau while working in the field--the headband helped to keep his hair out of his eyes. But would he wear a sloppily knitted version? We'd worry about that later....  

Next, I stood before a small display of bamboo aiguilles, each with a colorful balled tip. Here again, color was a priority (anything to arouse the sensual pleasure of a newbie knitter--brightness counted!) ... I chose the bamboo needles with the bright turquoise-blue tips.

Bon, alright now, all that was left to do was to learn how to knit (!!!). Given that the shop was empty, Vanessa offered a lesson....

Holding those ultra-thin needles felt as awkward as writing with the opposite hand (by the way, was there a left-handed method for knitting? I would need one! Never mind, I would learn whichever way that Vanessa was prepared to teach!).

My fingers curled clumsily around the thin bamboo "needles", which looked more like "sticks" to me. Perhaps I needed a thicker pair? No, Vanessa assured, and I realized I was only putting off the next step. 

"Je vais monter les mailles,"my teacher explained, taking the needles from me. Monter les mailles? Knitting vocabulary was as foreign as the practice itself, I thought, watching as Vanessa "casted on". But wait -- I hadn't seen how she did that? How did she get those first few "mailles" to line up along the needle?

Vanessa explained that she preferred I didn't mimick her cast-on method -- a technique she learned from her Russian grandmother. There were, apparently, many techniques for tying on the first knot -- meantime, we needed to get going with the first row so that I could practice with the second.

I took the noodle-like needles (as slippery as angel hair!), inserting one of them beneath a loop at the end of the row that Vanessa had just made. But which way to poke the needle: from behind the loop... or just before it? Vanessa pointed to the starting place and, just like threading a needle, I watched as the bamboo stick hit... and missed its target. I tried again... and again. By the time I got the slippery needle through the catchy yarn I had a new dilemma: the needle tips being side by side, which direction to cross the second needle (in front or in back of the first)?

I crossed the needles according to Vanessa's gesturing and faced the next conundrum: looping the ball end of the string around the needle (but which way: across the front or the back?...). In trying to lasso the yarn around the needle I must have loosened my grip. I watched as the aiguilles and the carefully cast first row tumbled to the ground--along with a fountain of orange yarn. "I'm so sorry!" I said, quickly stooping to pick-up the needles and yarn. Maybe I was not cut-out to be a tricoteuse?

Vanessa helped me to find my place and I managed to lasso that needle. It was now necessary to tuck one of the needles through the loop -- so as to pull off the first stitch! With that, I felt a little giddy... until a customer strode in and stole my teacher's attention.

I stood, needles in midair, fingers cramped, waiting for instructions, when it eventually dawned on me that I might repeat the process on my own! ...I managed another stitch... carefully clamping down on the row lest I lose it!

When another customer filed into the shop I picked up the ball of yarn, carefully wrapping the loose end around it. I pushed the needles, along with the stitches, back into the needle case... and went to pay.

"Will you be able to continue on your own?" Vanessa was concerned. I assured her that I'd find a how-to video on YouTube. With that, she smiled with assurance. 

I told Vanessa that I would just take a few more photos of her town, before heading home.
"Be careful," she said, looking at my spur-of-the-moment purchase. This could get expensive!  

I did not immediately understand her comment, until I remembered the guardian angel, Vanessa, the one whose store I had wandered into earlier (and in which I was currently shopping!) hoping to return a favor. If I returned the favor, buying something from each shopkeeper each time I photographed a shopfront, then, yes indeed, my photo stops could get pricey! ...Then again, perhaps she meant that my new knitting hobby could get pricey? Either way, I had just had a priceless experience!


Le Coin Commentaires
Talk about the shopkeeper characters that you have met, or tell us about your own knitting adventures! Any knitting terms you would like to share here? Which is the best knitting project to begin with: a scarf, mittens? Feel free to share your favorite knitting blogs... Click here to leave a comment.

Related Stories: "The Last Peasant" (read more about Valentin, the Frenchman sitting on the bench...). Click here.

French Vocabulary

une noisette = espresso with a drop or "tear" of milk
un paysan (une paysanne) = peasant
l'addition (f) = bill, check
les aiguilles (f) = knitting needles
le vide-poches = a tidy: a shallow bowl or vase designed to receive the contents of one's poche, or pocket

Things I Learned From Knitting

Things I Learned from Knitting Whether I Wanted to Or Not: order the book here.




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Pamela Plançon

Love this story! "Next, I listened to Intuition which whispered: You might return the favor... why don't you step into her shop and see what she is selling?" As the previous owner of a small boutique in a small village I understand how important it is that more people frequent the little shops of the village and support their hard efforts....or we will all be forced to go to the Geant ;-)!
I have been enjoying reading your blog as we spend time here in Provence. Do you vente direct at your vineyard?

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Pamela! And, yes, we do sell direct -- by appointment only. Simply drop us a line, via email ([email protected]), and we'll let you know when the best time is to come by our vineyard. Hope to see you very soon!


Today's blog is most probably my all-time favorite! And I thought that of many, I must admit... The picture of the musician, the first introduction into knitting, every sentence makes my heart dance. I am sure you will eventually find knitting a very creative art and it need not really be expensive if you build up a stash by picking up orphan yarn - the price-reduced single skein yearning for that kindly textile-orientated soul who will pick it up and turn it into its destined shape and form, a lovely little scarf, an Iphone case and why not that bandeau! I would have just the pattern for it...

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

I also feel inclined to "pay" for my photos by visiting local shops. Why visit anyplace unless you really make the effort to connect with the locals? For myself, I've had problems finding shops that sell cross stitch supplies in France. It seems all about needlepoint. But I keep looking!


Kristin, I adore today's blog. As a knitter myself, I remember the thrill of learning to cast-on and to knit my first stitches. Beware, it becomes an addiction! If you learn the continental way of knitting, it will probably be easier for you as a leftie, and I find it much faster than "throwing" (the method that you probably learned). Also, making a scarf will probably be a good first project for you, giving you the opportunity to work out those common errors of inadvertently knitting two stitches together or adding another stitch (when I started, I had many triangular pieces, of course, I was six at the time). Make the scarf, and maybe after a couple of projects, you can make something "in the round" like socks or mittens. Also, I live in Paris, so the next time you're here, send me an e-mail if you need help. Welcome to the obsessive world of knitting!

Dottie Bennett


I start every day with your photos and stories, because I have your blog set as my home page! Probably the closest I am likely to get to living in France! I learned to knit as a child from my mother. She and her 4 sisters learned to knit from THEIR mother in the 1930's. One would start a sweater, then the others would work on it as they had time! I agree with Catherine that a scarf is an easy first project, but it is OK to just practice first. Orphan yarns and practice can become doggie blankets- just pieces of knitted work that can be joined and used for doggie dreaming! Many animal shelters like to get these as donations. NOTE: it helps if the yarn is a washable acrylic.


Another tricoteuse passionnée here, smiling reminiscently over your wonderful post, Kristin. I don't remember being taught how to knit (too young) but do remember teaching our left-handed daughter to knit. She's now a much better knitter than I am, so do persevere and bon courage!

Bill in St. Paul

Kristin, having seen what has become of my daughter-in-law when she took up knitting, I have to agree with what catherine said "the obsessive world of knitting". Notre belle-fille started with a scarf, then made socks for everybody, then a vest for herself, and the last I checked had made several purses/totes that she had to water shrink to make the yarn thicker (sorry, knitters, I know there's a term for this "shrinking", but I can't remember what it is). Now our dear daughter-in-law was introduced to sewing so for her birthday on Friday we bought her a sewing machine, and she's off on a secret project which will be revealed when we arrive on Friday. (All this time, however, she's supposed to be working on her dissertation!)

Maureen Walsh

Hello Kristin. Thanks for sharing your experience. I have had a similar one that I have blogged about. We are now ending a year-long stay in Grenoble. I met the owner of the local mercerie almost a year ago and she patiently instructed me, a novice knitter, in the basics of tricoter while sharing a glimpse of her life story. It was an unforgettable time. I'll be carrying my pair of aiguilles back home at the end of the month along with my special memories.


If I had to follow a chronological order, I would start reading the previous FWAD I haven't looked at yet ... but... as soon as I saw the verb "tricoter", I knew "le rêve" (Monday FWAD) would have to wait. Ok, I must admit the verb of the day has a strong appeal and meaning to me.
Kristin, I certainly enjoyed the part of the story dedicated to your first steps in knitting!
Very busy now but I'll come back as soon as I can.

Heather Strawser

Yay! I'm behind on your blog, buy I knew this word and had to read! I still have your knitting book. There were a few things I wanted to make, but I've hardly touched my needles since Anna was born. It's yours if you want it back. Welcome to the knitting world! It is expensive!


Julie, there are quite a number of "point de croix" supply stores in la France, I know there is one in Toulouse, but I have not yet found their web address. Kristin, I agree with Katherine's advice to learn the Continental way of knitting, many knitters on Ravelry agree that it is easier to learn, especially for South-Paws!

Phyllis Morton

Hi Kristin. There is a movement now in the states called Yarn Bombing-people knit and put on bikes, trees etc, Google to see examples and info. All over the world.
I would suggest a scarf as the best beginners task.


Hello Kristin, you mentioned favorite knitting blogs. There is a global organization called Ravelry:
From there you can branch out into almost any textile-orientated craft you like. You can contact any group in the world and have a good chance to find the information you need. A lot of pattern pages are now available without registration. There are also a plethory of local groups in many countries meeting on a fairly regular basis, and if you feel like it you can drop into one of the 31 groups in or near Phoenix,Arizona, USA!

Suzanne Codi, Washington, DC

Hi Kristen
Knitting is fun and so relaxing once you get the swing of it, and I would definitely start with a scarf until your stitches are nice and even. Loved today's story, specially your spontaneity ( a " blink" moment) in stopping when you feel like it, a true artist's reaction, and what life is all about, instead of running around full speed ahead trying to get things done,things that can usually wait ...

Paysan; peasant, person who lives in the country
L'addition : the check, the bill
Aiguilles a tricoter: knitting needles
Noisette: think it's the tiny cups of coffee that barely hold 2 gulps?

Amber...Peoria, IL

I just learned to knit myself! My cousin, who taught herself from a book, taught me! I knitted a scarf on the way to and from Alaska! It is for my seven year old, who is also now knitting! We picked yarn the color of the Aurora (blue, green, purple). When I needed to add yarn and finish the scarf, I just "youtubed it"...yep, you can learn so much from a video! Good luck with it. Once I got going, I found it very relaxing and gratifying!

Great story, by the way!

Gail Jolley

I am also left-handed. I learned to knit when I was young, but didn't like it very much. Now that I am older I find that I prefer crochet, but it does have some drawbacks. By now you have probably discovered all kinds of aids on the Internet for learning to knit left-handed. It can be frustrating at first, but if you are persistent and can keep a steady pressure on the yarn, it's a nice meditative kind of hobby.


As I read your description of learning to knit, it brought back the bittersweet memory of trying to work with my mother-in-law after dementia set in. She was an avid knitter in her younger days, but could not even remember how to hold the needles in her later years - so very sad to watch the things that alzheimers have stolen from her! Thanks so much for your blogs!

Mindy (Manhattan Beach, CA)

Loved this post!

You asked us to write about a memorable shopkeeper, and when I was a kid there was a shopkeeper we all loved named CeCe (nickname for Cecelia), and she worked at a store called Alice's Imagination Shop. Alice was the owner, and they sold beads, yarn, STUFF to ignite the imagination.

They had classes after school and on weekends, so kids (and adults) could learn to bead jewelry, knit, make dolls, decoupage, etc.

Cece was the heart of that place, and she ended up with a lot of our finished products as gifts. A childhood friend just reconnected with me on facebook, and she was reminiscing about Alice's Imagination Shop. I had forgotten all about it!!

Good times!

BAFA Studio

I loved this article and am so glad for you. Once you learn, like riding a bicycle, you'll never forget. Don't be surprised if you start getting requests for items 'after' you've become proficient.

Catherine Lee

Bought your book several months back and really enjoyed it. Your blog is a wonderful find for me. I am a 55 year old first time language learner and your book suggestions have been very helpful.
Catherine Lee

Leslie Riley

Kristen, I loved today's post. I started knitting about 5 years ago (crochet, too). There is a terrific website: that has videos of both the continental (left-handed) and throw methods of knitting. I bought a set of needles from that have different sizes and are circular needles instead of the straight ones. You knit the same way, turning your work, so they act as regular needles, but the advantages are that you can knit larger projects (afghans) and not worry about how many stitches you have, the stitches are less likely to fall off the needles, and you can rest your work on your lap as you knit (as the work gets heavier). You can knit small blocks trying different stitch patterns (books and websites available) and even use different yarns and colors. When all your blocks are complete, sew them together and you have an afghan! Bon chance! Leslie

Linda R.

A serendipitous stop and another direction in life - fun. My great aunt tried to teach me to knit when I was about nine years old, but I broke the needles - how did that happen?! I blamed it on my being left-handed and left my knitting days behind me.

You asked about Bastille Day plans - I will be doing an Around the World story hour with 35-45 kindergarten through fifth graders ... no book planned as such but I'm making tons of crepes today and I put together a recipe book of crepes and fillings with a vocabulary (match and color - une banane jaune, une fraise rouge, etc.) of favorite fillings. A French children's song or two will come to mind in short order ... I hope. If anyone can think of a culinary song, I'd love to know about it.


Hi Kristen,
I just started tricoter last year! It is addicitve, meditative and tres amusant! Several people have already suggested continential style and I, also, find it much easier than English (or 'throwing') style - I learned how from YouTube (
To put in my two cents about yarn - I started on acrylic and you can get many nice ones but oh, the joy of knitting with natural fibres! I've become super fond of wool blends (merino wool/silk especially!)My last project was baby booties and a $12 (Canadian) skein made two pairs with some to spare... so as presents go not crazy expensive.
Enjoy you new hobby!

Suzi Hodgson, Lima Mt

Oh my how that brought back memories.My mother tried to teach me to Knit.I tried and tried, each night when I got home from school, she had pulled out the previous days work,saying you had a mistake down at the bottom.Frustation! Finally I just gave up.Mom finally admitted she had been taught by a little Italian lady during the war and she taught her the left handed method..great.Now I love to watch others knit.So I wish you much good luck!

Larry & Marilyn Griffith


Shall we bring our knitting needles (aiguilles) with us when we meet on the 25th? Marilyn teaches knitting but perhaps you will not have the time on the 25th. Let us know. Marilyn also has a antique sock knitting machine (100 yrs old) that she can discuss with you...

Eileen deCamp

I checked out Yarn Bombing and here is a link:

My brother loves to knit and he made me a throw which I use all the time to snuggle up on the couch. He says it is very relaxing and meditative in a way. I will have to try it!

Love all the posts!

Marianne Rankin

I am left-handed, and learned the very basics of knitting (along with much else) from my mother, who was right-handed. I actually never knew there was more than one way to knit, but I shouldn't expect that it matters a lot which method one uses. Years later, I bought a book with excellent illustrations in the event I decide to try something ambitious.

I've not done much knitting for years. One of my early projects was a wool hat for my brother, done with round plastic needles. Something like that would probably be harder than a scarf, but is still far easier than, say, a sweater.

If you have yarn you don't expect to use, you could (in addition to animal shelters) donate it to a school. My son's elementary school had a period each week for pupils to explore their interests, and some of the girls were in a knitting club. I gave them one skein and part of another. Schools can also use yarn in various crafts.


Kristin, thank you for the lovely entry this morning! It brought a smile to my face, as knitting stories usually do. I myself have been knitting for 24 years, having been taught by my very old Russian/Belorussian grandmother. I remember the frustration I felt as a five-year-old holding my first pair of needles and very itchy yarn. Believe me, I had put the activity on the backburner many a time before finally ‘getting it.’ There’s something about it that keeps pulling me back every time. And a visit to a yarn store is sure to inspire, as you have already found out for yourself.

P.S. There most definitely is a left-handed method for knitting! I highly recommend the book Stitch and B*tch. Regardless of its whimsical (hopefully not offensive) title, it is a fantastic resource that outlines in simple but precise detail all the techniques that a beginner and intermediate knitter should know. The instructions are easy to understand and the book is a joy to leaf through.

Suzanne de Cornelia

Happy Fete de la Bastille to all! It's my birthday so I'll be going out to a wonderful French place here in Carmel-by-the-Sea with friends. And I posted my Bastille salute on

My son is French and today/tomorrow is on a trip to Deauville on the Brittany coast.

Peggy S. Baker

Having just survived the biggest power outage in our area (NW of Chicago), we will enjoy being able to work again, and being able to receive French Word of the Day, but with a PROFOUND love of France will enjoy watching the Tour d France (daily) bringing us to your backyards and dreaming for the day we will return to the country we want to call home in years to come. A very Happy Fete de la Bastille to you all and know that you have a special place in our heart's.


"... I sat down on the bench beside the man in the beret. It would have felt like thievery to rush off with his image in my camera. What about the soul behind this photo?"
This is why you are so well-loved, Kristin. Your compassion and gentle grace. You are, my dear, a natural Buddhist!!
Love your stories and your quirky humour and whimsy. Thank you!


Knowing how to knit actually increases understanding of so many things outside the world of knitting. I encountered such a situation last Sunday when our Bible teacher tried to explain Colossians 2:2 where the apostle Paul spoke of being "knit together in love". I explained that all of the stitches are interdependent on each other so that when one has a problem, they all have a problem. When one is doing fine, all are doing well. Since the teacher and many others were not knitters, they said that explanation helped. Knitting and crocheting also helped me get through our son's adolescence. I hope it will do the same for you since you have two teenagers. As you work out the knots in your needlework, you will find that you are also working out other knots or problems in life. You will find other knitters that will give you encouragement, as the Dirt Divas have done in your gardening. Above all, don't give up!


I enjoyed your little vignette,good ending! My daughter knits furiously and I hear how expensive it can be but definitely worth the rewards! Keep it up.
Thank you for sharing your life.


Although she has lived in the United States for thirty years and is absolutely fluent in English, my French teacher says she still can't understand American knitting patterns--she can only knit from French patterns! Apparently the terminology or the abbreviations or both are very different.

Keep us posted on what you're learning. I'll tell her "une maille à l'endroit, deux mailles à l'envers" for a start!

Tonya McNair

I absolutely love your posts..your blog..the entire site.. AND, you book, so are you.
I did not see the definitions for some of the French words in the wonderful knitting story. Did I just look in the wrong place? I want every drip of what you say.
Bless you,


How exciting to read this post! I lived near Buis-les-Baronnies (down the road in Pierrelongue) for two years and your post has brought on some lovely warm memories. Buis has a nice market on Wednesdays, and with Rocher St. Julien in the background and Baume Rousse further up, it's also a climbing destination. Enjoy the knitting! There's a store called Phildar in Nyons and La Boite a Tricoter in Avignon.

Joanne Fischer

We will be heading to Bistro Provence here in Houston tomorrow night to celebrate La Fete de Bastille!!! I'm sure there will be some Rouge-Bleu in our future too!!! (but today we are watching the USA beat France in the World Cup!!!) Allez les Americaines!!!!!!!


Loved your post!
Betty taught me how to knit, a life time ago, when she was visiting from Phoenix, and I was living in a smaller than small town across the mountain's from our childhood home. She taught me to knit and then to pearl and went home leaving me with instructions to practice and give her a call if I had any questions.
I had many-she took to keeping a ball of twine and tooth picks near her phone.
I would read the instructions for my latest project over the phone-she would work it up on her twine-then tell me how to do it.
I learned to read patterns from this too.
She taught my own daughter how to knit just a short time ago out on her front porch swing.
I don't knit the lace like she does, but have knit my fair share of things.
Fact is just this morning I was gathering up the necessities for sock knitting.
The shop keeper is very right in warning you of the expence-but may have failed to encourage you in the plesant hours of knittings calming ryhthm.
If you get stuck call Betty and tell her I sent you :D

Lisa A., CA

noisette = hazelnut
bucolic scene = crowded scene
paysan = peasant or farmer
l'addition = bill or check
aiguilles = needles
les aiguilles = knitting needles
vide-poches = glove box
photo périple = photo tour
au revoir = goodbye
merci = thank you!


Bill in Saint Paul: The word you are searching is called felting.

Kristin: I agree with the other Laura, is a great place to start with lots of free patterns, yarn suggestions, discussion groups and more. I think a dishcloth is a great project to start with because it is a small square, and it's a quick project! Use all cotton yarn.


I see I'm not the only one who loved your knitting story. I was once a tricoteuse devouee. but alas the hands can no longer do it. When pregnant I found it SO therapeutic, and now my daughter with MS does too. I was taught by a schoolteacher at a country school, at age 8. I made a hot water bottle cover, turquoise, much to thick, in seed stitch, and she would patiently correct my many mistakes while teaching her 26 (grades 1 to 8) pupils. For her, it was a way to keep me occupied. Much later I learned crochet, and made many projects. Bonne chance! As for Bastille Day, I met my husband on July 14, 1943....

Kristin Espinasse

Missy, This post should have been dedicated to Aunt Betty. We had a big storm this morning and I kept unplugging the computer (safety precaution)... only to rush and post the story before that (very dumb) deadline. The orange yarn now reminds me of Uncle Rusty (for the color of his hair... even if it wasn't really orange--and for the can of pumpkin that he so thoughtfully sent me -- so that I could make that pumpkin pie). So this is very much an Aunt Betty and Uncle Rusty tribute. What I'd give to be back in their home, watching their projects in the kitchen and in the back yard. Aunt Betty made me stuffed animals and I know about the intricate lace knitting she does... but haven't yet had the chance to watch her make it. I loved your story about Aunt Betty teaching you to knit. She is a true angel.


Although I always read your blog, Kristin, I rarely post but, since I am a self-confessed yarn-a-holic, I have to tell you how much I loved today's post. There is nothing like finding a local yarn shop (LYS) with a friendly shopkeeper who takes the time to teach you a new skill. Be patient, embrace your work no matter how it looks - think "design element" rather than "mistake".

And Valentin is a sweet find - there's nothing like compassionate rewards.

Oh, and do check out as Laura suggested. It truly is THE place for all things fiber.


Hi Kristin,

I learned how to "tricoter" (knit and purl) when I was about 8. My mother didn't knit, but one of my grandmothers did, although she was more of an artist in lace crochet, but that's another story!
To me, as a child, in the years following "la Seconde Guerre Mondiale" (WW2), I thought knitting meant repeating two boring stitches (knit and purl) all along boring rows, in all sort of tricky ways. Besides, my sensitive skin didn't like that prickly wool! It's my older brother who ended up knitting a long scarf "au point mousse" (in garter stitch) for my poor old doll (a photo of him in a nearby meadow can still prove it). The choice of yarn and colours was rather limited. Some women used to unravel old jumpers and re-knit the wool into socks! Not fun for me anyway. I preferred using a knitting needle as a skewer or a knife, to check whether a cake was well baked!

I grew up leaving knitting and their boring stitches to "les tricoteuses" (the knitters). On the other hand, I rather admired "les couturières" (like my mother's younger sister) Ok, no point hiding I used to find something terribly unattractive about knitting. As an adult, I knew knitting wasn't for me! Why did I get into knitting so many many years later? (in fact, quite recently!)

It started after last Xmas. I'll omit the multiple details of that long story, but will simply admit I did get involved in a knitting project, and have been knitting ever since (so, for about 6 months)- A lot of learning, getting frustrated, making mistakes, unravelling, starting again, enjoying the improvements and loving passionately all the creative process... and the gorgeous yarns that are now available in shops these days... and the friendly bamboo and wooden knitting needles! I have become friendly with one of the shop assistants in the local woolshop and with another lady who's been knitting for years. I like personal contacts and enjoy exchanging 'knitting news' with my daughter.

As she is greatly responsible for my new "hobby", I bought two 'giclée reproductions' of Jean-François Millet's paintings a little while ago and gave them to her as a birthday present (from

-> "La Tricoteuse" / 'The Knitter' (also called 'The seated Shepherdess') - 1858-60
and -> "La Bergère et son Troupeau" ( Shepherdess with her Flock) - 1863

Kristin, I have a French vintage postcard (28th Dec 1907) that I acquired recently. There is a photo of an old "tricoteuse" and a poem written in French (with a few words in "patois") in which "la vieille tricoteuse" explains, in her own way why she keeps on knitting and knitting. I could scan it and email it to you if you like. I think you might appreciate it.

Good luck with your knitting. Don't worry about making mistakes. Persevere and enjoy! You'll gradually see whether knitting is 'for you'. Meanwhile, have a great time!

Sheryl in Denver

I learned to knit from my 5th grade teacher, only the very basics, cast on, knit, purl, cast off, but I still remember how. I think I could only manage making a headband at this point. I will spend Bastille Day at Le Central, a wonderful Denver restaurant, with my French social group, as we (try to) speak French while enjoying delicious French wine and food (moules et frites, peut-etre?). As always, I look forward to your wonderful posts and hope to meet you one day. My first trip to France was last year (we had set up a meeting chez vous but we got lost in Grenoble and had to cancel). My heart dreams of my return to Provence. A bientot!

Michelle Charette

Kristen, How spontaneous of you! Bravo!

Laurel, Oakland, CA

I learned to knit from my dad's neighbor as a kid. I promptly forgot and took it up again a few years ago with the help of the book "Stitch and Bitch". I unfortunately started having problems with my fingers seizing and now have 1/3 of a blanket I made for my friend's daughter, now 4 years old... Shall have to get back to it! Thanks for the inspiration Kristen!


I am left handed. I taught myself to knit MANY years ago with a German instruction book and a little help from my German husband. The German method which involves the left hand more than the American method works fine for me. I was learning German by total immersion (living there). I made a baby sweater for my oldest son. I knitted a lot over the years, but hadn't done much recently. In March of 2010 while in Nice, I got an email from that son's daughter telling me she was expecting her first child. I looked up a knitting shop, La Drogerie, and purchased yarn and instructions for a baby blanket. I found a French/English glossary of knitting terms on the internet and was able to finish the blanket for my first great grandson.

Cynthia Lewis

Wow....what a response to your great story/blog today! You touched the hearts of all of these onetime or current knitters. Since you have a propensity for worrying, knitting might be just the thing for a few moments of relaxation at stressful times. Don't worry about mistakes; that scarf will be just as warm and appreciated with your special "touches". Definitely learn the left-handed method (what I always called the European method) for you will eventually be knitting twice as fast as with the over-hand method! Amicalement, Cynthia

Peggy Bruns

I can't believe the number of posts today! Knitting is more popular than I thought. I re-learned how to knit about 6 or 7 months ago (after initially learning 25 years ago)from a knitting store in Carefree, AZ. I'm lucky enough to have a Master Knitter who works there and has become a good friend. I can go to the store and sit all day and knit and talk and eat lunch and improve my knitting skills. After the initial frustration and clumsiness one feels while learning to knit has passed it can turn into an extremely relaxing and rewarding hobby. My husband and I will be visiting Normandy and Paris in the fall and it will be a great way to pass time on the long flights. My beginning projects were dishcloths made from very inexpensive cotton yarns and an easy scarf. One suggestion: knitting anything takes time and effort so why make scarves, sweaters, hats, etc. out of inexpensive yarn? Buy the best you can afford. Wool-silk blends and baby alpaca are just a few of the wonderful yarns on the market. Learn on inexpensive yarn, then use really great quality yarn for your projects. I agree with an earlier post about circular needles. That is all we use at my knitting store. Also, most of us have multiple projects going at the same time so when you get bored with one you can pick up another. Stick with it and I'm sure you will get much happiness from knitting.


When talk comes up about knitting I love to add this story. I tell my friends I'm still knitting my son a dress. After many puzzled looks I explain that I began knitting a dress while I was pregnant 38 years and to this day haven't finished it. Happy birthday son, 14th July.

Robyn Daniels

Hi Kristin

Good luck with the knitting. I suggest knitting small practice squares in different colours - this you can do in small bites and not get discouraged. I suspect your colourist's eye would enjoy laying out the squares until you found pleasing combinations/locations for your little flags before you stitch them together to make a bag to store your yarn/needles/current pieces or for larger projects a throw to cover a sofa or chair - a bit like a patchwork quilt. xx

Jennifer Salazar

A friend and are heading to my fave French bistro, Bouchon, in Beverly Hills to celebrate with authentic French music and food. Viva la France! And my husband just bought me a new bottle of red Lillet to enjoy too. Yum!
Love your posts - merci beacoup!

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

I love how you allow escapade and spontaneity to shape your day. Also, love your thought process in what item, what color, to knit for whom…brought a big smile!

In winter, when my good friend seeks to escape the dreariness of cabin fever and drops in for a visit she always brings along her knitting bag. We sip tea together in my sunlight kitchen and talk while I watch her knit. I think one day I’d like to learn how. Oh, how I wish I could go back and have my grandmother teach me how to crochet. She made the prettiest blankets.

In the heat of summer here, I just ordered a pear-green, wool shawl at etsy. This way I’ll have something lovely to chase away the chill of fall when she makes her return…for me, she always brings a hint of melancholy with her.

Terry Littman

Some of the best people I have met in France have been the ladies who knit.

Terry Littman

Go and explore Lot's of help and inspiration available for anyone who knits, spins, crochets, weaves.....


Re-bonjour, Kristin,
You asked for a Vocab List...


-> la noisette = hazelnut, but, when the word is used for coffee, it is an expresso + a few drops of cream.

-> a bucolic scene doesn't mean a 'crowded scene' (as suggested)
- a bucolic scene = une scène champêtre, rurale, rustique, pastorale, bucolique.

-> demander l'addition = to ask for the bill
-> le paysan / campagnard = peasant, small farmer

-> le périple = journey, voyage (if travelling by boat)
- here, it's a tour

-> l'homme au béret = the man in the beret
-> au revoir et merci! = Bye and Thank you!
-> la poterie = pottery
-> le tissage = weaving
-> le vide-poche(s) = tidy tray
- in a car, it's the glove-box

-> Vous tricotez? = Do you knit?
-> une aiguille = a needle
-> une paire d'aiguilles (à tricoter) = a pair of knitting needles

-> la maille = (knitting) a stitch
-> monter 50 mailles = to cast on 50 stitches
-> rabattre les mailles = to cast off/to bind off
-> une maille à l'endroit = a knit stitch
-> une maille à l'envers = a purl stitch

- to do "le point mousse" (= 'garter stitch'),
you knit "mailles à l'endroit" on each row.

- to do "le point jersey" (= 'stocking stitch'),
you do one row of "mailles à l'endroit", followed by one row of "mailles à l'envers".

Happy knitting!


Bonjour d'une autre francophone - une ancienne habitante de Bourg-en-Bresse! I picked up knitting two and a half years ago. It's definitely a lot to learn at first. I don't know any of the knitting terms in French as I picked up the craft a full 6 years after moving back to the States.

I learned from a book one boring Thanksgiving and have barely put the needles down since. I started with an easy garter stitch (knit every row) scarf for my dad, then with each project, I added another technique. Now my favorite thing to knit are socks, but I've done a couple sweaters, a ton of hats and some baby blankets for friends.

Youtube is a WEALTH of information about knitting how-to's. If you're really getting into it, I suggest joining Ravelry - a social networking and project organization site for knitters and crocheters. There are tons of free and for-purchase patterns, you can find other knitters "au coin," find out about meet-ups, get advice, etc. There are members from all over the world and they're all really nice, especially to beginners. Because, hey, we were all beginners at some point! If you do join "Rav," find me! My "ravatar" is eetnyy1103 :)

Gwyn Ganjeau

I missed checking in yesterday--in every sense of the word "missed."

My mom was an avid knitter and taught my little sister and I at a very young age. Back then, they had these kits that had all the makings for knitting Barbie clothes. Yes, tiiiiny Barbie clothes! I remember the needles being about as big around as toothpicks. I can't quite believe it now.

These days, my knitting time is sporadic. I'll get on a binge and then let it go for years without picking up a needle. After one such long knitting respite years ago, I wanted something big and challenging. I decided on a man's sweater. I knew it would take a while. There was no 'special' man in my life at the time and i thought it might be a nice way to conjure one up--thinking about the qualities and characteristics that are important to me--what kind of shoes he might wear, etc., as i happily knit away. it took me about a year and i finished it--and there was indeed a 'special man'! the sweater didn't quite fit--the arms were much too long and the body too boxy. and as it turned out, the man wasn't such a good fit for me, either. But now that I'm thinking about it, i just might be ready to try it again! :)

Lynda Laun

I am going to celebrate Le Jour de la Bastille tonight with our Groupe Francais in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, U.S.A. A new couple (French husband) is coming tonight. Can hardly wait to meet them. We always sing La Marseillaise. I wish everyone a beautiful Bastille Day. Lynda Laun

Lisa A., CA

Hello again...

The one and only time I tried to knit was with my aunt Virginia when I was a child. I thought I was doing a great job, then I noticed that my knitting wasn't getting any larger. I looked down an noticed while I was working away on making a fabulous square (nothing too hard for my first time) :) my aunt's cat was taking it apart from the bottom!! So, that was the beginning and the end of my life as a knitter. lol

Et pour Le Jour de la Bastille, je célébrais avec trois films: "PARIS", "My Best Friend" (trés amusant!!!!) et "HeartBreaker".

Patricia N.

I began knitting in my twenties and gave it up as I raised my family but now I have more time and I have once again started knitting. The internet has changed knitting tremendously. I especially love I have come across many french knitters who make beautiful things. I follow a couple of french knitting blogs that I have found through ravelry. The french blogs are fairly easy to understand (my french needs much improvement) and the photos are lovely.

Debra Ashe

Reading your blog today brought back happy memories of when my grandmother taught me to knit when I was a little girl. I spent many hours knitting with her. My first knitting project was a pair of bedroom slippers. I have not knitted in many years, but it is something I hope to do again after I retire from teaching. I hope that you will enjoy knitting as much as I did many years ago.

Jules Greer

Kristi Darling - thank you for this wonderful story - what a cashe of comments, I love your readers.

My computer is still 'down'', I am finally at the Çoffee Cup trying to catch up on gmail. Miss you so much.



Pamela Waterman

Just had time to catch up on my reading - how fun that knitting caused a blog explosion for you! I started knitting scarves for my dolls at age 7 and moved up to mittens then sweaters by high school. Yarn "keeps" well so you can pick it up again and again without feeling guilty when it sits awhile in a closet. Enjoy!

Aimee @ PutYourFlareOn

yay for learning to knit! That's wonderful. If you're ever in Paris and want to join knitting night at my tea house we'd love to have you! We have a great group of knitters that meet every week! I see that you joined Ravelry too! Feel free to join our group there TricoThé at L'OisiveThé. It's a great group of knitters who like to chat about knitting in English and French.

I think a scarf is a fun project to start with but I have taught many knitters to knit a cowl for a first project and in the round! Don't be afraid of those circular needles they will soon become your best friends. :)

Bon tricot et a tres bientot!!


Good luck on the knitting. Smokey looks very debonaire with his eye patch. Maybe he shoud be renamed Smokey Jack Sparrow?
Lots of parches sewn together make dish clothes, shopping bags, block-style sweaters, baby blankets,and on and on.

Barbara Penn

I missed your husband's beautiful French pronunciation on your knitting blog. Is it possible to have him read some of the words for that entry? By the way, your blog is the highlight of my e-mail week; love your entries and the photography is almost as good as a trip to France. Wish I could have been along when you found the knitting shop in the wonderful little village. I have a list of French knitting terms that I downloaded from knit in the simplest possible style--Russian style. There are videos on youtube that explain this well in English.It is a good style for lefties.


I am late in responding to this, but I knit scarves and afghans and then finally a sweater, which ended up beginning about a size XXL and I tried to shrink it by washing it and it shrunk in length but not in width, which made is extremely stange looking, but my father wore it anyways.
Scarfs or afghans are the best bet for the novice.

buy hookah

Another tricoteuse passionnée here, smiling reminiscently over your wonderful post, Kristin. I don't remember being taught how to knit (too young) but do remember teaching our left-handed daughter to knit. She's now a much better knitter than I am, so do persevere and bon courage!

James Rawn

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