Let me introduce you to my friend Barbara. She’s a fellow kiwi, and has lived in Paris for more than 30 years or so now. She was the instigator of the knitting group I go to on Tuesday afternoons – it was Barbara who “found” me on Ravelry and invited me along and I am so pleased she did. As typical kiwis we have already found there are people connections between us; 2-degrees of separation.
Barbara knits and sews – her whole family is very creative and crafty – and she knows soooooo many places around Paris to shop for anything and everything to do with knitting, sewing and needlework crafts. In fact Barbara has made this her business alongside her professional career as a language teacher. She is the person behind Stitching Up Paris, offering guided tours of all places craft-related around Paris. She takes people to places they are most interested in, be it sewing, knitting, embroidery, or whatever. This week Barbara took me for a hand-craft walk and what a treat it was.
We met up at Metro Etienne Marcel and after fuelling up with a coffee we visited a dozen places, from pretty boutiques to dusty old-fashioned haberdasheries that were treasure troves, trade warehouses and elegant showrooms. First up we visited an historic passementerie showroom where they design and make tassels, cords, fringing and other things for interior decoration. This place is recognised by the French government as a Living Heritage Company, having specialist historic artisan knowledge. The samples on display are superb – if you are ever decorating a chateau this is the place to go. They have records of the decoration used in French heritage buildings and are commissioned for refurbishment of these historic places.
On to Boisson at 181 rue St Denis. Mostly a trade supplier for all sorts of threads and fibres but individuals can buy items here and I got a reel of blackcurrant-coloured metallicised thread for a project I have in mind. Next stop Lil Weasel so that I could do some yarn research for my next knitting work, then a couple of places on rue Reamur. We didn’t go into Fil2000 as the queue was already out the door. Clearly the place to go for sewing needs.
Next on the list was the newly opened boutique Sajou that Barbara wanted to check out. Oh. My. Goodness, what a gorgeous shop! Not knitting and wool but lovely buttons, needlework designs, pins, threads etc all displayed so beautifully. An ideal place to get gifts for friends who do needlework, and for yourself of course.
Tearing ourselves away from Sajou we stopped to ooh and ahh at the vertical garden (le mur végétal) on rue d’Aboukir. It’s called L’ Oasis d’Aboukir and is another of the green installations by green-haired Patrick Blanc. (Click on the link here to see the video of Patrick Blanc’s fieldtrip to New Zealand – there is some great footage of the country and NZ’s flora – the poor man gets caught in a hail storm during filming.) Next on to a shop full of gorgeous ribbons and some very nice handmade jewellery.
After that we made our way to a knitting yarn shop with a difference. The yarns are laid out for display on shelves and on top of boxes stacked on the floor. You can have a good look and see up close what takes your fancy, and get advice from the helpful proprieter. On, on we went to a charming old fashioned haberdashery. This is the kind of shop I would have walked straight past without noticing. It’s dark on the outside, not really enticing, but going inside, it’s like Harry Potter’s magic shop in Diagon Alley with delightful things in boxes and drawers, just the place for fossicking. It’s a good place to go for vintage haberdashery and their hat making shop is over the road too.
Last stop was a tiny boutique specialising in all things tapestry; wool yarns, hand-painted canvas, and needlework kits, such glorious colours and designs.
Somewhere in there we also visited a fabric warehouse where we spotted some very interesting items. It’s probably just as well I don’t sew, there’s no spare capacity in my project list already. Barbara tells me it’s not uncommon to see design students there picking up fabrics to make up their latest cutting edge designs.
We managed all these places in a comfortable walk in the central arrondissements. I had such a lovely time; Barbara speaks fluent French so there was no missing out on things for lack of French communication skills. You can just imagine my project list now can’t you………….