Au Revoir Paris

 

Our Parisian life has been folded up and squeezed into the suitcases, the lids closed (only just) and the destination labels attached. It really is time to say a final goodbye to Paris. We’ll miss every elegant inch of her charm, the way she unfurls her springtime greenery and the unbeatable social buzz of life “en-terrasse.”

Amongst the magnificent monuments and art, the fashion and the fabulousness that Paris offers it is the ordinary life and the people in it that matter most. We are so glad that we fitted in to an ordinary life, that we belonged. Like an ordinary Parisian I queued up for our daily baguette (une tradition pas trop cuit s’il vous plait), responded adequately en francais to the butcher’s interrogation about my intention for cooking the meat he was preparing for me, grumbled with fellow passengers about the stoppages on the metro and even argued successfully with the man behind the counter at La Poste.

For the last few weeks we’ve been saying our farewells to friends, workmates and whanau. We’re terribly sad to say goodbye, but at the same time it reminds us of how special these people have become in our lives and how cherished are the friendships: our language teacher Martine, my knitting friends at Montreuil and my knitting “pupils” at l’OIE – I’ll miss you, and I promise to keep up the French language practice.

I am so grateful to my knitting buddies, les tricopines, at L’Oisivethé who made me part of their tribe. Although I am going to miss the Wednesday night tricot soirée sessions immensely, I have a special project to assuage the yearning to be there: The Tangible Memory blanket.  These knitters started a memory blanket project as a farewell gift back in February, each of them knitting a few squares from their left over and stash yarns before passing it on to the next knitter and the next and the next to join in. They even knitted almost under my nose at knit nights, it was taken to Edinburgh then London and back to Paris, where it was presented to me to take home to New Zealand and finish. Is there a better gift for a knitter – I think not. Merci mille fois mes chѐres amies.20160702_112655

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Tangible Memory Blanket in situ on my knitting chair

For now, it’s farewell to you my regular readers too. Thank you so much for following keirybeesparis, for commenting and helping me belong in the blogging world. Along with Barbara, my dear friend and Stitching up Paris co-author, I will be writing about the Paris stitching scene from time to time over at www.stitchingupparisblog.wordpress.com, and you can find me, @keiryberry on Instagram.

Ka kite ano…………….Keiry

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New knitters, new skills, new friends.

A couple of months ago one of my DB’s work colleagues contacted me to ask if I would consider teaching her to knit. It was an easy decision, of course I said yes. We had already met a few times at work functions so I knew we had plenty in common as fellow antipodeans and the idea of being able to pass on the knitting spirit along with some skills to young knitters delighted me. In a flurry of emails we finalised arrangements and by the time we met for our first lunchtime get-together our party of knitters had already grown to four. The following week another new recruit, then another and another, and now we are regularly 6 or 7: a New Zealander, an Australian (of Italian descent), 3 (or more) French and 2 Venezuelans. Knitting is a globally transmissible addiction!

It’s been quite illuminating for me to think about how I knit and explain that. At our second meeting I proposed that I would try and explain as much as I could in French and the knitting pupils, all fabulously multi-lingual, enthusiastically assisted with the language; a fair exchange, a win-win and a lot of fun. Some had no knitting experience, even holding the knitting needles felt uncomfortable at first, others had tried before, two are left-handed – oooh challenging for right-handed me – and now they are all knitters.

The transition from careful d-e-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e movements w-r-a-p-p-i-n-g the yarn r-o-u-n-d behind the needle, p-u-l-l-i-n-g the stitch t-h-r-o-u-g-h the loop and o-f-f the needle to the rhythmic click clack of needles in nimble hands is a lovely reward for all of us. These debutantes have mastered cast on and off, knit and purl and conversations are peppered with discussions of point mousse (garter stitch), point jersey (stocking stitch), point de riz and point de blé (seed or moss stitch and double moss) , dimunitions and augmentations (increases and decreases).

PicMonkey Collage2 OIE

New skills are added week by week, the first projects have been finished and new, more challenging WIPs are on the needles. I am so proud of them.

I’ve reflected on my knitting year with a sense of satisfaction that in addition to the knitting projects completed and the new skills gained through those, I’ve been able to pass on the baton – or should I say the needles – to a new group of knitters to enjoy knitting as a social activity, a means for mental stretching and an effective antidote for stress in busy lives. Here are some of my knitting projects from 2015 that haven’t already made it into a blog post.

 PicMonkey Collage may projects

 

How not to knit a chicken, and other language laughs

Un pull - a jersey

I knitted a jersey

From the other end of the table a sweet little voice said “Ah, I wondered why you were knitting a chicken” and with that the knitters around the table erupted into friendly giggles.

Let me explain: It was knit night at L’ OisiveThé, the café full of knitting friends was abuzz with chatter in French and English. My fellow knitters know I like to practice my language skills and encourage conversation en français. Someone asked me what was I knitting. “Un pull” I replied, or more correctly I intended to reply. A jersey is un pull, a word I know well and use with ease. But clearly, with too much ease and not enough attention to correct pronunciation, because what I actually said was une poule -a chicken – I am knitting a chicken!

Around the table amid chuckles Anglophones practised and Francophones coached the different sounds: pull sounds (more or less) like “pewl” and poule sounds like pool. The words and their sounds are etched in my mind thanks to the impromptu and thoroughly amusing lesson.

It’s not only the French-English traps that generate laughter. English alone has provided plenty of entertainment when accents play a part. During the discussion of summer holiday plans I mentioned to an American friend that some of our knitting colleagues were heading to the Shetlands on a knitting trip. I could tell immediately by the look on her face that we had a translation problem. With my New Zealand accent and her American ears, what do you think she heard? Yep, it sounded like our friends were heading somewhere for a really crap holiday. Quickly clarifying I meant the Shetland Islands north-east of mainland Scotland solved the problem. The Shetlands then made perfect sense for a knitter’s holiday destination.

My Shetland Island Fair Isle inspired vest. A project from 2013

My Shetland Island Fair Isle inspired vest. A project from early 2013

Amusing, inspiring, enlightening and cultural; knit night enriches my Parisian life week after week.

Summer knitting in review

Sea shells and shawl Crikey, I need to be quick. I want to tell you about my recent knitting achievements before the memory of summer is too distant. Thoughts of lingering balmy evenings have been blown away with the autumn leaves; it’s cold and high time for sock knitting already.

Only a few weeks ago sitting in the warm sunshine on our seaside balcony, I cast off the final stitches of my first ever all-over lace shawl, Bien Aimee designed by one of my Paris knitting friends Hiro. I knew I would need peace and quiet to concentrate and knit carefully on the pattern with its gathered stitches and intricate manoeuvrings of knits, purls, yarn-overs and decreases. Leucate seaside turned out to be the right spot. To the background of gentle beach sounds I worked my way through the chart repeats and onto the lace border without any great difficulty. Even the seashore seemed in tune with my project as everywhere I looked there were tiny shells with mauve tones perfectly matched to my shawl. As soon as we were home I blocked Bien Aimee and with the temperatures tumbling from their summer highs I’ve worn it many times already. I love it.

Cafe model

Before the holiday I started another pretty shawl, Southern, by New Zealand designer Libby Jonson. Several people knit this design as part of Libby’s Trulymyrtle knit-a-long and after seeing one gorgeous example finished with beads I decided to add beads to mine too. I couldn’t get the right beads until I got back from holiday so my Southern has only just been finished. While knitting the lacey section, inserting the clear glass beads as I went, I had my doubts if they were a good idea after all. But after blocking the shawl and seeing them sparkle like icy droplets in the sunshine, I’m delighted.

Southern

That’s two of my knitting goals for the year accomplished; all over lace and beads. I’m happy, these are both wonderful designs and I’ve got gorgeous accessories to dress up for a stroll around Paris on a crisp Autumn day.

Now I’ve picked up where I left off on an interesting shaped jacket, Lost and Found by Stephen West (just finished) and I have socks on the needles which will be another goal-achieving project as this is my first pair with after-thought heels.

There’s nothing like a bit of a challenge to add interest, even if it’s a small challenge. I’m all for that and I’ve got a few projects lined up that are definitely exciting.

It’s hotting up in Paris

Happy half-marathoners

Happy half-marathoners

It’s hot, so hot the weather is the news.  In the last five days in Paris we’ve been sweltering in temperatures ferociously close to 40 degrees C (104F) as a result of hot air blowing in from the Sahara baking Europe.  The first week of July is early for our first official heat wave of the summer – that means high temperatures are recorded for 3 consecutive days – and the public health authorities were very prompt in launching “heat wave safety” alerts.  The temporary beaches alongside the Seine are not set up yet and Paris hasn’t yet emptied out for the summer holidays; that won’t happen until August when many small businesses close up for a few weeks.  The summer sales are in full swing so the shops are busy, but thankfully air-conditioned.  Shopping is definitely a cool thing to do.

Right now we are fondly reminiscing on our recent weekend in Hamburg to cheer on the runners in the Hamburg half marathon.  Not only were our dear Kiwi Hamburger and her boyfriend competing, but the weather was a comfortable 20-ish degrees with sunshine and puffy white clouds.  The parental cheer leading squad stationed themselves on the looped section of the run so we cheered them through 4km and then 9km before jumping on the U-bahn to head out to the finish and wave and cheer them through the last kilometre.  A happy posse of proud parents and tired but happy competitors were reunited after the finish line.

As for knitting in this weather, I’ve had to temporarily abandon one knitting project, Penguono a colourful kimono-styled jacket, for a lighter project that won’t cause me to self combust.  My new Rattan shawl project is a treat for me in several ways; I’m knitting with Zealana Air yarn from New Zealand, the pattern designer is from NZ and I’m knitting as part of a virtual KAL, a knit-a-long, led by Libby the designer, so I’m feeling the kiwi vibes with this one. Rattan However even with this gorgeous light-as-a-feather yarn I couldn’t knit on the hottest days, my sweaty hands just could not manipulate the sticks and thread at all.

Thankfully the hottest days have passed and we have some respite before the next blast from the Sahara.  A little knitting is on the agenda again and hopefully the stores will replenish their stock of fans.

Stay cool.

Moving along at the speed of time

Time flies at the same rate it always does, 24 hours a day.  So quite what I’ve done with all those 24-hour aliquots since I last posted is a bit of a mystery, but I know it was all fun.  For a start there has been plenty of knitting; I’ve made one of the loveliest knits ever; Belmont cardigan by Gudrun Johnson.  After finally selecting and sewing on the buttons, Belmont made its debut this week in welcome spring sunshine.

Belmont cardigan from Shetland Trader Book 2

Belmont cardigan from Shetland Trader Book 2

I’ve also finished a big manly project.  It was a big project in the sense that I started with a photograph of what we wanted; a shawl collared man’s sweater, and adapted those style elements from my pattern files to the yarn and stitch design we wanted.  There was a lot of maths and swatching to start, the theory was good.  The finished project looks good, the final test – and the photo shoot – is still to come.

Then there is the zany colourful Westknits design Enchanted Mesa.  Several times I thought “how is this going to work?”  In the end it does, very clever and fun to see it emerge off the needles.

Enchanted Mesa by Westknits

Enchanted Mesa – Westknits design

On my needles right now is Bien Aimee; a pretty lace shawl.  It’s my first foray into all over lace – one of my knitting goals for this year – and it’s a light and portable project that means I can keep knitting while we pack up and move!

Yes we are on the move to another part of Paris.  In fact just over the peripherique and out of the official Paris postal code.  The apartment we have been living in for almost 3 years is being sold and we’ve found an apartment to rent that is also walking distance to DB’s workplace and will be another new experience for us.  The contents of my yarn cupboard are packed and ready to go and with 3 years experience of living in France we think we’ve got all the pre-move arrangements covered.  When we arrived it took us 9 frustrating weeks to get our internet connection in place, this time with much improved French I was able to make the arrangements for re-direction of our existing service without breaking into a sweat.  It remains to be seen if the actual de-and-re-connection occurs as hoped, my fingers are crossed.  DB has even organised a very official Autorisation pour un demenagement; a permit to “guarantee” us parking space outside our current and future addresses for loading and unloading on the day of the move.  Despite that fact that we have accumulated more stuff than we thought, thankfully this is not an entire household move since we are shifting from one furnished apartment to another.  Moving in Paris is a challenge and often involves something like this…….

moving house Paris style

Moving house the Parisian way

If all goes according to plan I’ll tell you about our new neighbourhood in a couple of weeks.

Wool War One on parade – L’ Adieu aux Armes

On parade

On parade at  La Piscine, Museum of Art and Industry, Roubaix

As military parades go this one is rather small in stature and quiet; so quiet you can almost hear a stitch drop.  No guns, no drums, no machines of war, this is a peaceful parade of 700 hand-knitted soldiers from every corner of the earth.

These soldiers, resplendent in authentic uniform detail, are the work of 500 knitters from 5 continents who responded to the call for help from Madame Delit Maille (Anna), knitting artist in chief of the Wool War One installation at La Piscine, Museum of Art and Industry at Roubaix in northern France.

Back in May 2014, my NZ friend Barbara and I were two of those 500 knitters; we knitted miniature uniforms to help dress the British and Commonwealth soldier dolls.  Through the summer and autumn knitters mobilised to join Delit Maille’s working bees around France and the knitted army came together ready for exhibition in December 2014.

The result is spectacular in its simple symbolism.  Seven hundred soldiers in distinctive uniform; French cornflower-blue jackets, red pompomed Belgians, caped Spahis and helmeted Germans all stand out.  Each figure seems to have his own personality.  Some peep from behind the man in front, others are stooped – weary looking – row upon row of fragile little figures representing all nations despatched to the Great War stand together in this parade.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to contribute my knitting to this project.  The exhibition, L’Adieu aux Armes, is a fitting memorial – well done Delit Maille, a clever and meaningful interpretation, thoroughly enjoyable to visit and to have participated in.

The Wool War One exhibition runs until 12th April 2015.  Eleven different artists whose exhibitions have been commissioned to commemorate the centenary of World War I run one after the other from September 2014 through to May 2018 at the museum in Roubaix.  The museum has a wonderful permanent collection of art and industrial archives – particularly relating to the textile industry from the region.  More about the wonderful art and industry museum at Roubaix coming up soon.