Here in California, a trip to any of the local yarn shops requires me to drive, which may be a blessing in disguise. By contrast, when I visit my family in Paris, temptation is much closer at hand, since Elle Tricote opened its doors two years ago, right around the corner from the food market, the newstand, the pharmacy, the bookstore, the supermarket... It is an effort to walk by without treating myself to a visit every time I am wandering in the neighborhood.
I allow myself two visits per trip. The shop is an outpost of the original "Elle Tricote" store based in Strasbourg. The Elle in question is a designer named Daniele Dietrich, who sells her patterns in kit form exclusively. The yarns are also available for sale in both stores. Right now the selection focuses on Lang yarns, including a few I have never encountered here, and also on some varieties of Noro that are also unknown in the US, like Flower Bed, a laceweight equivalent of Silk Garden, and Stained Glass , another laceweight blend of cotton, wool and silk. Those are sold from cones, by weight. There is a designer page for Daniele Dietrich on Ravelry, but it is not extensive. Better to check the Elle Tricote online catalogue if you are curious. Or just read on here for a taste of contemporary French knitting.
Ms Dietrich appears to be a fan of simple designs combined with luxury yarns. Last winter I admired a coat knitted with Kid mohair with a simple bodice and a feather-and-fan "skirt."
In a simpler vein, the Vadim scarf is great inspiration for putting together a trendy scarf out of leftovers of alpaca, Noro, and various other yarns.
Probably the most striking item in the store on my last visit was this clever stole which would require a fair amount of patience for a terrific pay-off.
The pattern is named Vitrail (stained glass window). The background yarn is a very fine mohair in a neutral shade, while the squares are knitted in Noro Flower Bed: intarsia at its most repetitive, for a sensational visual effect. Here's a better look at the scarf-in-progress. The price for the kit was out of my budget, and I figured that one could easily adapt the idea, using a grey, tan or even black colorway of Kid Silk Haze and various bits of solid lace yarns in contrast colors.
On the other hand, I did yield to kit-temptation and brought home the yarn and instructions for this scarf:
A lacy Missoni-esque number that will give me the opportunity to try out Noro Stained Glass along with Daniele Dietrich's own laceweight mohair.
Inspiration went two ways during my visits to the store, as the owner of the Paris boutique took a fancy to my own mohair scarf,
and immediately cast on for her own version, in a glittery, silver mohair blend from Lang yarns. Which makes us the knitting version of a mutual admiration society, I suppose -- spreading thoughts of silk and mohair and Noro wherever we roam.
A whole month later, settled back in my Berkeley home, I can't really blame jet-lag for going no-blog. Knitting pals, I have just been very busy. Good work assignments, good books to read, and a very good reason to keep me away from knitting as much as I used to.
My favorite playmate decided, along with her parents, that it was time to leave Brooklyn for the shores of California, and she and I have been pretty busy brushing up on half-forgotten baby games and French nursery songs.
I only deserted her for two days, just long enough to dip into the happy madness that is Stitches West in nearby Santa Clara. My classes this year ranged from really good to excellent; from Edie Eckman, I learned some nice crochet edgings. Laura Bryant, my color guru, had us explore color chips and figure out ways to keep colors and patterns from fighting with each other. Chris Bylsma introduced us to a variety of what she termed "Empowering Edgings". I came out of each class happy and inspired, relaxed and exhausted in equal parts if that is at all possible.
I am not kidding. After returning home on Friday night, I was in bed by 9 p.m and slept a good eleven hours. That never happens.If Stitches took place every week, my insomnia would be a thing of the past.
The market, however, was a bit too much for me. The preview on Thursday evening was ideal -- as it is reserved to students enrolled in classes, one can actually enter a booth and browse leisurely. I would almost advise signing up for a class for this reason alone. By Friday noon, the place was packed, the lines were long, and all that yarn became a blur, prompting me to step outside for some fresh air instead.
I found many temptations at the market, but I stoically left them behind. Yes, even the bags of Noro Silk Garden that were 40% off. And the skeins of pink/orange Koigu that would coordinate so well with the Koigu I brought home last year (and haven't touched yet). They all went back in their pretty cubicles, and I managed to walk away. I must have reached the stasher's age of reason at last.
Not that I came home empty-handed: I had a selective list and I stuck to it. From Miss Babs I bought just enough to knit two more travelling shawls, and from Toots LeBlanc, the makings of a Domovoi shawl, a pattern I have long wanted to make.
Besides learning and shopping, Stitches offers the chance to reconnect with knitting friends over a glass of wine or a quiet Thai dinner. Those too are rituals that I enjoy enormously. The crowd is a sea of shawls, lace fichus, colorful socks, lacy tams, mitered jackets, and on and on. What a crazy, wooly group we all add up to. Part of me is already looking forward to next year.
In other knitting news, I finished something:
Sonia shawl #2: the Spring edition
Like my first Sonia shawl, this one follows Luckyslug's classic pattern, substituting a sock-weight Noro yarn for its worsted-weight sibling. This time I used a skein of Silk Garden sock yarn in the #269 colorway which proved to be a challenge to coordinate with a neutral. I ended up settling for this cream-white Jacob-Alpaca blend from Toots LeBlanc, my favorite source of undyed yarns. This blend has a rustic feel that reminds me of Noro yarns, and it bloomed beautifully when I gave the shawl a good soak.
As much as I like the finished shawl, its slight Easter-Egg-ish range bothers me a little. The warm hues of the Noro ruled out greys and blues for me. A light brown would have been my preferred option for a contrast yarn, were it not for the light brown color repeats in theNoro. Excuses, excuses. I still love my Spring Sonia.