Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Pattern Storage

This post was triggered by Kristy's own post where she shared how she stored her patterns. Funnily enough, she and I store our patterns in the same way, in the same Ikea chest of drawers - except mine is the little sister of hers:
I always have a few patterns lying on top of the chest of drawers, for inspiration; these are projects I'm hoping to tackle soon, or at least don't want to forget about ;).

In the top drawer are my Simplicity (left) and New Look (right) patterns. As in the whole chest, everything is sorted by number, in ascending order.

In the middle drawer are my Vogues and Buttericks:
On the left stand the smaller Vogue envelopes, with my (very few) Buttericks behind them; on the right lie the larger Vogue envelopes, with two or three craft patterns (hats, aprons) in the small space that's left behind them.

The bottom drawer holds patterns from independent companies, vintage patterns, and McCall's: 
Tucked at the front, you can see my patterns from Onion and one from Amy Butler; on the left are my Hot Patterns, a couple of very recent Jalie patterns, and visible on top of the pile, one (also very recent) Folkwear pattern that I had to get after seeing Sharon's lovely empire dress.
On the right are my McCalls and vintage patterns. The size of the Hot Patterns envelopes don't allow these smaller patterns to stand full-front as in the higher drawers, so these are lying sideways.

Seeing Kristy's own chest of drawers, I now wish I'd chosen the bigger size as well, as mine is about to burst at the seams! I have a bit of room left for New Look/Simplicity or Vogue patterns, but not much :)

This commode stands in my hallway and faces my sofa, and I love the fact that the fronts of the drawers are transparent: being able to peek at what's nestling in there always makes me smile.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tips on shopping for fabric, yarn and embroidery notions in Paris

If you're thinking of having a bit of Parisian S.E.X (Stash Enhancement EXperience, what else), you might find the following interesting.
At least once every month for the the past 2-3 years, I have received emails from readers asking for pointers on fabric shopping in Paris. While I always appreciate (kind!) emails, I simply don't have the time to reply to everyone (heck, even keeping in regular touch with my friends has been a challenge these days). That is why I am finally compiling here the advice I usually give on an individual basis.  I've been meaning to write this post for over a year!

**If you feel like responding to this post, be it to add some information or ask for more, please do so in the comments sections of this specific post.  I have a very hard time keeping up with my non-professional email inbox at the moment, and you have a better chance of my noticing if you post directly here. Thank you so much! :)**

Please be aware that I moved away from Paris almost a year ago, although I doubt things have changed that much in this time span; and that I don't have a huge experience of "fancier" places (i.e. l'entrée des Fournisseurs, etc.). They're lovely and all, but simply not my cup of tea ;)

This post is split into:
  1. fabric; 
  2. fancy notions; 
  3. yarn and embroidery stuff.
The links I provide will lead you to the stores' websites - specifically, to the pages which give their locations and tips on which metro to take etc.. Hopefully none of these links will expire too soon: if you realize they do, please let me know in the comments section so I may update them.

~ Fabrics ~
Basically, think Montmartre. All the fabric shops worth visiting from my experience are nestled below the Montmartre hill, just under the Sacré-Coeur, so you can do some great sight-seeing while fabric shopping (always a plus if you're accompanied!). For those of you familiar with London, this is Paris's own Goldhawk Road. :)
(The only great fabric store that was outside this neighbourhood, Bouchara, closed in the summer of 2008, which made me quite sad, as it was my favourite fabric store;  to add insult to injury, it was replaced within a week by a H&M store. Yuck.)

On to more details about the fabric neighbourhood below the Sacré Coeur:
First, a caveat: most of these shops are closed on Mondays, so it's not the best day to plan a fabric shopping spree. I also don't recommend going there on Saturdays, as it can get very crowded, which will make for a frustrating experience (it can be hard to get to the fabrics, and even harder to get a clerk to cut it for you).
  • You'll find the most beautiful fabrics at Tissus Reine (3-5, Place St Pierre, 18th arrondissement; the website was revamped lately as they now have an online shop, which will give you a close idea of what to expect there). I almost always left from the shop empty-handed - most of the selection was way too expensive for my budget, though very inspiring. The bridal section is to die for, although you're only allowed to look from a distance and are closely monitored by a stern-faced lady if you dare to approach this area. Their embroidered / printed silks are also definitely worth just looking at! So are their half-size mannequins dressed by couture students. I know some are freaked out by these, but I love the creativity going on in their outfit.
    The feeling I got the last year I was in Paris is that Reine is getting better at offering a wider selection (i.e. widening out to more affordable fabrics), and you'll never be disappointed in the quality. This is where I got the lace for my black lace blouse, and for a great price at that (it was hidden away on a small table at the back of the store, just under the stairs - be sure to take a look at the fabric on this table), or the cotton knit for my aubergine dress, a dress that I still enjoy wearing tremendously because the fabric is so fluid and classy (and still feels and looks as new).
    For those of you familiar with the quality of our fabulous Ann's Gorgeous Fabrics, this is the kind of quality you can expect at Tissus Reine (I wouldn't be surprised if some of Ann's European suppliers were the same as theirs).
    Bottom line for Tissus Reine: This is a good place if you want to splurge in something special and if you're after irreproachable quality, and you may also get great deals if you look closely at sales tables. 
  • Across the street from Tissus Reine, the Marché Saint Pierre (AKA Tissus Dreyfus, 2 rue Charles Nodier) carries a wider choice and usually offers a cheaper selection (especially on their ground floor where you will find most bargains). The upper floors are very specialized in all kinds of fabric. You'll find everything and anything there, and the prices vary equally widely. There are some great bargains to get on the ground floor. A lot of my fabric has come from there.
  • I used to like the shop just opposite the Marché Saint-Pierre (next to Reine) which is called Les Coupons de Saint-Pierre (1 place St Pierre). They sell fabric remnants from Saint-Pierre (which you usually can't find there anymore), pre-cut in 3-metre increments for interesting prices (10 euro a 3-metre coupon if I remember correctly). They have some interesting knits, silks and cottons, but you do have to do a bit of digging (and the place can be quite messy). 
  • More generally, I'd suggest you simply stroll around the fabric neighbourhood - there is a fast turnaround, so you never know beforehand what you may find. Sometimes you'll find oodles of beauties, sometimes, nothing may strike your fancy. I haven't been there since June 2009, so I obviously have no idea what they have in stock at the moment. Most these offer home decor fabric (for drapes/curtains and upholstery), but there are a few gems hiding among these shops that offer apparel fabric, and pretty fabulous stuff at that.
  • Quilting shop: Inès (that I did visit as I used to live very near - but I was reminded of it by Catherine's and Barbara's comments). A rather large (by French standards anyway!) shop selling quilting fabrics and books, and lovely service. Their shop is in the 11th arrondissement, and they just moved into a larger shop on Rue St Ambroise, on the left just down from rue St Maur (Barbara's info). I remember that they have a lot of great books, including Japanese quilting books. They also have an online shop (with information on the Paris shop as well)

    ~ Fancy Notions ~
    • You will find several notions shops in the streets around le Marché Saint Pierre and Tissus Reine. The Mercerie Saint-Pierre (20 Rue Pierre Picard) has loads of stuff and is just behind Tissus Dreyfus (AKA Marché Saint-Pierre). Tissus Reine also sells notions on their first floor, including American patterns (at horrendous prices, but this is one of the rare places in Paris where you can browse through the Big 4's pattern catalogues), and a couple of pattern brands most of you may not be familiar with: Fregoli, Enfant Roi.
    • If you're looking for more "chic" and special notions, l'Entrée des Fournisseurs (8 rue des Francs Bourgeois in the 3rd arrondissement, not far from Bastille) is a good place for fancy buttons, ribbons, etc. They also offer patterns from the French company Citronille (I made one of their tunics several times, and have been lusting after one of their latest dresses lately - and just found a LNS that offered the line here in Montpellier!). They also carry a few bolts of Liberty fabric, but so does Reine, in larger quantities; in both cases the price is astronomical and  barring a visit to London, you'd probably be better off ordering directly from Shaukat fabrics.
    • I'm not sure whether addresses for very basic notions shops (merely offering plain zippers, sewing thread and the like) would be helpful here, as visitors from outside of Paris probably get all they need at home in this respect. If some of you are interested in a few addresses, just let me know in the comments.

    ~ Yarns and Embroidery threads/charts ~
    • For the knitters and crocheters among you, you won't want to miss Le Bon Marché: 24 rue de Sèvres, at the limit between the 6th and 7th arrondissements (warning: this page aggresses you with music. Sorry about that. Hate, hate webpages with music bawling in your face). They offer a very varied (and international) selection of yarn and books/booklets, often pricey especially if your home currency is not the euro or the pound, but there is a bit for each budget, I think (Phildar yarn is usually cheaper for instance); and hey, if you're in Paris, I bet you're ready to splurge a bit - I know I am when I'm buying Liberty in London!
      Come to think of it, Le Bon Marché is very much a department store in the spirit of the Liberty store - a higher end department store, with a nice section for crafts. Not something most of us would visit to do their grocery shopping, but something well worth visiting for a treat, or when visiting from abroad (or from outside of Paris).

      For this reason, Le Bon Marché is also a lovely place for embroiderers, as it offers a variety of stitching notions (threads, charms etc.) and French designs. This is a very inspiring place, if expensive and, well, posh.
    • La Droguerie (9 et 11 rue du Jour, in the 1st arrondissement). I often see it mentioned in French blogs, and it seems well worth visiting, although being a recent convert at crocheting I have never been there. Of course, I'm now putting it on top of my list of places to visit next time I go to Paris! I haven't visited the Paris shop, but have been to the Lille shop. I have mixed feelings about La Droguerie, which I mention towards the middle of this post. Some of their stuff is interesting, but overall, I feel their yarn is largely overrated and overpriced. I love some of their designs, especially for babies, but be sure to only buy one book from the age section you're interested in (babies/kids/adults), as there are A LOT of repeats from one book to the next. OTOH, they do have great fancy notions and jewellery material.
    • For knitters and stitchers alike: Le Comptoir in the 9th arrondissement (26 rue Cadet, not far from Les Galeries Lafayettes and Le Printemps). I visited this place when an American stitcher friend (BeckyBee :)) needed a specific French Chart, and they were the only place in France to stock it! They have a lovely selection of French (and American) stitching charts, as well as a nice stock of yarns. They have a blog where you can see most of their selection.
    • (Info provided by Lennu) "La Croix et La Manière is maybe worth mentioning also, beautiful different linen fabrics for stitching and cords and trims for example :) If you click on the door at their website, there are lots of photos from the shop."
    • (Also from Lennu) "Le Bonheur des Dames has two beautiful shops in Paris, at their site you can click "Nos boutiques" for adresses and then the link "cliquez pour l'album photo!" for photos of those shops."
    • (Also from Lennu) "Des Fils et une Aiguille also sells lots of stitching stuff, though I'm not sure if I've ever visited the shop, next time I will :)"

      That's all I can think of for now. If some of you dear readers have other places to recommend in Paris, by all means do so in the comments! I'm sure that will be highly appreciated.
        I plan to write a similar post on fabric and yarn shops in Montpellier, as  I've been getting familiar with them and the question has cropped up three times or more in comments / emails / on ravelry :)

        Sunday, April 11, 2010

        Bolero in progress

        (Excuse the absence of make-up, blah blah blah. I didn't take this with the intent to post it here just for personal reference, but then thought that this blog would probably be updated more often if I posted in-progress pictures.)

        Actually, I think this is more or less done. I took the pictures to figure out whether the length was OK. I just need to block it and weave in the ends.

        Hope everyone had a nice weekend! I spent mine singing at day-long rehearsals. Quite lovely, but exhausting, and my own work doesn't get done in the meantime. I'm in for a crazy week - and more rehearsals, almost every evening. That's what I get for agreeing to participate in 2 different concerts! I've been dreaming about Handel's vocalises every single night for the past week.

        Thanks everyone for the comments on the previous post. Yes, I live in a lovely town. This has certainly made leaving Paris and being 1,000 miles away from half of my family much less hard than it could have been. :)

        Off to bed (hopefully with not too many musical dreams). Have a good week, everyone!

        Thursday, April 08, 2010

        Oops! I didn't mean to post and run...

        Really, I didn't. It's just that I went up to my family for Easter, and fitting the weekend into my schedule caused the week to be extra busy. The pictures of the skirt were actually taken over a week ago - I wore it literally a few hours after it was done, and had the opportunity to be photographed in a park after I came home from work, just before the sun set. Hence the wrinkles, but hey, that's what real life is made of.
        Nothing much to say about the pattern, really. Simplicity 2655 is a variation on a six-gored yoked skirt, in two different lengths and with optional flounces, pockets and ties. The back and front panels are identical - only the yoke varies slightly from front to back. I made view C, the knee-length version with a flounce, but omitted the tie at the waist. I cut the skirt in a size 8 all around but had to take in the back to my usual size 6. It's still a bit big at the waist,  probably due to the fact that the fabric has a very slight stretch; but I'm not unpicking the yoke facing and understiching (and invisible zipper) to take it in again.
        The fabric is a lovely light brown cotton with a hint of dusty  rose to it.  Perfect weight for a skirt, but it does take a wrinkle a bit more easily than I'd like. ;)

        The setting is a small public garden. It was fortunate I had the opportunity of taking pictures then, as it's been grey skies and icy wind ever since. Ironically, I was in Northern France for Easter and it was (and is still) milder up there than down here, which occasioned great mirth among my siblings :)