Crafts in France

Time for another of travel blog from Tina Dorr. Here, she gives us the lowdown on traditional and modern crafts in France…

France is a country steeped in traditional crafts, handed down generation by generation – from the master craftsmen such as stonemasons to families that love to make toys and household items out of wood. Go to any market or fete and you will find stalls that sell so many beautiful things that you would be at a loss as to what to buy first.

Wickerwork is very traditional and there are many beautiful baskets on sale. If you fancy one as a decorative piece, you can even buy some stunning dried flowers to put in them. They hang at the stalls in shades of blues, reds, yellows, lilacs and more, and are just so pretty.

Another popular and traditional craft is soap making and you can find soaps of all shapes and sizes in a range of wonderful perfumes, lavender being a huge seller. The fragrance is so strong they can scent a room.

At country fairs, you can still find old traditional crafts such as weaving, lace making, leatherwork and tapestry. Often, you can watch the craftspeople at work and it is fascinating to see such skill and see how things are made.

A lovely piece of upcycling!

As in the UK, other popular crafts in France include knitting, crocheting, painting and upcycling. Upcycling is big business here as you can buy good quality furniture cheaply from a ‘vide grenier’, upcycle it and sell it for a profit. (Vide grenier means ‘empty attic’ and is the French equivalent of car boot sales).

Sadly, from my point of view, papercraft is not huge in France, mainly I think because the French are not big on sending cards. Having said that… it does seem to be starting to take off, probably because of all us Brits that have bought houses here! I know of two large scrapbooking shops in Paris and you can now buy some things online. These are still quite expensive though – so thank goodness for Joanna Sheen!!

Our local hypermarket sells a small number of craft bits and pieces, but that is aimed more towards the children’s market. We also have a shop called Action that sells a lot of British stuff and has quite a large and not badly priced craft section.

I am certainly hoping that papercraft takes off more, in the meantime, I send my French friends and neighbours homemade cards and explain how I make them… You never know, I may get them interested yet!

 

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Knitters are up in arms!

I am always fascinated to read about new and different crafts. Being what I would term a ‘lazy knitter’, I have been much impressed by the giant knitted bedcovers and cushion covers created using very chunky wool and huge knitting needles. To me, it looks much faster than ordinary knitting and I might just give it a go… but wait! Even better than that I may have just found the perfect answer to my quick and chunky knitting aspirations – arm knitting!

Needle-free arm knitting has arrived on the scene! It is such an amazingly simple concept you wonder why no one has thought of it before. If you already know how to knit, then you have a distinct advantage as picking up arm knitting is meant to be really, really easy. Quite simply, your arms stand in for the huge needles and everything is super-sized, from the massive skeins of wool (more like ropes!) and the patterns. If you are not already a knitter, experts say a quick arm knitting project will help build your confidence and encourage you to get more adventurous.

 

As ever, there’s lots of information available online, but a website that really caught my eye was www.simplymaggie.com Maggie describes herself as an ‘arm knitting expert and home DIY enthusiast’. Her website includes a range of patterns available for free including some lovely scarves and an amazing blanket. She makes it look so easy, I really think I might have to give it a go!

Elsewhere, I came across some great advice on how to solve arm knitting problems – my favourite was this FAQ – I confess this was an aspect of arm knitting that had me very worried!

What do you do when you’re elbow-deep in an infinity scarf and your doorbell rings? Don’t panic! Stopping in the middle of a project is both possible and surprisingly easy. Simply move each stitch, one-by-one, onto a stitch holder. “And what might one of those be?” I hear you cry! But being the imaginative crafters that you are, I expect you’d soon come up with the answer – the cardboard centres from sheets of wrapping paper –oversized toilet roll centres really. Carefully slide your stitches onto the cardboard roll and try to remember which arm your last row of stitches was on so that when you’re ready to get back to work, you can quickly pick up where you left off. Easy!

Have any of you tried arm knitting? If you have, I’d love to hear how you got on!

Photos copyright SimplyMaggie.com

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