It’s been a while since we’ve featured a shop on the SweetGeorgia blog. With Felicia’s recent interview with Aimée Gille of L’OisiveThé et Tricot in Paris, it seemed like the perfect time to share some more about her shop, and her new shop around the corner, La Bien Aimée.
Tell us all about L’Oisive Thé. How long has the shop been around and how did you get started with it? And how did you come up with the name?
L’OisiveThé has been around for 7.5 years. I opened April 2nd, 2008. The name L’OisiveThé is a word play on the word L’Oisiveté which means leisurely. Thé means Tea. So, leisurely tea shop.
Now you’ve expanded with the addition of La Bien Aimée right around the corner! Congratulations! Is yarn-y domination of Paris the next step? How did your decision to expand come about? How are the two shops similar or different? (sorry – that’s three questions!)
L’OisiveThé is not very big so early on I knew that I would out grow it’s walls. The French have an expression, “Pousser les murs pour avoir de la place” and I started to hear this more and more over the last couple years. The tea and brunch portion of my business had become very popular as well the yarn portion of the business. I wanted to wait for my kids to be a little older before expanding because I knew the expansion was going to take a lot of my time. I had looked around the immediate street where L’OisiveThé is located but was unsuccessful in finding something adjacent to L’OisiveThé. Strolling the neighborhood as I often did, I saw a local space that was up for rent. I called and it was a “coup de coeur” love at first sight right when I saw the space.
The two shops are different. La Bien Aimée doesn’t serve tea but we have lots of yarn and knitting notions. The two shops do not have the same yarns though you might find some of the same brands but not the same weights. Most of the fingering weight and DK is at L’OisvieThé and La Bien Aimée has more lace weight, specialty fingering weights and aran/bulky weight. Also, La Bien Aimée has an atelier in the back room where we have classes, all day work shops and it doubles as our dye studio. I have just launched a few weeks ago La Bien Aimée; hand dyed yarns. We are dyeing on a regular basis in the atelier to bring regular yarn updates online and in the shop.
What is the Paris (and/or French) knitting scene like? Tell us how your shops and your customers fit into the community.
Since I am American, I am tuned in two knitting scenes. The French scene has really grown in the last seven years since I became a yarn shop owner. Whereas a few years ago I would have said that the French market is behind what is going on else where in the world things have evolved in the last couple years and the French knitters are really catching on to what is going on else where in the world. I have seen the French knitter become more and more interested in hand dyed yarns and more higher quality yarns. There are not that many French spinning mills in France anymore and many of the yarns you can find commercially are natural fiber blends with synthetic materials blend. More French patterns are coming out that are designed in a modern fashion and there is a big effort to publish in French and English. I would say that the French knitter can be a conservative knitter but with flare. Paris is a fashion capital so I find that Parisian knitters can be very adventurous.
You’ve also had lots of great instructors and designers visit your shop. How have you developed those opportunities?
Most of the designers that I have hosted at L’OisiveThé I met on social media, Ravelry or Flickr back in the day before I even moved to France. I love how knitters use Instagram to share their knitting and it makes it really easy to tag designers to show them what we are up to. I have always wanted to make L’OisiveThé and now La Bien Aimée a place where knitters and designers from all over the world can feel comfortable to come and have a tea and knit a while.
What is your favourite thing about being a yarn shop owner? And what is your favourite thing about L’Oisive Thé and La Bien Aimée?
I love the contact with my customers. Talking to them about yarn and hearing about what they are knitting. I love selling someone a skein of yarn and seeing the happiness on their face that they have found the perfect skein of yarn from my shop. It’s so rewarding. I love when customers come back and show me what they have made with yarn that I helped them purchased. Another aspect about L’OisiveThé and La Bien Aimée is how international the shops are. On a daily basis, we have customers come visit us from all over the world. I feel so lucky that I have created something that encourages people plan their vacations to come visit us.
La Bien Aimée has really brought me closer to my local customers. Even thought the two shops are only 300 meters from each other the streets where the two shops are located are very different. La Bien Aimée is located on a pedestrian street and L’OisiveThé is located on the busiest street in the Butte aux Cailles. Since La Bien Aimée opened, I have been welcomed by so many people who live on my street or thereabouts. I have given lessons to local children, met with young adults who are curious about learning to knit and reconnected with the older clientele who have expressed their gratitude that we have opened a haberdashery shop right near where they live because that has been something they have been missing for years.
And as a shop owner, do you have a favourite kind of project that you like to knit, or crochet? Oh – and do you do any other crafts (spinning, weaving, etc)?
Right now I am really into knitting brioche. I met Stephen West last year and started knitting brioche right after that. I am in the midst of summer knitting and by tradition, my own tradition, I like to knit socks because it’s portable and not too hot to knit. I learned to Crochet a couple years ago after meeting my good friend, Cecile Balladino and I found out that I really love crocheting granny squares of all sorts. I really don’t crochet anything else other than blankets. My first crochet blanket was the Babette Blanket by Kathryn Merrick.
What is the one thing you couldn’t be without when it comes to running your business?
My Macbook Air and my knitting. I always have my knitting out whatever the project is and it always breaks the ice with customers to get them talking about their passions.
Any other plans for the coming year that you’d like to share?
Well, we recently launched our hand dyed line, La Bien Aimée and that is very exciting. We have done two updates since the end of May. We will be closing on August 1 for the summer holidays and once we come back at the end of August we will start producing our fall line and hopefully have an update in September. My plans for the coming year are to develop the yarn brand La Bien Aimée and find a couple new independent brands for L’OisiveThé. We will also be going to the big tradeshow, Création et Savoir Faire by Marie Claire Idées here in Paris.
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