Skip to content

Dear friends,

Progress! I’m no longer the tongue-tied bumbler I was when I arrived in France, the guy who panicked when trying to ask for yogurt (yaourts, pronounced yow-oooooohhhhhrrrrrrrrrrrr) at the supermarket because I couldn’t tell when I was finished saying it.

Since I last wrote, I’ve had an official letter from the Mairie de Paris informing me of my successful completion of La Culture et La Société Française, Niveau B2: French Society and Culture, Level B2.

This was a class for those learning French as a Foreign Language, Français Langue Étrangère. For convenience, one usually uses the acronym FLE, pronounced “fluh,” which also sounds like a noise a Parisian might make when he sees tourists buying fake Birkin bags from a guy on the sidewalk outside the Louvre.

Fluh has six levels, from A1 to C2. My course was at level B2. Here’s what the levels mean, in practical terms.

A1. Beginner. Knows some very simple expressions that can be useful in satisfying basic needs. For example, “Yarn, please. Thank you.”

A2. Elementary. Understands common sentences, can communicate about simple tasks, familiar topics and matters of immediate need. For example, “Hello, I need yarn for a sweater.”

B1. Intermediate. Can successfully communicate about familiar topics and subjects of interest. Able to describe events, experiences, and goals. Can provide arguments to support ideas.

For example, “I like this yarn, but I do not like the color. Do you have this yarn in blue?”

B2. Fluent Speaker. At ease with spontaneous communication. Can express self clearly on a range of topics, discuss current affairs, outline advantages and drawbacks of a course of action.

For example, “I’m not sure how well the cables would show up in this yarn, what about that Norwegian worsted weight over there? It looks like it might work.”

C1. Advanced French Speaker. Can understand a variety of long and complex texts. Can express self spontaneously and fluidly across a broad spectrum of topics of conversation in all areas of life. Can grasp implicit meanings. For example: “Sure, the design is pretty, but her pattern writing makes me seasick–remember the trouble I had with her last KAL? Even with the companion videos I had to rip it out three times. But hey, you do you, it’s none of my business.”

C2. Bilingual. A level of mastery that would qualify you to be an official translator. For example: “I told her that shoulder shaping would make her look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame Goes to Rhinebeck, but did she listen? She did not. I mean she didn’t ask me, but I told her anyway because that’s the kind of person I am: concerned and caring. Remember how I warned you off the fugly asymmetrical shawl everyone was working on last summer for reasons I will never comprehend? I was right about that, too, wasn’t I? You never see anyone wearing a finished one, because blocked or unblocked it looks like a test swatch for a stitch dictionary you have to download from the Dark Web.”

If you’re curious about the yarn and the knitting … that’s for another letter.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from knitters who would like to visit Paris, but aren’t sure how much French they ought to have in order to engage successfully with the natives. Of course the big guidebooks are cluttered with phrases that help you order a croissant or find the Moulin Rouge; but seldom, if ever, do they mention yarn.

So, a few basics.

Knitting is tricot (tree-co).

Crochet is crochet (cro-shay) and a crochet hook is un crochet (unh cro-shay) and that’s as easy as this is gonna get.

Yarn is fil (feel) which also means thread. Sometimes you’ll hear the word for wool, laine (lehn) used to mean yarn–any yarn, wool or not.

Needle is aiguille (ay-gwee). If you want more than one needle, which is likely, the plural is aiguilles. This is also pronounced ay-gwee because welcome to the special hell that is French pronunciation.

A pattern is un patron (uhn pah-trohn).

A sweater is “un pull” (uhn pool), a knitted hat is un bonnet (uhn baw-nay), a scarf is une écharpe (oon ay-sharp), mittens are des moufles (day moo-fluh). 

“I would like…” is “Je voudrais…” (zhuh voo-dray)

So, “I would like some yarn,” is “Je voudrais du fil” (zhuh voo-dray doo feel).

“I would like a sweater pattern” is “Je voudrais un patron pour un pull” (zhuh voo-dray uhn pah-trohn por uhn pool).

A swatch is an échantillon (ay-shawn–tee-oh). 

“Why doesn’t my sweater fit?” is “Pourquoi mon pull ne me va pas?” (poor-kwah mahn pool nuh muh vah pah)

“Did you swatch?” is “Est-ce que vous avez fait un échantillon?” (ess kah voozavay fay uhn ay-shawn–tee-oh

“I never swatch” is  “Je ne fais jamais d’échantillon” (zhuh nuh fay zhahmay day-shawn–tee-oh)

“That is why your sweater does not fit,” is “Ça c’est pourquoi votre pull ne vous va pas.” (sa say poor-kwah voh-truh pool nuh vooh vah pah)

“But I never swatch” is “Mais je ne fais jamais d’échantillon” (may zhuh nuh fay zhahmay day-shawn–tee-oh)

“Please get out of my shop,” is “Veuillez sortir de ma boutique.” (voy-yay sor-teer duh mah boo-teek)

This material will be in the final exam.



July GEMS! This month we shine a light on the pairing of marvelous Thea Colman design with the divine hand dyes of Karida Collins. 20% off all Organic Studio yarns through Wednesday, August 3. Thanks for your purchases, they support everything we do here at MDK.

About The Author

Franklin Habit has been sharing his brainy and hilarious writing and illustrations with the knitting world since 2005.


  • Thank you, Franklin!!

  • très drôle

  • LOVE! As always…

  • Hilariously funny, as always Franklin. Especially that first sentence. It set the upbeat tone for my day.

    • Brought me back to my high school French class.

      • Me too!

      • C’est tout bien…felicitations! Comment se passe des chiffres? En suisse en a adapte et utilise “nonante”

      • Absolutely!

  • Ha ha, brilliant. It sounds as if you’re almost at level c2 😀

  • Now I know why I woke so early this morning. It was to give me plenty of time to pronounce each sentence multiple times!

    • me too LOL

  • Very amusing and you amaze me…❤️

  • C’est tres amusant!

  • Why, when I read the French sentences, do I hear them in an Inspector Clousseau voice?

  • Thank you! What joy you have brought into my day! I too was practicing each phrase several times. What fun!!!

  • Vraiment drôle!! Est-ce que votre tricot avance?

  • Thank you for the laughs and the very helpful French phrases with pronunciation. Super funny. This started my day with a smile.

  • Merci beaucoup, Franklin! I’ve saved this for my next trip to Paris, whenever that may be.

  • Made me snort!

  • You lost me after crochet hook 🙁

  • BRILLIANT. But now, for that yarn…sil vous plait…

  • At last, actual functional language! Merci (mair-see)

  • French pronunciation really is its own circle of hell, isn’t it?

  • J’adore ton sens de l’humour et tu me fais rire quand je suis seule!

  • Absolutely loved Franklin’s French lesson in surviving in France as a knitter. I am a retired French teacher and to be honest, I did not know the word for “swatch” in French.

    • The word actually means a sample. Used in many areas not just Knitting.

      • Franklin, Tres magnifique!! Can’t wait for more!!

  • Franklin, I look forward to each article. Thank you for the fun and joy you bring to each article.

  • When the time comes, I absolutely want to hear you say the Bilingual example sentence in French. 😀 Merci, monsieur!

  • J’ai adoré cet article! It brought back vivid memories of my 2 years living in Bordeaux…getting a helpful answer laced with sarcasm…  “Mais, bien sur!”

  • Love it – as usual! It’s time you wrote a French/English knitting dictionary.

  • Franklin, . Merci.

  • I’m afraid the only traveling I will be doing is in my imagination! Merci beaucoup for the visit!

    • Made my day!!

  • I’m Traveling in Europe, currently is Alsace, headed to Aix, then Paris. Any favorite yarn stores? Avez vous un store favorite?

    • In Paris, I very highly recommend Les Tricoteurs Volants at 22 Rue de la Fidelité in the 10th arrondissment. They are my neighborhood shop, and in fact I often do pieces for their window display. Many good French and European yarns, and even local handspun. The owner speaks fluent English.

      • Thank you so much.

  • I’d so much rather knit un échantillon.

  • Thank you, Franklin. A smile and something new to learn to start the day. Love it!

  • what a fun start to the day, reading this and remembering a very funny visit to a Parisian yarn shop years ago.

  • Ah. French class. Brings me back to high school where my teacher was forever appalled at my accent.

  • Maybe we’ll all be more likely to swatch if we starting referring to it as tricoter un échantillon.

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you! You’ve turned my day around to the bright side! Now to practice a few new phrases.

  • Bravo! Such progress in less than a year?? Love these letters…I love laughing with you.

  • What could be better than knitting and humor? Merci beaucoup, Franklin

  • Thank you, Franklin! This has not been helpful at all for me as all my travel money gets spent on yarn. Have you tried using Google translate in a yarn store? I’m curious about how well it would get the point across in a REAL emergency….

    • I do not know about yarn stores, but I found it interesting that Google was not helpful (for me) in pattern translation. (Finding the meaning of a word in the context of knitting was a challenge.) Fortunately the pattern company was able to provide an English version.

      I was able to successfully navigate yarn stores in Vienna and Amsterdam without too much difficulty or special language skills. I was just at the scarf level. The sweater level might be harder.

      Hoping that a Paris store is in the near future…

  • Franklin, your letters are so worth the wait!

  • I loved this thank you!

  • Love it! Merci Franklin!!

  • Oh my. I love this letter. The French for chicken is une poule or the meat /poulet so it made me chuckle to hear a sweater called un pull (as in pullover?) In Canada it’s un chandail. Here in English FSL – french as a second language -is the designated term for your FLE. en français it must be FLS. Maybe yours is easier to say?

  • Why did you move to Paris?

    • Because it’s not Chicago!

    • Because he could!

  • Hilarious! Brings to mind one of my favorite essays, Mark Twain’s “The Awful German Language.” I recently attempted to translate a French-only patron for a baby sweater into English, and then knit the thing from my translation. I can read French well enough, at the B1 level, so set out with confidence to work this bottom-up, seamless, colorwork baby cardigan (not steeked, so yes it was colorwork with purling, catching long floats, and raglan shaping in pattern, because why not? Although in all fairness, I can’t say for sure that the pattern didn’t call for steeking, I just couldn’t work that out!) Google translate shrugged helplessly at the French knitting terminology. After much trial and error, with help from similar patterns, I produced a very cute little sweater that looked more or less like the photo in the pattern. I can only wonder how much was lost in translation?

    • French knitting dictionary by Sylvie Damey. Chez plum. French to English terminology. Give that a try.

    • That is one of my favorite Mark Twain pieces – I have shoved it at so many innocent people and yelled READ THIS

    • I just looked up that Mark Twain essay, from 1888! Hilarious also. Thanks Annette. (thanks internet)

  • Lovely, thank you!

  • “it looks like a test swatch for a stitch dictionary you have to download from the Dark Web.”

    Dude. This is the funniest merde I will ever read about knitting. I look forward to your reports so much!

  • Covid is slowly teaching me to enjoy armchair travel. I’m so glad relocation to a new, beautiful country (with immersion in a new language!) is making you so happy. It lifts my spirits to read your letters.

  • Will the final exam be open book ?

  • Mon dieu, this cracked me up, merci Franklin! I made my Dutch, fluent in French, partner listen to me read every French phrase. Thinking of how I have to achieve Dutch B2 to get a passport, Mais non, zal noit gebeuren!

  • I’m impressed that you’re at B2! Did you know some French before you got there? Do you practice a lot everyday? Your description in sentence form of what each level would be is actually quite good.

  • Get out of my shop! Laughed out loud.

  • Not me reading these aloud in my long-since lost high school French accent. Ha! Am I remembering correctly – or does the sweater not fitting kind of directly translate as “it does not go”? Eh – I probably don’t remember. Franklin – I am living vicariously through you and I absolutely love it.

    • It actually means “it does not suit me” in a general way and not specifically about fit. I am somewhere between A2 and B1 so this much I did know. “Ne va pas” seems to have a pretty broad range of meanings all conveying that it doesn’t work.

      According to Google Translate there is nothing more specific than this verbiage to convey fit… interesting!

      • Or “works” Ça va?

  • Highschool French class was never this interesting. Thank you, Franklin!
    (Or as the music teacher used to say, Mercy Buttercup!)

  • Goodness the columns here at MDK have been exquisite lately–laughter, unique perspectives, stellar writing. Thank you for consistently brightening my day!

  • I love this and the final translation – I’ll need to know that one. I’m visiting Paris in October. Any shops I should try to visit?

  • I might have finished my French major in university if only we had taljed about yarn. Quel dommage!

    • C’est vrai.

  • Best article I am likely to read this month!

  • Oh, Franklin. Just when I think it can’t get better you write something like this. You really should consider offering to collaborate with those who make up the class materials.

  • How absolutely joyful! A French lesson that is functional and hilarious.

  • I’ve always said if you can pronounce Rouen, you’ll do fine in Paris!

  • Love it – as always!

  • Merci, Franklin. I took French many, many years ago in college and got to the point where I no longer had to translate in my head, I would think in French. Unfortunately, I have lost this skill due to lack of needing to speak/read French in Ohio. Had we been taught important knitting vocabulary, I’m sure I would have remembered that.

  • So fun!!

  • Applause! And looking forward to your classes in Las Vegas.

  • One year of French in high school and one year in college, too many decades ago, made me happy I could understand your french sentences. To attempt to speak them aloud to a native, though. Alors, je parle francais tres mal…

  • The funny thing is that even though my single semester of French (after 5 years of Spanish — I was branching out) was 42 years ago I completely followed that exchange! I did, I might add, purposely go yarn shopping in Madrid a few months ago just to see how well my efforts with my first second language would hold up. I successfully came back with a bag full of yarn! Bravo for your accomplishment!

  • Will you be making any more YouTube presentations. I really miss them.

    • I sure will. A multitude of life concerns (mostly to do with my immigration to France, which is a complex process) have prevented my posting another vlog, but things are getting back to normal- stay tuned. And thank you for asking!

  • Merci beaucoup for the French lesson!

    • What’s your favorite funny/ weird French word? I’m doing Duolingo French and just completed the 4th level, which is probably about A2. You’d think the word for weekly would be based on the word for week, which is “semaine”, mais non, c’est “hebdomadaire”

      I recently learned the phrase for “I’m fed up”, which is very similar to the name of a former dj on my favorite radio station – “j’en ai marre” = “Johnny Mars”.

      Chicago misses you, Franklin!

      • Lately my favorite thing to say in French (I hope this counts) is the name of a street not too far from me: Rue Tiquetonne. It bounces in your mouth. Teekah-tunneh.

  • Oh I laughed at yaourt – I still can’t pronounce this one! Far too many vowels.

  • Oh, Franklin. Je t’aime.

  • Tres amusant!

  • Très drôle!

  • Giggling, love the dialog at the end

  • As always, you made my day! Making me wait to learn about that lovely yarn is another matter altogether.

  • Merci bien Franklin. C’est bien amusant (ou peut-etre amusante)

  • Great lesson! Merci, Franklin!

  • Thanks for the chuckle Brought back memories of attending my first fitness class in Germany. Just when I thought I was making progress with my language skills, the instructor proved that alas, I hadn’t mastered the jargon for putting arms and legs in weird positions!!

  • I once overheard a hilarious French conversation between my husband and his French cousin, in which he was telling her all about the sweater his grandmother was giving him for Christmas. The problem is that he kept saying “poule” [pool] instead of “pull” (which uses a vowel we don’t really have in English.) He was saying that he didn’t need one, still had the one she gave him the previous Christmas and was planning to move overseas soon. She grew increasingly puzzled until finally she said, “Couldn’t you just kill it and make soup?)

  • My best junior high school French: Je suis tres heurese a faire votre connaisance. Merci. Now off to learn how to do accents on my phone!

  • LOL from a French native speaker. Congratulations on reaching this level, and yes, French pronunciation is totally illogical, which is main reason I admire all who attempt to learn our beautiful and complex language.

  • ah, if only my French class spoke fiber!

    so, you are bilingual in the fiber arts….

  • Franklin-you make me smile..inside and out!! Heading for Paris in about 6 weeks, I’ll be looking for you in all the best places (mostly cafes and yarn shops)!!

    • Thank you, Franklin! Once again you’ve started my day with a much- needed laugh.

  • OMG I love ❤️ your columns. Another gem from Paris! Du Paris (dooh pair-eee)

  • Loved the vocabulary lesson for France. Je voudrais Franklin would share his yarn shops in Paris. Merci beaucoup

  • Oh Franklin. Thank you for all the chuckles!!!

    “I told her that shoulder shaping would make her look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame Goes to Rhinebeck, but did she listen? She did not. I mean she didn’t ask me, but I told her anyway because that’s the kind of person I am: concerned and caring.” lol Hunchback of Notre Dame Goes to Rhinebeck ha ha ha ha ha ha

    Also love the helpful examples at the end, about swatching. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Franklin, as always your comments send me off into laughter. Thank you, thank you!

  • My sister is learning French to keep my French-speaking* mother engaged and using her brain. NB: she is 89 years old and can’t remember what she had for breakfast but she can correct your French pronunciation a heart beat.
    I sent your article to them and they loved it.
    *thank you to the Canadian school system and French-Canadian mothers every where.

  • That was such fun to read! Thank you Franklin.

  • Just want to hug every time.

  • I agree with Chloe: my husband returned home to find me howling with laughter and wiping tears from my eyes, because “yaourts”!

  • Please tell there IS a dark web stitch dictionary! I need it!!! Love you Franklin!

  • This was amazing! I’m doing Duolingo for an upcoming trip to Québec and Duo has taught me about buying croissants and t shirts but I need yarn lingo!!

  • You are a fantastic story teller Franklin. And yes I too read every line more than once, maybe repeated more the six. So look forward to hear more.

  • Franklin, this was great! You are back in fine form mon ami!

    From now on when annoyed by knitting a swatch I will just think of how much harder it is to say swatch en Français, and happily knit on!

    Merci beaucoup!

  • This is hysterical! I’m forwarding to my current “B2” french teacher!

  • I’m in stitches…too funny!

  • Très Bien Franklin!

  • Have taken a bunch of classes with you in past years at Madrona and your column is equally fun and informative. I will be in Paris for 5 days in mid-October. Any recommendations for dinner places for solo travelers or other shouldn’t miss places or events. I have been to Paris before and have walked everywhere and visited many of the usual places. Thanks in advavce.

  • ha, ha, ha, ha…. is that the same in French?

  • Love all the designs, are all beautiful, especially the one with all the mixed colours.

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping