Thursday, September 01, 2011

French knitting definitions


I was delighted  - nay, enraptured! - to receive some Phildar knitting magazines in the mail the other day. I just adore how beautifully designed the patterns are. The children's patterns, in particular, never fail to warm the cockles of my heart. They are so fashion forward, yet age appropriate, and just as snazzy as any branded knit you can find at a fancy department store (cough cough Seed, Country Road, Catimini, Stella McCartney Kids cough cough).

I have decided to make it my mission to get all of you lovely knitters on to the Phildar patterns, because they are that good that I don't want anybody to miss out on their awesomeness. However, there is just one little hitch: they are written in French. But fear not: I am here to provide crucial translation, and get you tricoter (knitting) in no time.

Now before you begin to protest that you can't do it, I shall confess that yes, I have studied French in the past. I did three years of it at high school, and then did some adult french lessons a few years ago. But I can honestly say, with my hand firmly on my heart, that not once did I learn the french for casting on, or decreasing stitches during my clasess. I had to figure all that out for myself. Plus, my French is FAR from fluent. Trust me on that. I have a French friend, and whenever she speaks to me in French beyond 'hello' I usually just sit there bewildered, staring at her mouth and have to ask her to say it again, s'il te plaît? So trust me -  if I can muddle through a French knitting pattern, so can you!

Materials and equipment
Qualités (nombre de pelotes) - Materials (number of balls of yarn)
Pelotes - Ball of yarn
Tailles - Size
Aiguilles - Needles

Clothing terms
Dos - Back
Devant - Front
Manches - Sleeves
Epaule - Shoulder
Pull - Sweater, jumper
Robe - Dress
Gilet - Cardigan
Jupe - Skirt

Knitting Terms
Mailles - Stitches
Rangs - Rows
Côtes - Rib (if they say côtes 1/1 it means 1 knit 1 purl rib. If they say côtes 2/2, then it means 2 knit 2 purl ribbing)
Jersey - Stocking stitch (knit on right side, purl on wrong side)
Echantillon - Tension/gauge
Endroit - Right
Tricoter à l’endroit - knit on the right side of work
Envers - Wrong
Tricoter à l’envers - knit on the wrong side of work
Assemblage - Assemble the pieces i.e. sewing the pieces together
Après - after
Faire - make
Monter - cast on (monter 45 mailles = cast on 45 stitches)
Rabattre - cast off
Haut - high, or length of knitting. For example if they want you to knit for 10cm after the ribbing, the instruction will be: à 10cm de haut après les côtes 2/2...

The best part about the Phildar patterns is the mathematical way they have of doing decreases or increases. In English you often get quite a wordy and confusing paragraphy about how to do the armhole decreases. In French, they give you a formula like this:
rabattant de chaque côtes tous les 2 rangs: 1 x 3 mailles, 1 x 2 mailles, 4 x 1 milles, toules les 4 rangs, 5 x 1 rangs.
Which means:
Decrease at each end every two rows: decrease 3 stitches 1 time, 2 stitches 1 time, 1 stitch 4 times, then every 4 rows decrease 1 stitch 5 times.

Trust me - once you get the hang of it it's very easy!

If you really get stuck there are loads of French to English translation sites out there (I quite like this one). Plus quite a few people have done some French knitting dictionaries: Chez Plum has a fantastic one (and much more thorough than mine), and there is also a good one over on

I hope this post helps anybody who was looking into the Phildar patterns but was feeling a wee bit overwhelmed by the instructions. Phildar does publish a handful of magazines each year in English, but until that wonderful day comes when every mag comes en anglais we'll just have to fudge our way through.

Happy knitting! Heureux tricoter! And here's some more pics to get you drooling (and hopefully inspired!)




  1. I think the fact that I never worked out that tricot referred to knitting gives you an idea of my foreign language skills.

    Still, this is a great help. And, while making no promises, yes, I will admit that those kids' patterns look rather cool...

  2. Okay I blame you for showing me that website...I have been looking for new knitting inspiration for a while!! Will let you know how I go with the French...eekk Thanks

  3. Can you help me? I speak French (I'm an Aussie in Montreal) but I can't knit!!! which is such a shame because with the snow here in the winter it would be useful to knit. I'm okay at crochet but absolutely hopeless at knitting.

  4. Totally agree - as we discussed before. Having knitted with Anny Blatt (English version) the french patterns are far more superior in their instructions than the English ie ROWAN!! which I had to do a 2 hr lesson just to understand their instructions - GO PHILDAR!!! Ps: finally finished that vest.

    1. Oh dear, I don't agree. I have worked out some of the French pattern, and it's cable, but the decrease foxes me. The explanation, in English of the French above, also makes no sense to me at all. I am thinking expletives in both languages as I am about to decrease but am stuck.

  5. Ah thank you so much! I started a Phildar pattern a few years ago, had all the instructions translated (which took me forever) got almost done and lost my instructions!! I still have never finished the sweater b/c I was too lazy to re-translate but here you've done the hard work. Now I have no excuses....

  6. Lisa, there's some wonderful knitting tutorials on youtube... maybe give them a try?

    Best of luck!

  7. Gorgeous! Yes, I may have to try a copy. Fortunately my sister is quite fluent so if I knit her something she'll be more than happy to translate for me!

  8. Hi, Jorth,
    I love Phildar knits for my son (he is 3). Yet honestly, if you look at the more fashion forward styles, the finishing is often really tricky (I recently finished the green bubble dress in the kids mag you have, and there were many redoings and curse words involved when finishing the bubble, the arms and the neckline!).

    I totally love the sewn-on collarbands, though... they look really neat and I don't have to pick up any stitches (which is my personal pet-peeve).

    Greetings from Riga, Latvia -

  9. Anonymous7:48 am

    Love, love, LOVE Phildar patterns. I really must knit more of them because they are so amazing. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Ces revues de tricot sont magnifique ! Vous avez très bien traduit les termes. J'aimerais tricoter un jour. Je suivrai vos progrès avec grand intérêt. Bon tricot ! Greetings from Montréal !

  11. ohhhh one of my readers gave me this link as I bought a bunch of phildar magazines yesterday! My french isn't too crash hot and I see I'm not the first to discover how gorgeous they are - the styling really got me too! thanks for this great list of translations! now when the magazines arrive I won't be totally clueless!


  12. so after looking through all the magazines on the website i just placed my first order with phildar. so looking forward to the magazines! you're absolutely right that they actually make fashionable patterns. most german knitting magazines seem to focus on 60-year-olds who want to use all sorts of interesting techniques.
    as regards the instructions: i think german instructions are much like the french, from your descriptions. i've downloaded some english instructions from ravely and find them to be horribly complicated.
    anyways, thanks for pointing to phildar here!

  13. I adore Phildar! I have a dress ready to be sewn up to wear this fall/winter season. I bought almost every magazine they had in English a few months ago. No need to convert me I'm a fan!

  14. I think I will have to give it a go as well. Some of the best looking children's knits I have seen for ages. I hope it won't be to painful, as I have no French skills whatsoever!! Thanks for the tip.

  15. Thank you so much for doing this! x

  16. I believe "tricoter à l'envers" actually means "purl", despite its literal meaning.

  17. Thanks so much! I just bought a Phildar magazine and was muddling through. I got a lot of it but not everything. Really appreciate it!

  18. Thanks so much! I just bought a Phildar magazine and was muddling through. I got a lot of it but not everything. Really appreciate it!

  19. Do you have Phildar Pitchuon no 76 knitting pattern book?

  20. Thank you, what a wonderful help this has been! I couldn't understand the arm decreasing and I was about to cry, but then I found you. Terrific.

  21. I’m knitting a gorgeous vest for my 4 month old granddaughter. The pattern is in English and I didn’t realise it was a French pattern until I got to the armhole decrease!
    The instruction says: for the armhole decrease from 4 s of edges 1 x 1 s, then every 4 rws 4 x 1 s.
    I know from the information given that I only need to decrease a total of 10 stitches but can’t for the life of me work out how. Help!
    I love the Phildar patterns. Would be keen to buy if I can get over this first hurdle!
    Julie from Oz

    1. You need to decrease one stitch at both ends on one row, then every fourth row you need to decrease one stitch at both ends 4 times over. You will do this over 17 rows in total, decreasing 10 stitches. Voila!


Leave a comment! Make my day!

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.