Needles fly as speed knitting contest begins in Paris

The stitch record in the competition - since 264 - is 264 in the allotted three minutes

Excitement over the Winter Olympics may be high, but closer to home a different kind of contest is coming together: the 15th annual French championship of “speed knitting”.

Having begun on Thursday February 8 at Porte de Versailles in Paris, the Salon Aiguille en Fête competition will take place all weekend as part of the wider exhibition, the latter of which is expected to attract over 40,000 visitors.

The competition itself has only one official rule: Make as many knitting stitches as possible, on regulation 60-stitch needles, in exactly three minutes.

The record, since 2013, is 264.


The favourite to win is Isabelle, a woman in her 40s from Ile-de-France, who has taken part four times already, and - when practising at home - has broken the 264 stitch record. She is hoping for a similar result in 2018.

And yet, she is not happy with the wooden needles being used this year. In previous years, competitors have used metal needles for the competition, which are better, she says.

“Metal ones slide around more [so you can knit faster],” she explained to news source France Info. “It’s going to be a bit more complicated competing on wood. Wood doesn’t slide around so much, so it changes everything when it comes to the final scores.”

The contest pitches champion knitters alongside each other, with competitors travelling from across France, and some even from Belgium and beyond.

Each competitor is permitted to have close family and friends nearby to shout encouragement - and, if necessary - warn of any dropped stitches.

The compere shouts to let the competitors (five compete at once) know when to begin, and - exactly three minutes later - shouts for all knitters to down needles.

So far, Isabelle has reached 199 stitches - not quite the record yet, and less than her overall aim.

“[When she broke the 264 record], she was at home; more relaxed,” explains her next-door-neighbour and knitting buddy, Denise, who has come to support her. “The context here is not the same.”

And yet, competitors are permitted to try again and again to see if they can beat the record and be crowned French Champion of Speed Knitting, and Isabelle’s stitch total has been rising with each round.

The competition continues all weekend, closing today (Sunday February 11) - and is supported by a hall of over 240 exhibitors, including sewing and crochet bars, knitwear specialists, and knitting experts.

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