Modern Mme Defarge ‘knits’ News in Lille




A Lille Tricoteuse imitating her revolutionary predecessors, is producing a hand-knitted record of news and events, that she publishes on a blog fast becoming a talking point in France.

Contemporary depiction of Tricoteuses by Pierre-Étienne Lesueur – image Wikipedia

Is this modern incarnation of Charles Dickens’ Madame Defarge as bloodthirsty as the tricoteuses who knitted while aristocratic heads rolled during the French revolution?

Well not quite. The guillotine is now at rest, blood no longer flows in the Place de la Révolution and this knitting fan, preferring to be known only as ‘Anna’ – rather than making a hand-knitted record of executions is recording knitted versions of current events.

She photographs her creations before publishing them on her blog which she launched in Lille eight months ago after the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair started attracting saturation media coverage.

Embodiments of the terror during the 1789 French Revolution,Les Tricoteuses, were women who gathered around the guillotine, making a hand-knitted record of the executions in Place de la Révolution. In Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, Madame Defarge is a bloodthirsty tricoteuse epitomising the Reign of Terror. She, and her sullen comrades in execution-watching, encoded the names of those whose heads rolled, into hand-knit goods using a sort of Morse code that worked from different stitch patterns.

Madame Thérèse Defarge, a fictional character in the Dickens novel seeks a significant role in revolutionary attempts to overthrow the French aristocracy. Running a wine shop in Saint Antoine that is a hub of subversive activity, Madame Defarge knits patterns that become the official record of those whom the coup d’etat destroys.

Today ‘Anna’ — a speech therapist in her 40s — does something similar but her knitwear (see pictures) reflects a less bloodthirsty France, albeit one where a knitter still richly records in yarn, the destruction of public figures.

A knitted depiction of the DSK affair published on the Delit Mail blog

Tricoteuse Anna has attracted more than 120 000 visitors to her hand knitted version of the news. Her Delit Mail blog – which when written correctly as Delit Maille means knitted in the act , is a play on the rumbustious London tabloid, the Daily Mail.

Anna says she was initially inspired by the sex scandal surrounding Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund director, and knitted furiously as each day brought revelations that rocked France for months and destroyed the chief challenger in the 2012 presidential elections.

She says she uses wool as a news medium because it is “soft and nice” so by wrapping her modern records up in wool she can be critical without being cruel.

Here is a recent knit report on a visit to the Louvre showing Anna’s version of Mona Lisa:

The tricoteuse records her Mona Lisa in the Louvre

Among the blog entries since she started in May are: “Tricote ta pin up (4 knitted records); Tricote ta playlist (4 knitted records) Tricote ta Présidentielle 2012 (20 knitted records); Tricote ta télé (4 knitted records); Tricote tes affaires (1 knitted record); Tricote tes classiques (3 knitted records); Tricote tes peoples (3 knitted records); Tricote ton actu (15 knitted records) Tricote ton affaire DSK (4 knitted records)”

(Hat tip to a reader Daphne S. for tipping us off to this modern Mme Defarge)

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