Lost in Translation: Filet de Tissu and Others

Trying Something (Sorta) New-ish -- February
The Great Canadian Craftsy Bag Tour

This fabric is mine, Human. Mine!

In case you haven’t heard, my sewing room is currently overrun by orphaned cats waiting for their medical records and new homes. Until I can evict the cute little furries with a clear conscience there’s no sewing going on at my place. And that leaves me time… You’ve heard the expression, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” so you understand that I should not be left unsupervised.

Lots of time for Facebook!

I belong to a lot of sewing groups on Facebook, and one of my favourites is a group for Canadian bag makers. Several group members (including me) recently bought the pattern for the Creative Maker Supplies Case from Sew Sweetness. It requires mesh fabric for the inside pockets, and some sewing supplies are kinda hard to find North of the 49th Parallel.

—–Last night—–

Melissa posted in the group asking which suppliers carry the mesh for these cases. And at some point, the conversation thread veered off on this tangent:

Me (an “Anglo” living in Quebec): This question is making me look [mesh] up in French because I will have to go into my local store and ask for it. The store owner (and only employee) doesn’t speak any English so I use hand signals a lot. There are about a million different translations for “mesh” but I’ve narrowed it down to maille or filet. Does anyone know which it would be? Do you have a package handy with both languages on it? Please!

Joanne: The french translation is “filet de tissu

Me: Thanks, Joanne! Off to visit my favourite shopkeeper and wave my arms around tomorrow.

Joanne: If you have a laundry bag or even something with some netting on it, take it with you. It might make it simpler to get them to understand.

Me: Great idea! Thanks. Although I suspect she’s secretly entertained by my flailing arms and pathetic attempt to remember my high school French. You shoulda seen me trying to ask her for low-loft fleece. There may or may not have been some baaaaa-ing going on. And wouldn’t you know it, I remembered the word for sheep after I walked through the entire store and found it myself. And for the record, the word for “sheep” and the word for “chin” are just too damned close!! You flip one flippin’ “u” upside down and lose the last shred of your dignity right there.

—– Today—–

Thanks to Melissa’s question (and armed with Joanne’s translation), I go to see Marie, my lovely French-speaking fabric store owner. I don’t make a complete fool of myself this time but I come close, because she has no idea what filet de tissu is, even after I spell it. (I don’t trust my pronunciation one bit, especially when people do that scrunchy face and ask, “What???” so I have to repeat myself 5 times before I give up and yell it in English.) She’s convinced I want tulle. I look at her tulle, and nope! that’s not it.

20160309_153253_resizedSo, I go down the street to the dollar store, buy a laundry bag and come back to show it to her. After all that, she doesn’t have any such thing in her store. At least I have a new laundry bag, right? … but somewhere during all this, I fall in love with 3 different fabrics and they fall in love with me too because they hop in my bag…

I get to the cash to pay for the stowaways, and wouldn’t you know it! The system goes completely kafluey and starts giving random errors! I know my card works because I had just used it to buy all sorts of other unnecessary items at the dollar store. Marie says, “Just come back later with cash.” In French, that is.

I leave, drop off my purchases at home, feed the cats and since I need to go to my bank for other reasons, off I go! On the way back to Marie’s store with the money, I pass by an upholstery shop. I’d been eyeing the place since last year and didn’t have the nerve to go in and ask them about headliner fabric (used in car upholstery, and recently in handbags for that cushy stability we love so much). I’m stoked and feeling pretty brave today, so in I go! … Flailing arms, words that sound close but are ever so wrong, and a few other helpless gestures later, I finally explain what I’m looking for and the dude says, “I’ve never seen anything like that.” In frikkin English!! [deep sigh].


Mon cuir

At least he’s nice enough that, after more chatting in English, he gives me a piece of scrap leather to play with because I want to try making a wallet out of leather. And Salvatore (the upholstery shop owner) says to me in parting, “See ya! And next time, speak English!”



Marsha Law Sig2

P.S. My card and Marie’s card reader both worked just fine after that.

Trying Something (Sorta) New-ish -- February
The Great Canadian Craftsy Bag Tour


  1. this made me laugh all over again. If you have a Fabricville or Lens Mill or a large fabric store, you can probably find headliner in the decor fabric section. It is also used by home upholsterers. Good luck, if you can find it, then go to http://www.funkymonkeyfabrics.com , she carries the flex foam

    • Marsha Lawrence says:

      I totally don’t need it, not urgently anyway. I have enough Bosal and By Annie to keep me going, but as I said, leave me to my own devices and I go looking for trouble. Problem is, I don’t even think about it until after I’m neck deep. But yeah, I will check Funky Monkey when I start running low. It will give me another reason to stalk the mailman.

  2. This is too funny! Thanks for sharing. I had a good laugh all over again.

  3. Barbara Peterson says:

    This just made my day. lmbo. What an adventure, is life that wonderful in Canada. And it seems there are fabric stores everywhere in Canada…I’m jealous. If you could tell me the weight of the mesh, I’m betting I could find it for you.

    • Marsha Lawrence says:

      When your brain is half frozen for 4 months, you find ways to spice things up. 🙂
      I’ll check the weight of the mesh and get back to you. Thanks!

  4. This is great! I would be the same way, trying to pull words from back in my high school language classes.

    • Marsha Lawrence says:

      Flapping arms and all! (I think French class was where I perfected my dazed clueless fece.)

  5. This is so awesome! I have to always explain myself with hand gestures, since English is not being my native language I am always challenged to use my arms to explain ”what I really meant”as a . Besides, I learned to sew in English, so I have no idea about the Spanish sewing technical terms, but people expect me too (sigh). A bit frustrating 🙂

    • Marsha Lawrence says:

      I’m starting to suspect the store owner is used to ducking because this neighbourhood has a lot of Italian Nonna’s who sew and don’t speak English or French very well.

  6. Tina Voth says:

    This was a very entertaining post! It sounds like something I’d do. Heck, I flail my arms and talk just as much with my hands as with my mouth (and this is when I”m speaking the same language as the person I’m speaking to, lol!) Btw, I never learned french in school, it wasn’t offered where I’m from, so all I know I’ve learned from books

  7. I’m going to Paris in the fall and am terrified of using my barely speakable French. I’ve been using DuoLingo daily but the only thing I can remember is “you have a lovely duck”

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