Interview with Aimée Gille of La Bien Aimée

Aimée Gille wearing the Aimée Cardigan from Interpretations Vol.7!

We had the opportunity to chat to Aimée Gille of La Bien Aimée! Aimée was kind enough to answer all the burning questions we had about her, her yarn business, and her experience guest editing Issue 35

For our readers who are unfamiliar, please tell us about yourself and La Bien Aimée. 

My name is Aimée, I was born and raised in Olathe, Kansas. Many people don’t realize I am actually an American! I’ve been living in France for over 20 years now. I’m married to a French man named Julien and we have two kids, Maximilien and Alixe who I’m proud to say that I've taught to knit. You may not realize that I’ve also owned Paris' first knit café called L’Oisivethé! I was living as a young expat in Paris knitting all the time and I decided to open my café in 2008. I sold lots of popular indie dyed yarns from the US and did that until May 2015 when I decided to start my own yarn company. I continued to operate the café and La Bien Aimée all the way until May 2021 when I was forced to close the brick and mortar shop because of the pandemic.

How did a Kansas girl end up in Paris? 

I followed a boy back to Paris! I met my husband Julien while working in Besançon, France in 2000. I moved to France in 2003, and then we started our family in 2005. Paris has been my home for over half of my life.

What was your life / job experience prior to opening your yarn café, L’OisiveThé, and how did you get into dyeing yarn?

I have a degree in French language and literature and, in a previous life, I worked in sales and marketing. I’ve always been fascinated with colors, so I brought together all my different experiences and my sensibility with colors to create my own yarn brand. My first experience with dyeing yarn was when I was in the Girl Scouts at around 12 and we dyed yarn with Kool-Aid. Otherwise, I’m self taught. It was all about playing around and experimenting in the pots! I understood the science behind it, needing the agent to fix the dye in the wool and heat, and then it’s just like cooking.

Thinking of your café treats in particular, was food a big part of your life before moving to France?  

Before I opened L’Oisivethé, other than enjoying going out to eat, I had no experience of the food service. So I learned everything on the fly! The baked goods I offered at L’oisivethé were all things that my mother made for me and my siblings when we were growing up. I’ve always enjoyed baking too. It’s something I do to relax. But other than that, I had no experience of the food service.

What do you love most about your job?  

What I love most about my job is thinking about colors and communicating my inspiration and thoughts through the colorways I create for La Bien Aimée. I also really love knitting! And I really can’t describe how much pleasure I get from knitting with my own yarn and meeting others who have knit with my yarn and seeing all their beautiful creations. 

When we think of La Bien Aimée, unique and innovative yarn bases are brought to mind! How do you keep coming up with new combinations of fibres for your glorious colourways? 

When I first moved to France, I did not have access to all the beautiful yarns I saw on the knitting blogs I used to read every day. So I had to create a yarn shop where I could offer those yarns. And then, as I grew as a knitter, I learned more about yarn and how different fibers take color. This also contributes to helping me develop unique yarn bases to dye for La Bien Aimée.  

Tell us about your experience of guest editing Issue 35 of Pom Pom Quarterly! Were there any unexpected hiccups? We’d love to hear behind the scenes tidbits.  

The experience I had working on Pom Pom’s Issue 35 was extremely inspiring and informative. So much so that it made me want to start working on my first book, Worsted, based on what I learned and observed!

There were a few hiccups, but that is to be expected during a pandemic… The most memorable one though is one that I will probably never forget. The photoshoot for this issue was all set to take place in Paris in August 2020. However, literally two days before, Great Britain announced new covid restrictions as the second wave was starting to grow alarmingly fast. That meant the Pom Pom team were unable to come to Paris and we suddenly had to cancel the photoshoot! Luckily, one of my employees was in London at the time visiting her family, so she was able to go and get the suitcase full of samples that needed to be photographed and bring it back to Paris the day before the photoshoot. Stephen’s friend and super talented photographer, Darren Smith, was thankfully available to photograph the whole issue. To this day, we’ve kept that huge pink suitcase and it has become our traveling sample suitcase! It’s a beautiful reminder of a chaotic time during the pandemic and I always think fondly of it!

Congratulations on publishing your first book! As someone who speaks French as well as English, how important was it to you to publish a Francophone version of Worsted?

Having Worsted translated into French was very important to me because I'm based in France and I want to reach as many knitters as possible around the world. I’m very happy to say that my book is now available in English and French and will soon be translated into Japanese and Korean!

What are your top tips for styling a shawl? 

When it comes to shawls, I stole all my styling tips from Stephen West when he visited L’Oisivethé in 2015! My personal favorite shawl styling method is the scrunch, scrunch, scrunch and throw over the shoulder! I also like to wear my shawls as a long cloak or a cape. I like wearing shawls as a statement piece, draped over you as a layering piece, almost like a duster.

What’s on the horizon for you and for La Bien Aimée? 

In the future, I’m going to continue making knitting books and hopefully keep innovating new yarn bases. We’re releasing our first custom spun Bouclée yarn in May 2022! I’m also going to continue making color collections, like my Miyazaki collection. We have two new colors that are almost ready and will also be released in May.

The ceramic houses are by Amanda Banham