Best gift ever: cuddly duds hand-knit by real French grannies

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For the kids in your life who deserve something truly unique this holiday season, look no further than Mamy Factory, a beautiful online boutique featuring cuddly items in luxury yarns, each and every one hand-knit by actual French grandmothers.

Yes, you read that right: Mamy Factory  features dozens of knit creations from hats to booties that hail not from dubious workrooms on the other side of the globe, but from the living rooms of sweet retired French ladies with names like Geneviève, Louise and Martine (you can even see their pictures on the store’s website!).

If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of one of those notoriously well-dressed Parisian toddlers, you have an idea of what’s available on Mamy Factory, from cute and classic designs like the ‘Fanette‘ dress, to edgy and refined styles like the ‘Gustave’ sweater. Each and every piece on the site (except for the “Cotton Collection”) is hand-knit in France in beautiful shades of the finest yarns.  37-year-old Stéphanie Leone, who founded Mamy Factory a year and a half ago, said the idea for the business struck her when she was searching for a way to take advantage of two major trends in France: a growing elderly population and a desire for hand-made merchandise.

“At first I had my mother and my grandmother who helped me to make the samples we had available,” Leone explained from her Paris showroom. “My grandmother is 87 years old and she doesn’t see that well anymore. She still knits a little but she can’t do whole garments. So it was really just my mother and I was in great need of knitters.” After running an ad in Notre Temps — the French equivalent of the AARP magazine — the team grew to 6 or 7 knitters. Then came the press. “We’ve had quite a bit of press. A lot, actually, we weren’t expecting it. We’ve been on TV, on the radio… so very soon, knitters were coming to us on their own.” Today, more than 3,500 French grannies have signed up to knit for Mamy Factory.

One such knitter is Marie-Claude Catheline. A charming grandmother of nine, the 64-year-old retiree spoke from her home in Brittany on France’s west coast. “I’m in the process of finishing a sweater called the ‘Marie-Jeanne.’ They ordered it from me on Tuesday and I have until Friday to finish it, which is perfect.” Catheline had been selling hand-knit dolls online when she joined Mamy Factory. “I already had a passion for knitting, and the dolls allow me to express my creativity.” She and Leone recently developed a teddy-bear pattern soon to appear on Mamy Factory.

For a generous fee, Mamy Factory does ship to the US and prices on the site range from 6,50 € ($9) for a dainty baby hair clip to 115,50 € ($157)  for a cozy coat big enough for a six-year-old. The grannies are paid, of course, with each garment bringing a certain amount to the knitter, so getting a garment of the highest quality also means supporting a senior on a fixed income. But perhaps even more valuable is the idea that each article was truly made with love. “I’ve been knitting for a very long time. I’ve always loved it,” says Marie-Claude Catheline, “I like knitting for Mamy Factory. It’s beautiful yarn. It’s a pleasure to knit with. The patterns are also very pretty to make.”

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