Summer thunderstorms in Tuscan mountains are unforgiving, if delightfully refreshing after a hot day. Standing under a rain-filled terrace covering and poking it with a broomstick in order to empty it of rainwater is certainly effective: But damp. Don’t ask me how I know…
We are staying in my mothers’s house, in the mountains of the valley of the Garfagnana, in Tuscany. This house was my father’s dream: the one that kept him going when he was working for the United Nations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Somalia, Bosnia, and Eritrea. We used to laugh at him when he was looking for a “ruin” in Italy. It is hardly a ruin now.
We are now facing managing it without him, and keeping the dream alive to the best of our ability, helped by the numerous friends he made here. It is a house haunted in the best possible way. We can all picture him pottering around on the hillside, strimmer in hand, admiring the olives. He loved unpacking objects he had found and salvaged around the world. He was so good at making homes welcoming by filling them with rescued bits of furniture.
In the corner of the sitting room, I spotted this:
My mother made it years and years ago, when they were living in the Italian part of Switzerland, and I must have been no more than a blot. Laura Ashley material, and assorted bits and pieces. English paper piecing — just called “patchwork” then — ages beautifully. It was sewn onto an old sheet from an old French house, the very own dream ruin of my father’s father. We all locate our dreams somewhere, and objects travel on from them.
Amusingly, this table cloth has always been in my mother’s homes, so much that I ceased to notice it. But when I found myself sitting next to it stiching hexagons of almost exactly the same size (one side is 2 inch), I could only say ‘snap’. I sewed a whole lot together in the same hotch-potch style, but then changed my mind, unpicked them, and reassembled them as flowers. I think some more white between them would dilute the madness a bit. A nice summer project, whatever they turn into eventually.
As for progress on the red hexies, to link up with Jessica’s progress report, I have got some way with them. This is more portable than the larger pinky ones, so I stitched a bit while watching the children jump in and out of a kind neighbour’s pool. Miss E kindly gave me some more paper pieces before I left, so running out of paper is no longer an excuse not to keep going. I think it will need one or two more rounds after I finish making it into this larger hexagon shape.
As today was my birthday (yay!), I had the huge pleasure of a trip to Pisa with the family, and some unwrapping of presents. The only unwrapped one was this delightful little sewing chest that used to belong to my paternal Swiss grandmother. She wasn’t very fond of sewing, and I can remember her telling me the traumatic lessons she had at school which apparently consisted of having to rip a sheet in two and darning it back together. Obviously this was highly effective in putting her off for life, poor lass. I suppose they imagined this would set up young women well for their future domestic lives, preparing them for the boring drudgery of marital bliss… Still, she must have bought this chest to house her darning and mending basics.
My lovely husband spotted it looking rather unloved and tatty in an upstairs bedroom and suggested to my dear mother that I might very much like it. Perfect teamwork! I LOVE it. My mother polished it with some magic staining polish and it now looks shiny and beautiful. The label says it was made in Bex, in Switzerland, by Monsieur Clerc-Borlot.
Happy sewing, wherever you may be! JJ