Sunday, July 1, 2012

On the Dubious Nature of a Bargain

My grandmother's folly

The blue flowers were the first ones I stitched

In the 1960s my grandmother decided to go on a cruise. Her idea of a cruise was not on a cruise ship but a cargo ship without any particular itinerary. I believe it was the first foreign ship allowed into China after the Cultural Revolution. Before she left she bought some needlepoint to keep herself occupied during all those boring days at sea but the trip turned out to be so exciting that when she got back she had only managed a few stitches. I suspect the needlepoint had been the only boring thing for her because she gave it to me to finish, having told me what a lot of money she'd spent on it in case I didn't take the responsibility seriously. I was ten and not very good at needlepoint. In fact I knew nothing about it. I finally finished it when I was 18. It's now a record of my improving skills and I remember every flower on it. Unfortunately for myself I didn't realise that on a double canvas you don't have to stitch between the doubled threads and so I did twice the number of stitches. The most tedious part for me was the background. My mother said plain and beige would be tasteful and that's what I did. By the time I'd finished it it was so pulled out of shape that I had to take it to be professionally blocked. They said I'd better leave it for a while so it would stay in shape. I've left it now for nearly 40 years while I waited to miraculously find a piano stool of exactly the right size to put it on.

A few years ago I found a set of five partially stitched needlepoint canvases in the Salvation Army shop for $5.00. With my earlier experience of the value and use of these things I bought them immediately. They came with all the wool to finish the centre panels but nothing for the background. Of course I knew better than plain and beige and so I had a Kaffe Fassett moment and drew basketweave over a couple of them and added a few clouds. Then I started buying the wool. The cost quietly added up. I finished the first one and realised that I'd spent $50 just on the wool for that one. After that they became a guilty secret in a plain calico bag. However, all guilty secrets come to light eventually, so I faced up to finishing them. My mother supplied enough scraps of tapestry wool for one of them. Op shops came up with the wool for another and Andie from Renaissance Dyeing sent me some of her lovely natural indigo crewel wool for the last two. I washed sacks full of wool from the sheep, made up the cushions and finally had something to show:

The basketweave may have been a mistake
Yes, there were five. Here's the other one. It's on my very battered but richly deserving old piano stool:

And here's a lovely Alice Starmore design stitched by my mother:
My mother was the family needlepoint expert and I mean to make an album of photographs of her work soon.


Lydia said...

Oh, your cushions are beautiful - I think your additions suit them perfectly. I enjoy needlepoint too but you are right it is very expensive and always a little sad when one is completed - although that doesn't happen very often! The hardest part is making them into cushions or getting them framed - I have work going back donkey's years hidden away somewhere....

Kate said...

Oh, I hope you get round to finishing and they don't just hide away for ever. I went through a stage of using old bits of hessian to sew on and left over knitting yarn. The cushions look fine and I didn't have any worry or guilt over them.

Andie said...

Breathe-takingly original, how do you find the time?